My how the times have changed.
Back during the 2007 regular season, a phenomenon brewed within the Mets clubhouse we now refer to as Latino Gate. The issue centered around which players were staying around to get grilled by post-game reporters, and which team players were fleeing, and leaving the media for those left behind. The situation degenerated into a matter of language – who spoke English, and who spoke Spanish. The drama boiled down to four players – Billy Wagner, Paul LoDuca, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran. This rift grew on the heels of the 2006 disappointment, and during the first half of the season while the Mets struggled. When the Mets surged and were cruising in first place again, most of that talk dissipated…, until the eventual grand collapse that is. Because in truth, the conversation regarding Omar Minaya’s perceived Latinazation of the Mets never truly subsided while he was in power.
Feb 23, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (65) throws in the third inning during a spring training game against the Washington Nationals at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Remember back again, this time during the 2009 season, how then Mets VP of Player Development Tony Bernazard, famously stormed the Binghamton B’s clubhouse, ripped his shirt off, questioned many a player’s manhood (in Spanish no less), and even challenged anyone willing, to a fight. Boy, did that throw kerosene onto the Latino Gate fire. The media promptly descended upon an unprepared Omar Minaya. It was then really, for the first time since becoming GM of the Mets, Omar’s command and mastery of the English language were openly mocked. Until then, such attempts by radio callers were not taken kindly by the talk shows. That changed, and even today, a week doesn’t go by without the obligatory caller generalizing Latino players as lazy.
I’m not here to debate, or argue any of that. I merely wanted to set the condition. The media was in a constant state of frenzy during Omar Minaya’s tenure in Queens. To remember correctly, is to recall all the drama both instances created. Certainly, a loss in the NLCS and two straight collapses fostered a negative and predatory environment around Citi Field. But there is no denying a common motif existed.
Fast forward to March 23, 2013 – Zack Wheeler allegedly intentionally nailed his own organizational mate, Aderlin Rodriguez, with a pitch after Rodriguez homered earlier off Wheeler and reportedly hot-dogged it around the bases. Wheeler apparently took exception with this behavior, then dinked him during a later at-bat. Even though Aderlin was said to have apologized to Wheeler, New York Daily News scribe Andy Martino reported tensions later escalated in the clubhouse.
"“….Some of the American guys and some of the Latin guys were circling and yelling at each other,” one source said."
My point – the fact Andy Martino filed this report almost a week later suggests the media frenzy is over. I’m not casting any dispersions on the way these reporters do their job either. I’m merely suggesting they no longer salivate over every drop of blood in Flushing Bay – not under Sandy Alderson’s regime.
"Asked if there was any concern about ethnic tensions arising from the incident, DePodesta said: “From our perspective, we treated it as any parent might treat a dispute between two of their kids. You don’t take sides. There is no such thing as sides. You just try to tell them what the right thing to do is, the responsible thing to do, and you go from there. There aren’t any sides taken (by the organization).”"
Well said by Mr. DePodesta. When compared to a potential response one might have received from Tony Bernazard if charged with a similar situation, the possible folly could have been endless. While Andy Martino did in fact report the story, the underlying issue regarding the incident in the clubhouse has still gone largely unspoken by the media. Under Omar Minaya, this incident would have been a delicious bait ball the size of a Caribbean island.
There are situations in life (most) where race should play no part. Then sometimes, situations perpetuate themselves. It’s an endless dilemma. As it pertains to the continuing role race plays in Flushing and her subordinates, only time will tell.