West Side Story Drama Erupts in Mets Minor League Camp

jets-vs-sharks

Earlier this week, uber-phenom Zack Wheeler and slugging prospect Aderlin Rodriguez engaged in an on-field altercation that escalated into an off-field, ethnically divisive war.

Said a person with knowledge close to the situation,

“Zack knows that when you’re a Met you’re a Met all the way from your first cigarette to your last dying day.”

The Sharks had no response.

I must admit, the inspiration for this opening came from “Tommy2Cat” (and follow-up by “KevinArnold9″ in the comments section of MetsBlog.

Normally I would glaze over this news with a “ho-hum” but now with the news that Johan Santana is out for the year, I think the way this Wheeler-Rodriguez story is being handled is indicative of what Mets fans will be seeing from the tabloids all spring and summer: news about off-field issues, because the on-field story is likely to lack intrigue.

Here’s what happened: in an intrasquad game, after hitting a Zack Wheeler pitch over the fence, Aderlin Rodriguez “Cadillacked it” around the bases (or as the young people call it these days, “pimped it out”). In his next at-bat, Rodriguez was hit on the hand by a Wheeler fastball, and there was fear that the hand might have been broken. In the clubhouse later, Rodriguez supposedly said to Wheeler that if he (Rodriguez) missed Opening Day as a result, then Wheeler would too. The threat apparently resulted in some heated discussion between the two and drew in the opinions of other teammates.

Adam Rubin reported the story on ESPN-NY without any hint of bias or exaggeration. However, the story published by Andy Martino at The Daily News had a much more sensationalized take, reporting that “ethnic tensions” resulted in the clubhouse.

Hey, I get that the tabloids need to sell papers and induce page views. Most of my headlines, in fact, are geared toward getting people on social media channels to click and visit MetsToday (that’s a headline’s purpose, after all — to entice the reader to continue reading). But I want to know from you, the baseball fan: do you accept yellow journalism from baseball writers? Do you want to read about off-field incidents whose angles don’t connect to on-field performance? In this case, do you believe that this story is indicative of an ethnic divide in the Mets organization that needs to be addressed? If so, do you also believe it’s something that needs to be made public? And should personal stories be penned by baseball beat writers, whose specialty is on-field reporting?

Sound off in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 March 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm
    Martino’s horrendous.

    All I need to say about the matter.

    We also hated Luis Castillo, due to “his ethnicity” – not because he was over the hill and on his last leg by the time the Mets finally let him go.

    The Daily News’ continued employment of Martino is more baffling than the Mets with Dan Warthen as pitching coach.

  2. MikeT March 29, 2013 at 1:33 pm
    Just because a bunch of white dudes (Americans) came to the defense of Wheeler and a bunch of Latinos came to the defense of Rodriguez does not a racially divided and tenuous situation make. (I’m also guess that this is what happened.)

    Completely isolated incident most likely.

    • Izzy March 29, 2013 at 1:56 pm
      Gee, if there wasn’t one guy defending a guy from a different background, it would be very hard to believe there are not some serious problems within the org. But to those who believe in Met perfection, ok, enjoy. I do’t know what happened but since this is the Mets where the org and the number 1 Latino have major problems ending with a career ending injury, where Domonicam SS Nd star player Reyes was let gonwithoutba fight followed by goody two shoe White Wright being made a Metsieblittle God, it is easy to see the real possibility of tensions in the ever Whitening Metsie world.
      • Walnutz15 March 29, 2013 at 2:37 pm
        “But to those who believe in Met perfection, ok, enjoy. ”

        You crack me up, Izzy. Find me someone who believes in Met perfection, and I’ll make it a point to find you a unicorn.

        Anyone who’s ever played on a team before knows that tempers flare within a general dugout/locker room atmosphere — whether you like someone, hate them, are indifferent to them all-together.

        …….especially when something might happen during an intrasquad game.

        ………even moreso after a teammate may have showboated a bit at your expense.

        Can’t tell you how many guys hit each other “just because” when we first started up in the Spring…..and it had nothing to do with ethnicity.

