Jeffrey Toobin's extensive and excellent profile of embattled New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon checks in at just under 11,000 words in copies of this week's New Yorker magazine. It covers everything from Wilpon's humble beginnings in Brooklyn to one of the best accounts of his business relationship with Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme that you'll ever read.
And yet all of that nicely reported text — which includes exonerations of Wilpon from both Madoff and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax — is being overshadowed Monday morning by a scene from the story found on page seven of the Internet version. As Toobin strives to paint Wilpon as an old University of Michigan ballplayer whose passion for winning hasn't waned, Wilpon does most of the job himself by inviting the writer to a game and being critical of several Mets players. He also describes the team as "sh***y" and "snakebitten" while watching the game from his suite.
"We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series ... He's sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was."
"He's pressing. A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar."
None of what Wilpon says, of course, is completely wild or inaccurate. The themes he utters have been written about ad nauseum in the blogosphere as the Mets have fallen from what looked like a National League powerhouse-in-the-making in 2006 to bottom-of-the-league late night TV fodder the past couple of seasons. I don't agree with him, but Tyler Kepner of the New York Times believes; perhaps those comments may endear him to Mets fans who hope to see that their owner hates all this losing as much as they do.
It should also be noted that owners of all 30 teams are likely guilty of saying similar things about their underperforming players. But where Wilpon goes wrong from the rest of them is sharing those thoughts publicly. With the reputation of both his family and franchise flagging, Wilpon spoils what is otherwise a pretty positive profile by serving up a heaping platter of bloody red meat for the New York tabloids and baseball blogosphere.
That he also targeted two players — Wright and Reyes — who have played the role of his loyal soldiers during this adversity and could still figure into future franchise plans is equally disheartening. I can't imagine that either is waking up this morning and feeling too good about posing with Wilpon for the portrait that runs atop this article in question or staying "on message" about an owner who is as guilty for his team's current standing as anyone.
If Wilpon can't afford them a similar privilege, why should they do the same?
UPDATE: Wright emailed a response to Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal on Monday morning. As usual, he maintains his classy approach.
"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."