It’s the greatest reality TV show on earth. It’s full of surprises, embarrassments, comedy and frustration.
The show is aired in Queens, and whether it’s during the season, offseason, COVID-19 times, or protest games, the New York Mets are here to entertain you.
They were on top of their game once again Thursday. With six games already postponed — protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin — the Mets and Miami Marlins were the last teams to decide they weren’t playing either.
They came up with a brilliant idea, courtesy of Miguel Rojas of the Marlins, deciding to take their positions on the field, remove their caps, bow their heads and stand silently for 42 seconds — honoring Jackie Robinson — before walking off the field together and leaving a Black Lives Matter T-shirt draped on home plate.
Well, the poignant moment was spoiled thanks to the latest hot mic incident when Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen was caught on camera ripping MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to two of his employees, accusing him of trying to circumvent the game’s postponement.
"Baseball is trying to come up with a solution, saying, 'You know what would be super powerful,, " Van Wagenen said, relaying a conversation with Manfred. " 'You know it would be really great if you just have them all take the field, then they leave the field and then they come back and play at 8:10.' "
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Van Wagenen told his employees that Manfred called it "a scheduling nightmare if the game was postponed," but he told chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon that the game definitely would not be played.
Then, came the gut punch: "At leadership level, he doesn't get it," Van Wagenen said. "He just doesn't get it."
The video, caught on the team’s website, went viral, and Van Wagenen went nuclear, letting everyone know he mistakenly thought it was Manfred’s idea for the hour delay when it was COO Jeff Wilpon’s.
Here’s the full, audio-boosted 2:20 of the Mets/Manfred/Van Wagenen stream, there’s about 20 seconds of blank air that I cut out at the end pic.twitter.com/ALHfYZCQQ3
"Clearly, I misunderstood that this was the Commissioner's idea," Van Wagenen said in a statement. "In actuality, this was Jeff's suggestion. The players had already made their decision so I felt the suggestion was not helpful.
"My frustration with the Commissioner was wrong and unfounded. I apologize to the Commissioner for my disrespectful comments and poor judgement in inaccurately describing the contents of his private conversation with Jeff Wilpon."
Van Wagenen even had a press conference after the postponed game, this time making sure the mic was on, and apologized again.
"I hold myself personally responsible for this," Van Wagenen said. "Hot mic or no hot mic, I made comments that damaged the Commissioner and the Mets organization. …
"I'm disappointed in myself. I take responsibility for that."
Well, just in case you wondered how Van Wagenen’s bosses took the faux pau, Fred and Jeff Wilpon issued a pair of statements late in the evening, slamming Van Wagenen and leaving you wondering how long he’ll have an office.
My God, it’s almost as if they already kicked him out of the door, with each misspelling Van Wagenen’s first name. It’s Brodie, guys, not Brody!
"I am very stressed and disappointed to learn tonight that our General Manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, made disrespectful and inaccurate comments about our Commissioner, a long-time close friend of mine," owner Fred Wilpon said. "I hold Rob in the highest regard and in no way are Brody’s remarks reflective of my views or the organization’s. Rob continues to be a great leader of Major League Baseball. I apologize for any harm this incident has caused Rob."
Brodie Van Wagenen's days as Mets general manager would seem to be numbered. (Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)
Jeff Wilpon came right back with this:
"To clear up any misunderstandings, it was my suggestion to potentially look into playing the game later because of scheduling issues. Brody’s misunderstanding of a private conversation was and is inexcusable. We fully respect our players' and the Marlins players' decision to not play tonight and appreciate the sincerity of all those who wish to draw attention to social injustices and racial inequalities that must be addressed. The entire Mets organization remains committed to creating meaningful change in our society."
Well, these comical days of apologies and press releases may be coming to an end quite soon.
Van Wagenen may have no platform to apologize again considering that Monday is the deadline for final bids for the Mets’ sale, with the team expected to be officially sold in November, or no later than January. And with new ownership comes a new front office.
Steve Cohen, worth $14 billion, is the richest one among the bidders, but he’s also the guy Jeff Wilpon hates, backing out of an agreement earlier in the year.
Alex Rodriguez, the man who sued Major League Baseball and was suspended a year for performance-enhancing drugs, is the favorite and plans to bring along suspended ex-GM Jeff Luhnow of the Houston Astros, but J-Lo’s dance routine may not tip the scales.
No matter who’s in charge, it’s simply in the Mets’ DNA to assure that the comedy doesn’t stop.
Come on, who hires a manager and then fires him before his first game this year, like the Mets did with Carlos Beltran?
Who sends out a release worrying the baseball world that they can’t find Yoenis Cespedes, only to know that he actually walked away from the team after being chased by a wild boar the summer before, and merely was trying to embarrass him?
Then again, who signs a player to a four-year, $110 million contract, immediately regrets it, and then hires his agent to be their GM?
No wonder Manfred, who was outraged by Van Wagenen two years earlier when he accused owners of collusion, fired right back at Van Wagenen.
"I have not attempted in any way to prevent players from expressing themselves by not playing," Manfred said in a statement, "nor have I suggested any alternative form of protest to any club personnel or any player. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong."
Man, it’s too bad Manfred didn’t have a hot mic filming his heated telephone call earlier in the day with Van Wagenen.
Ah, good times, just like when Van Wagenen threw a chair out of anger in the coaches’ room with manager Mickey Callaway before firing him a few months later.
Well, if nothing else, not playing Thursday spared the Mets the embarrassment of another loss, a team built to win now but sitting at 13-16 after being shut out in back-to-back games of a doubleheader this week for the first time in 45 years.
And, oh yeah, it was the lowly Marlins who did the sweeping.
Ah, let the good times roll.
Why, considering what two-time Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom must deal with in this circus, they should rename baseball’s greatest pitching award after him simply for his survival skills.
This is a team at least $500 million in debt according to their financial records, that’s still recovering from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. The have employed eight managers and five GMs since 2003, with only two playoff berths in the last 13 years.
The only consistency has been their dysfunction.
The country is a mess. The pandemic is ending lives. And the systemic racism brings us to tears.
But, just when we’re feeling at our lowest, there’s always the Mets, cheering us up when we could use a little comic relief.
Thanks, fellas, you’re right on time again.
Follow columnist Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale.
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