Tag: jeff wilpon

Wilpon Warms Up in Buffalo

According to The Buffalo News, Jeff Wilpon appeared at Coca-Cola Park in Buffalo to apologize for the Bisons’ awful season.

After all, it was the Mets who inadequately stocked their AAA team with players who would have a hard time competing in the local Babe Ruth League.

Some of the quotes:

“There’s disappointment in the fan base and ownership here as well as ownership in New York with how [the Bisons] have performed. We have to fix that,” Wilpon told The Buffalo News during the Herd’s 9-4 win over Lehigh Valley. “It’s something we want to do better and we will do better for the City of Buffalo and for the Mets.

“It’s good business to do better and it’s also the morally right thing to do because Buffalo has opened its arms to us and we really appreciate that. It’s been terrific to be here. …”

and:

“We want a competitive team for the entire year, not just two-thirds of the year, and we’re going to spend the money on Buffalo,” Wilpon said. “We spend money on the big league club and we spent money here as well. The injuries with the big league club were the biggest issue here. Everybody in our organization knows this is a priority to get this team in a better position. We’d like to be here long term.

“We’re disappointed as well. I can understand the fans’ feeling. We don’t want to lose. The ownership group here doesn’t and I can tell you for certain ownership in New York doesn’t want to be losing here.”

So … was this trip to Buffalo a warmup for the apologies Jeff will be offering to Flushing a few weeks from now?

Regardless, the fans of Buffalo should know — the Wilpons are well known for apologies and empty promises, so get used to it.

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Cheap Seats at Citi Field

cheap-seats-citiWith the economy in a tailspin, unemployment through the roof, and diehard fans unable to partake in their favorite pastime due to money woes, the New York Mets have made the gracious and humane gesture of lowering the price of some tickets by 15%.

Now, you negative Nellies out there will be quick to point out the losing season, uninspired play, and overall degraded “product on the field” as a good reason to offer a discount. The worst of you likely are saying the Mets have instituted this charitable deduction as a means to stimulate sluggish ticket sales. Well, the whole lot of you can go

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Update On Jeff Wilpon and Pro Ball

Last week we discovered an inconsistency between the published bio / resume of Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and the memory of the 1983 Jamestown Expos manager.

Again, for your indulgence … this is what has been the “canned” bio for Jeff Wilpon, on the official websites of both Sterling Equities and the Brooklyn Cyclones:

jeff-wilpon-se

But, the manager of the Jamestown Expos back then — Moby Benedict — said that Jeff Wilpon never played for him.

It took a few days for the information to sink in around the blogosphere, but finally Shannon Shark of MetsPolice re-confirmed the facts, as posted on MetsBlog.

You know how us bloggers sitting in our parents’ basements can be quick to make assumptions and spew wild speculations that could significanly damage a person’s reputation. So before John Gonzalez or some other well-respected journalist accuses us bloggers of being irresponsible or not doing our due diligence, I provide you an update to the lingering question of Jeff Wilpon’s professional baseball career.

This from the June 21, 1998 edition of The New York Times (page ST-4):

From the time he was 10, Jeff Wilpon had been eager — maybe too eager — to follow his father. At that age he carried a homemade business card identifying himself as Director of Construction. His father, Fred Wilpon, was an owner of Sterling Equities, a real estate conglomerate he founded with his brother-in-law Saul Katz.

In 1980, when Jeff was a high school senior in Roslyn, N.Y., his father and uncle bought the Mets. Jeff was so gung-ho to join the front office that he gave up every boy’s dream — a potential career as a professional athlete. He had been drafted by the Montreal Expos out of college and believes he could have started at catcher in the major leagues, he said, but quit after one spring training session to join the family business.

“I always knew I wanted to do what my dad did,” he said, sitting, like his father, with legs crossed in Fred Wilpon’s office in Sterling Plaza, on Fifth Avenue at 47th Street. From time to time, his father glanced dotingly at him.

So there you have it — Jeff was drafted by Expos, as we confirmed, but his pro experience consisted of “one spring training session”. Now it makes sense that Moby Benedict didn’t remember him — Jamestown was in the NY-Penn League, a short-season rookie league that doesn’t begin play until June. By then, Jeff was long gone from the Montreal system and getting himself comfy in the Mets’ front office.

Though, I’m not sure what “one spring training session” means. I can tell you that after my own college career, I spent a few weeks at MLB spring training camps warming up minor league pitchers and playing in some scrimmages as a means of trying out. However, I do not label that experience as “professional”, since, technically, I wasn’t under contract and didn’t play in an official game. But maybe someone else would interpret that differently. Although it would certainly help my baseball instruction business if I told people I “played for the Sarasota White Sox”, I wouldn’t feel right saying it because, to me, it’s simply not true. But furthermore, I don’t want to gain clients because they think I played pro ball — I want them to come to me because they’ve heard I do a great job teaching baseball. You don’t have to be a pro ballplayer to be a good teacher — as they say, “those who can, do, those who can’t, teach”.