        This is where Martino shines brightest. Within the 3-ring circus that he looks to create on his own.

        Nobody was looking to go nutty over LOS METS, so long as they were winning. When Minaya started bringing in 50 year old geriatrics, and relying upon them as key cogs — by throwing easily vesting options, and fistfuls of extra millions at them?

        People didn’t like it anymore…..and it just so happened that they were all part of LOS METS.

        Stop yourself.

  3. kranepool March 29, 2013 at 2:06 pm
    I know one thing there isn’t any “ethnic tensions” in Citi Field press box it’s whiter than the clubhouse at Augusta National
  4. Tommy2cat March 29, 2013 at 3:04 pm
    Hey Joe – thanks for the plug. :D

    In the absence of any reports of racial or ethnic slurs, or any related conduct, Martino was being irresponsible for inferring a racial/ethnic tone to the conflict where no such tone existed. That’s simply not responsible journalism.

    So, Kevin & I did was responsible bloggers do – “our thang”.

    I don’t dislike Andy, but he should think carefully before he speaks, especially when it pertains to race, creed or color. And I’m not even saying that you need to be politically correct in all situations, but in this instance his inferences were clearly without any factual support.

    • Joe Janish March 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm
      Kudos, Tommy – you were all over that, and all over the blogosphere on it.

      I wonder how much was really Martino and how much was his editor? Either way it was egregious.

  5. NormE March 29, 2013 at 4:04 pm
    WWWBD?
    And what did he do or not do? I’m assuming he was running the show at the time of the incident.
    • Joe Janish March 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm
      My guess is he was barricading the door of the clubhouse, preventing any nosy journalists from witnessing the incident.
  6. Larry March 29, 2013 at 11:43 pm
    Everyone is overlooking the most significant part of this entire “incident”–finally, a Mets pitcher who is not afraid to intentionally throw at a hitter (Dillon Gee’s wildness doesn’t count)!
    • Joe Janish March 30, 2013 at 8:54 am
      Good point, Larry.

      Though, I’m sure the next time he hits someone, The Daily News will label Wheeler as a “headhunter” whose goal is to crack helmets and be the first pitcher since Carl Mays to kill a batter during a ballgame.

  7. argonbunnies March 30, 2013 at 6:24 am
    Being a Mets fan has become a pretty high-maintenance habit. Now that the media has gotten us used to having our next fix always right around the corner, they have to write about something. If there’s nothing actually worth reporting, I think the pressure’s on guys like Martino to make something up.

    Irresponsible blogging’s not gonna stop until we all stop clicking on sensationalist headlines. So if it bugs you, ignore it. Personally, I find it occasionally entertaining, but I read it the way I’d read the National Enquirer. I assume “front office sources” and “insider rumors” are all lies, but if they’re entertaining lies, then hey, carry on.

    One could say that it’s unfair that the athletes (and manager) then have to get asked questions about the lies and sensationalism. But where do their paychecks really come from? It’s not the team’s won-lost record; it’s the team’s viability as an entertainment product worth oodles of TV dollars. If the players just want to play ball and not answer stupid questions, they can go play in a league that doesn’t dish out multi-million-dollar contracts.

    So, Wheeler throws a baseball, and minor drama ensues, and Martino blows it out of proportion, and we argue about it and continue paying attention to the Mets and the Daily News, and everyone gets what they wants. Except, you know, baseball victories. I agree with Joe, there won’t be many of those to write about this year.

  8. AC Wayne March 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm
    I guess the question you have to ask yourself is, who’s playing the role of Officer Krupke for the Mets in all of this, Paul DePodesta?

    Seriously though, there seems to be a belief by some that follow baseball that Latino players are “immature” and are seen at times at being more “selfish” than their American counterparts, particularly with the way they express themselves on the field, Reyes was constantly criticizes by his actions, everybody’s entitled to their opinion, as for Martino, I agree w/Argonbunnies, you can’t take these posts too seriously, just fodder