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Caught up in a Wilpon scheme

Updated: May 27, 2011, 9:12 AM ET
By Buster Olney

George Steinbrenner loved to tweak the Mets, and folks who worked for him say he drew great pleasure out of the fact that his aggressive pursuit of great players put public pressure on the team in Queens. By the end of Steinbrenner's life, the perception was often that he was the owner who got the job done -- it certainly was more complicated than that, through his three-plus decades as the steward of the Yankees -- and Fred Wilpon was the cheapskate among the New York baseball owners.

But Wilpon benefited, too, by being naturally cast against Steinbrenner. While Steinbrenner was impetuous, and often a bully, the public image of Wilpon has been, by comparison, as something of a statesman. He is well-spoken, well-groomed, measured in what he says, almost always gracious.

For years, some of the folks who worked for him have chuckled about the image juxtaposition, because behind closed doors, they found his demeanor to be a lot like what Steinbrenner was: anxious, demanding, as easily frustrated as someone obsessed with the hour-to-hour results of a fantasy team. The Mets' front-office meetings have been legendarily long, with circular discussions about how a mediocre talent might be turned into a star.

That part of Wilpon's personality was revealed in Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker profile -- a side that, right now, might represent the greatest threat to a Mets organization that should be very concerned about diminishing one of its most important assets: general manager Sandy Alderson.

We know, from Wilpon's words, that he isn't going to be investing in Jose Reyes. We know that Wilpon thinks David Wright is not a superstar. We know that Carlos Beltran is worth only 65-70 percent of what he's paid, in the eyes of the owner. It is now taken as a fait accompli in some other front offices that Reyes is going to be traded this summer, and presumably, Beltran will soon be out the door. Whether Wright will want to leave the Mets and find a more stable situation is an open question.

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