Similarly, there’s no correlation between playing baseball and running a professional franchise. In fact, I’m not sure there is another COO in MLB who has baseball playing experience above the Little League level. And if there is, who cares? What would it have to do with managing a $500M – $1 billion business?

But I digress. What I wanted to do today was present evidence that suggests that Jeff Wilpon spent some time (hours? days? weeks) in the Montreal Expos spring training camp in 1983. How you want to interpret that is up to you — and how Sterling Equities wants to describe it, is, obviously, up to them.

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Did Jeff Wilpon Play Pro Ball?

You may already know that I’m a former college baseball player and coach, and therefore geeky enough to have an appreciation for listening to an interview with Moby Benedict. For those unaware, Benedict was one of the most successful college coaches of all-time, leading the University of Michigan from 1963-1979. In those 17 years, no less than 25 of his players went on to play in MLB — a fairly stunning accomplishment. After his college coaching career, Moby spent three years coaching the Jamestown Expos in the NY-Penn League (from 1982-1984).

Considering that Moby played for Michigan in the mid-1950s and managed Jamestown in the early 1980s, one would think that he’d be familiar with Fred and Jeff Wilpon. After all, Fred was supposedly a “star” pitcher in high school and college, and Jeff played for the Jamestown Expos in 1983 … or did he?

According to the biography on the Sterling Equities website:
jeff-wilpon-se

The exact same bio appears on the Brooklyn Cyclones official website.

However, if you listen to Moby Benedict tell the story, Jeff never played for Jamestown. Per the interview:

Q: “One of the players you managed while at Jamestown, but Jeff played with you in 1983 at the Jamestown Expos … what can you tell us about Jeff?”
A: “I don’t think he did … the years I was there, and I was there three years, and I don’t recall that he played. No. No — not for me.”

Moby is not a young guy, so you might think that his memory is failing him, or that Jeff was such a poor player that he didn’t leave much of an impression on Moby. Except, you would think that Moby Benedict would remember the son of Fred Wilpon playing for him — even if it were for only five minutes. After all, Fred and Moby were teammates at the University of Michigan, and Fred was extremely helpful to Moby’s baseball program. Indeed, Benedict later mentioned, in regard to Fred Wilpon:

“… he was there at the same time as I was … in fact, I know him well — we were pretty good friends … he gave us a lot of money to re-do our baseball field … he was very, very, very generous … it’s called the Wilpon Baseball Complex … it’s really beautiful … he was very generous, and a very kind man.”

Benedict also clearly remembered that Fred came down with a sore arm while at Michigan, and therefore never pitched for them.

You can listen to the interview here (the Wilpon discussion comes in around the 3-minute mark):

Still, maybe Moby, for whatever reason, forgot that Jeff Wilpon played for him. But there doesn’t seem to be any information, anywhere, that supports the claim that Jeff played pro ball. For example, if you go to the Jeff Wilpon page on TheBaseball Cube.com, there are no stats listed. Neither is Wilpon’s name listed on the 1983 Jamestown Expos page. Baseball-Reference.com reports the same non-info on Jeff Wilpon (nothing for ’82, ’84, either).

Of course, neither of those websites can be considered “official” — so it’s possible that both of those sites have mis-reported the facts and that Moby Benedict mis-remembered his time in Jamestown.

Perhaps I’m nitpicking, but this information is bothersome to say the least. If it’s true that Jeff Wilpon never played pro ball, why does his bio claim that he did? Why would the COO of a billion-dollar company have to lie on his public resume? And what else is he, the Mets, and Sterling Equities lying about?

And for the record, I have never lobbied for the job of COO of the New York Mets. I’m not looking to tear anyone down, either — only in search of the truth.

** UPDATE **

An alert MetsToday reader pointed me to a Murray Chass article from the September 14, 2004 edition of The New York Times, which includes this tidbit:

Wilpon is the son of Fred Wilpon, the Mets’ owner. Like his father, Jeff was a baseball player as a youngster but didn’t go far. In 1983, at the request of and as a favor to Fred Wilpon, the Montreal Expos drafted Jeff, a catcher. He joined Jamestown of the New York-Penn League but apparently never played before he was released a week or so later. Jeff Wilpon’s name does not appear in the team’s statistics for that season.

So this is old news that has yet to be addressed. Or does being a bullpen catcher count as “playing”?

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Bernazard Firing Part Deux

In case you missed it, the Mets held a press conference moments before game time tonight to address Omar Minaya’s attack on Adam Rubin.

