Blame conditioning. But whenever a microphone finds its way in front of Jeff Wilpon, I fret.
It is always worth revisiting the manner in which Nelson Doubleday departed the organization. On his way out the door he cautioned all of us to …”run for the hills.” Why? Among the reasons was because Jeff Wilpon wanted to become a baseball man. While most of Doubleday’s best material was reserved for his former partner Fred Wilpon, and ring prophetic today, there was something to be said for his criticisms levied against Jeff – too much in fact. After all, Jeff is the boss’ son, so he gets to play in the office hallways, or where ever he wants for that matter. It’s not like anyone is going to tell him, beat it kid ya bother me. But that is just what he did. Jeff irked Nelson Doubleday. And for the most part he has irked Mets fans as well, even if unjustified at times.
Nelson Doubleday offered his warning ten years ago. So just where has a decade of on-the-job training gotten Jeff, and us for that matter? By the 2009 season, Peter Gammons rather facetiously declared Jeff Wilpon was the real General Manager of the Mets.
Jeff Wilpon was a relative non issue during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. His mentor in effect started out being Omar Minaya. Outwardly at least, Omar seemingly had autonomy in his first few years. But starting after the 2007 near miss, the office of General Manager became duel headed. I concur with Peter Gammons. By 2009 and certainly by the 2010 season, Omar was clearly receiving most, if not all his direction from his higher up.
It is hard not polluting this post with all the other minutia related to the Mets financial situation. But as it related to Jeff Wilpon serving as the club’s Chief Operating Officer, I felt it was incumbent upon him and his pop to be more forthright with the fans than they were while still in the midst of their financial collapse. In that respect, I have still have a major issue with ownership’s tact. But how ownership’s dilemma manifested itself between Jeff Wilpon and his relationship with Omar Minaya is a matter I’m willing to be a little more compassionate about. Although untruthful to a degree, Jeff was just trying to cover for his pop. So in the absence of any practical baseball experience, that’s admirable I guess – just not wise.
Without trying to be overly critical, no, Jeff Wilpon has no practical baseball experience. That is common knowledge. The Omar Minaya era culminated in a perfect storm. Before ending however, several times Jeff Wilpon was put in precarious situations when the media wanted Omar’s head, most notably over the Tony Bernazard situation and the ensuing Adam Rubin fallout. In all fairness to Jeff Wilpon, the COO demonstrated an ability to conduct effective damage control. In that respect, he was a fairly cool customer. That whole Bernazard/Rubin fiasco was regrettable perhaps to Omar. But for Jeff Wilpon, it may have been his finest moment.
Remember in 2010 when Jeff Wilpon visited Atlanta to “talk baseball” with Omar and Jerry Manuel? That was in fact Jeff’s second trip to Atlanta in two years in which he wanted to talk baseball with his peeps. Without expanding on that situation, I again liked the way Jeff handled the media with his now famous(?) – “I’m not here to fire anyone, sorry guys.”
Earlier this month, Jeff said Sandy Alderson would be granted more financial flexibility for next season, with a reserve fund to boot. That was good news and all I really need to hear from ownership. But he should have stopped there because he also added, “the team will be competitive ….we’ll be near the top of the food chain” as far as payroll. And that’s where he loses me. At this point, that kind of talk falls on deaf ears.
During the Winter Meetings, Jeff Wilpon again enjoyed a decent amount of face time, and for good reason. He was on hand for the official announcement of David Wright’s contract extension. And who doesn’t go to the meetings these days? But at the same time, it made him available for more questions and opinions. When pressed for his thoughts regarding the R.A. Dickey negotiations, he offered hope in finding a middle ground, but the Mets COO struck me as a bit amateurish by emphasizing the brighter side of the club’s bargain basement $5 million dollar 2013 option. When you compare the tact taken by Jeff Wilpon versus that of Sandy Alderson, it is quite obvious who the novice still is.
With Omar around, Jeff became too much of a visible figure and was increasingly asked to speak into microphones. He became a voice for the club as the office of General Manager continued to devolve. With Sandy Alderson on board, Jeff’s duties as micro-manager should effectively be over. The new GM is indeed the Mets first alpha General Manager while under sole ownership of the Wilpons. So I do not believe Alderson accepted the job just to be another stooge. To his credit, the COO did humble himself during the meetings by saying Sanday Alderson deploys and utilizes him, and not the other way around. That said, with the Winter Meetings long wrapped up, it is time for Jeff Wilpon to excuse himself from the practical side of baseball matters, and slip into the background again, or a new role, and leave baseball to the baseball guys. Ten years later, a solid baseball acumen still lacks from his resume. Sandy Alderson seems pretty adept at damage control as well.