Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the Tony Bernazard “situation” is not Bernazard’s actions, but the Mets’ feeble, wishy-washy, inactive response. They have neither stood behind their VP of Player Development, nor have they fired him, nor have they even put him on some kind of a suspension. Their response to the multiple allegations toward Bernazard is to “investigate” — as Omar Minaya told us about twenty times.
Investigate? Really? That’s it?
The Mets seem to have forgotten that they operate out of New York City — the media capital of the world. The spotlight is on, and it’s white and hot. There is no time to “investigate” in a New York Minute. You ACT — swiftly and decisively.
This recent turn of events reminds me of the “Bill Singer Incident”, which was handled (bumbled?) similarly. For those who don’t remember, that debacle occurred in November of 2003, at MLB’s “general manager meetings” in Phoenix, AZ. Ironically, Bill Singer had just been hired as “assistant to the General Manager”. During one evening at the bar, Singer got a little too drunk and made some racially insensitive remarks to Kim Ng (who at the time held a similar position in the Dodgers’ organization). The immediate response was very much like the one we heard yesterday:
“He’s still employed by us at the moment, but the matter is under organizational review,” Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said Sunday night. “No decision has been made.”
This statement came after Singer apologized to his boss Jim Duquette, and released simultaneously with this statement from Singer:
“I am embarrassed by what I said when I met with Ng on Tuesday evening. My comments were truly inappropriate and I’m truly sorry. I have apologized to her and hope she will forgive me.”
According to the Daily News:
“That didn’t wash with Jim and it sure as hell won’t wash with [owner] Fred [Wilpon],” a Mets source told the Daily News. “Plain and simple, there’s no excuse for that kind of behavior, and there’s no saving this guy.”
The Daily News was right — all the apologies in the world weren’t going to save Bill Singer from the words uttered in a drunken stupor. He he was fired within a week.
The day Singer was relieved of his duties, the Mets released this announcement:
“As a matter of policy our organization cannot and will not tolerate any comment or conduct by an employee that suggests insensitivity or intolerance to any racial, ethnic or religious group. Any deviation from this standard is not acceptable.”
Is there really much difference between Singer’s fateful conversation with Kim Ng and the myriad activities of Tony Bernazard? Yes, in Singer’s case, the main issue was one of racial insensitivity. But it was similar to the current situation because it was also a glaring embarrassment for the entire organization. And now that the story is out there, it doesn’t matter what the Mets find out as a result of their “investigation” — the court of public opinion has already made their decision, and the rest of baseball is laughing at the three-ring circus that is the New York Mets.
In many ways, in fact, this situation is worse. Singer’s act was isolated. It was incredibly stupid and insensitive, but it didn’t really affect the team directly. And it didn’t necessarily reflect the attitude or activities of the organization. The response to Singer’s case was more, “wow, how could the Mets hire this guy? He’s an idiot”. Whereas today, there are many questionable acts linked to Bernazard. It’s not an isolated incident, but the way he regularly conducts himself. The mocking now is “wow, how could the Mets let this guy inflitrate their organization? how could they give a guy like this so much power? what has he done that we haven’t heard about? maybe this is the reason the Mets are in a shambles.”
In the end, Singer had very little impact on the Mets, and the incident in Arizona was forgotten quickly enough. Bernazard, though, has been a major factor in the organization for several years. The sooner the Mets act, the sooner they can get on the road away from mockery and disrespect. And it’s gonna take a while.
(Side note to the Singer story — one of the candidates to replace him at the time was Theo Epstein. How might that move have changed Mets history?)