Fred Wilpon's Words Are Impolite, But They Aren't Untrue

Wilpon makes headlines, but there's not much controversy there

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Fred Wilpon is rarely confused for George Steinbrenner, but he took his best shot at the crown in an interview with Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker.

    The article hit everyone's radar on Monday and quickly became the only thing that anyone was talking about in the New York sports world. Let's catch up with what Wilpon had to say and then discuss the fallout afterwards.

    On David Wright: "Really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar."

    On Jose Reyes: "He thinks he's going to get Carl Crawford money ($142 million over seven years). He's had everything wrong with him. He won't get it."

    On Carlos Beltran: "We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series [with Houston in 2004]. He's 65 to 70 percent of what he was."

    A common refrain seems to be that this interview represents a colossally bad PR move by Wilpon. In terms of attracting free agent players or making other Mets feel great about playing for the team, that would seem to be absolutely correct.

    Wright pretty much confirmed that feeling in his response to Wilpon's comments about him. He made it clear that they didn't just roll off his back.

    "Fred is a good man and is obviously going through some difficult times. There is nothing more productive that I can say at this time."

    That said, Steinbrenner used to do these kinds of things all the time and people still lined up to take his money. The problem, of course, is that Wilpon doesn't have the money.

    In terms of the fan base, though, it doesn't really seem like all that bad of a PR move. Impolite, perhaps, but you can't really argue with the honesty.

    Mets fans have been screaming for accountability and honesty from their organization for years and they finally got it from Wilpon. This might not be the best way for these things to come to the surface, but it is hard to get too upset about a guy telling the truth. 

    However you define an arbitrary term like superstar, Wright isn't one of them. He is a very good player, as Wilpon said, but he isn't Jose Bautista, Albert Pujols or Tim Lincecum.

    The only people who really thought Reyes was going to be on the Mets in 2012 were people who substitute their own desires for the realities of life in baseball. Wilpon might have gone a bit too far with the "everything's wrong with him" business, especially in light of the way the organization treated his injuries in 2009, but all he did was confirm what everyone already knew.

    What's so wrong with knowing that now instead of allowing yourself to be mortified when Reyes gets dealt come July? Reyes was gone before this interview so nothing has changed except the public face the Mets are putting on things.

    Beltran got the shortest end of the stick in this whole thing because he's been better than Wilpon suggests he's been over the years. He's been hurt a lot, but he's been very good when he's healthy and Wilpon is doubly a schmuck for ignoring that.

    But Wilpon just said what thousands of Mets fans have been saying over the years so you really can't act too disgusted about hearing it once again. Like the rest of those fans, Wilpon seems to hold the final out of the 2006 NLCS against Beltran to an unhealthy degree.

    In fact, Wilpon even painted Beltran in a better light than he deserved when he did a pantomime of a checked swing to remind Toobin of that final out. As we remember it, Beltran stood staring at Adam Wainwright's pitch like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck without so much as a flicker of recognition of the disaster unfolding in front of him. 

    Of course, if Wilpon did that imitation it would be hard to distinguish it from the expression he wore while his team fell apart over the last four years. That expression of cluelessness is the real reason for the article, by the way.

    Lost in the hubbub over the comments about Mets players is the fact that Wilpon cooperated with Toobin solely to paint himself as someone duped by Bernie Madoff so that he doesn't have to fork over any money to the trustee suing him. It's pretty effective in that arena, assuming anyone pays any attention.

    In the end, this feels like a huge story because there's a school of thought that the Mets can't do a single thing right as an organization. This wasn't a wise move, nor is it one that plays well, but it isn't a nightmare that is going to do any lasting damage to the franchise.

    And, should the honesty bug be contagious, it might actually wind up being a good thing.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.