I’m not 100% sure, but I believe the Mets are the first franchise in sports history to call a press conference to explain a press conference. Someone check with the Elias Sports Bureau to confirm, please.

During the second press conference, Minaya apologized for isolating and attacking Rubin in the first press conference. He did not, however, apologize for what he said; rather, he apologized for saying what he did, WHEN he did and WHERE he did. He stands by the inane accusation that Rubin sought a job in the Mets’ front office. As if it matters. And as if anyone would want to work in that Chinese fire drill of an organization (no offense to my friends of Chinese descent).

Furthermore, Jeff Wilpon made it clear that Tony Bernazard was a good friend, and that Omar “fostered” that friendship. Again, it matters why?

After listening to Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum in this absurd press conference, Jerry Manuel’s postgame interview will resemble a symposium conducted by Albert Einstein.

One can only wonder what this Mickey Mouse operation will do next.

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The More Things Change

… the more they stay the same. That’s the saying, right?

If you saw this printed somewhere today, I bet following snippet would not be surprising:

This ship has been off course for three seasons, not because of a lack of resources, but because of a lack of judgment. The Mets began the year with a payroll … which is second only to the Yankees’ … They have nothing to show for it but a clubhouse of aging stars with big names, big contracts and big injuries.

(the GM) sold Wilpon on the notion that you had to win with big names in New York, that the fans weren’t patient enough to wait for rebuilding, that you had to do it now. Forget the farm system.

But Wilpon apparently came to the conclusion that the Mets’ salvation was not exclusively found in high-priced stars. Yesterday, he made an intriguing observation. He said he knows now that a hefty payroll does not ensure success. ”We’ve learned that painfully.”

More than once yesterday he said, ”We’re going to get younger and more athletic.”

But you might be mildly surprised to find out that the above was published on June 13, 2003 in The New York Times.

If you don’t remember, these were the words printed when GM Steve Phillips was fired. Jim Duquette replaced him on an interim, and then “permanent” basis, and within a year Scott Kazmir was traded for Victor Zambrano and Ty Wigginton for Kris Benson so that the Mets could “play meaningful games in September”. Not long after that meaningless September, Omar Minaya was hired to right the ship.

Speaking of, does this sound familiar? (from the September 29, 2004 edition of The New York Times):

It is difficult to determine the impact of any Mets general manager because the team’s power structure so often appears split. Although major league executives generally believe the best way to run a team is to let the general manager make the most important decisions and then receive clearance from ownership, the Mets rely on committees to hash out strategy, usually soliciting a wide range of opinions.

Jeff Wilpon directs the day-to-day operation of the club, the superscouts Al Goldis and Bill Livesey have input, and veteran players and coaches sometimes offer opinions, too. Minaya knows from experience what he is getting into. Having emigrated with his family from the Dominican Republic to Queens as a child, he became an assistant general manager for the Mets in 1997 and became a senior assistant general manager one year later.

I.e.: the “collegial organization” that Steve Phillips referred to recently.

Minaya hired manager Willie Randolph in part because of Randolph’s excellent reputation for working with youngsters such as Alfonso Soriano. You see, the Mets were going to build a pennant contender through their farm system and around their youth — David Wright and Jose Reyes. That idea went out the window a year later, when Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran were signed to obnoxious contracts.

Today, Joel Sherman touched on this subject as well — and interestingly, holds “conspiracy theories” similar to the ones we’ve been drumming up here for a while:

In the past week, Minaya proclaimed the Mets “buyers” in the trade market at a moment when they were six games under .500, fourth in the NL East, and tied for eighth in the wild card, 7 ½ back. Good tickets still available at Citi Field in case you are interested.

and …

The Wilpons’ 1-2 strategy was to make sure the criticism was deflected away from them — because ownership can talk accountability, but it really is not great at accepting it — while beginning the process of convincing fans that the following season would be different. Translation: What do we have to do to begin motivating you to start buying tickets again? So Art Howe was fired as manager and Jim Duquette was demoted from general manager to go sit in the corner. A good leaking campaign ensued blaming that duo for everything short of the Hindenburg going down. You were supposed to be distracted from remembering that the Wilpons hired the people who messed up.

Sherman goes on to predict that the Mets will “…try to recruit a big-name general manager with the idea of convincing fans that different leadership would know properly how to surround a talented base of Santana, K-Rod, Beltran, David Wright and Jose Reyes with better supplementary players” and, failing at that, hire Tony LaRussa as manager, who “… would bring along his trusted pitching coach Dave Duncan, with the idea being that they always seem to get the most out of whatever talent is put in front of them”.

It’s not that far-fetched a theory, and it fits the pattern that the Wilpons have been following for over a decade. The names may change, but the story remains the same.

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