After a flurry of embarrassing news last week, the Mets promised an investigation into the behavior of vice president of player development Tony Bernazard's actions. They must not have liked what they found because Bernazard was fired during a press conference on Monday afternoon.
In short order, Bernazard was accused of removing his shirt and challenging minor leaguers to fight, dressing down an employee in clear view of other teams' scouts and paying fans at Citi Field and getting into the face of Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez on the team's bus. The team announced they were investigating the issues last week and G.M. Omar Minaya delivered the results of the investigation on Monday at Citi Field.
"Based upon what I saw in the report, there were issues that were interpersonal value issues with our staff, within the organization, some things outside the organization," Minaya said. "It was a thorough investigation, it was a difficult decision for me to make, but, that being said, I felt that for this organization being where we are today and after all the facts that I had to basically let Tony Bernazard go."
Fans were already angry about the team's poor play, and the Bernazard news was akin to throwing gasoline on a fire. Something had to be done, and Bernazard made it easy for the team to put him in the role of scapegoat for everything that's gone wrong in 2009. That's good PR, especially since Minaya finally admitted the team knew about the incidents and were investigating them before the reports surfaced in the New York Daily News last week.
This being the Mets, though, it wasn't quite so simple as announcing a firing.
In a bizarre moment during the press conference, Minaya also claimed that the writer of the pieces, Adam Rubin, has been lobbying for a job in player development with the Mets. Minaya seemed much more upset at Rubin than about anything having to do with Bernazard, who he seemed to intimate had intentions other than simply reporting a story.
Rubin disputed the assertion that he was trying to tear Bernazard down in order to get a job, and called Minaya "despicable" for alleging otherwise. He said he never asked anyone from the team for a job, but did inquire about how someone goes about getting a job in the baseball business. He likened it to someone asking him how you went about getting a job writing for a newspaper, which may not be what journalists are supposed to do but it is also a far cry from asking for a job.
While they succeeded at changing the story from Bernazard, Minaya opened up another can of worms that will continue to keep the focus on the way the Mets do business off the field. Maybe that's their goal, but if they really want to try and get back to work on fixing the team this is an odd route to take.
Furthermore, they could have dispatched Bernazard via a press release and had Minaya speak to reporters about it in a less formal setting. Instead they called a press conference with the sole motive of calling out Rubin and making sure the carnival went on and on. You could be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled into a mid-80's Yankees press conference, that's how surreal the whole thing was.
Minaya said that it was only these behavioral incidents that contributed to Bernazard's firing, but it would be surprising if his reputation as a behind the scenes manipulator didn't also play a role. Bernazard was credited with helping to grease the skids for Willie Randolph's departure in 2008 because he had the ear of owner Jeff Wilpon. With speculation starting to mount about Minaya's job status, that relationship (and Bernazard's role as likely successor) couldn't have made the G.M. feel too secure.
Again, Minaya disputes that any of Bernazard's relationships played any role, but that doesn't mean Minaya is safe. The Mets' front office extends to an overly keen ear for what the men on the street are saying, which hurt Bernazard and may wind up hurting Minaya as well when the season comes to a close. Barring a stunning turnaround, the Mets are missing the playoffs for the third straight season and Minaya is running out of other people to throw in front of the stampeding herds.