Owners Say The Darndest Things

Much of the baseball world was abuzz this week over the comments Fred Wilpon made in The New Yorker about his players and team. The attention is understandable, since the comments appear to be both wrong on the merits and antithetical to Wilpon's own self-interest. But ill-advised comments are nothing new for baseball owners.

After all, as Bill Veeck once said, "Baseball must be a great game, because the owners haven't been able to kill it." I thought it would be fun to see what the closest historical comparables are for each of Wilpon's gaffes this week (by all means, let me know in the comments section if I'm missing any – these are far from scientific conclusions).

On Carlos Beltran: “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.”

Closest comp: When George Steinbrenner said of Dave Winfield: "Where is Reggie Jackson? We need a Mr. October or a Mr. September. Winfield is Mr. May."

Similarities include criticizing a player for only coming through during a specific time of year. Naturally, Beltran hasn't had much chance to come through during postseasons for the Mets. Even his famous 'failure' – a strikeout to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS – came in a series in which he hit three home runs.

On Jose Reyes: "He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money,” Wilpon said, referring to the left fielder's seven-year, $142MM contract with Boston. “He’s had everything wrong with him,” Wilpon said of Reyes. “He won’t get it.”

Closest comp: When Reds owner Bill DeWitt sent Frank Robinson to Baltimore for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun and outfielder Dick Simpson in January 1966, he defended the trade by explaining that Robinson was "an old 30." Robinson went on to win the triple crown for Baltimore in 1966, and starred with the Orioles for many seasons to come.

Similarities include a shocking misread of the market for a player, and an attempt to denigrate an in-prime star. DeWitt was wise enough to wait until after he traded his player, of course.

On David Wright: "He’s pressing,” Wilpon said. “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.”

Closest comp: Charlie Finley said to Vida Blue after the 1972 season, "So you won twenty games? Why didn't you win thirty?"

Similarities include a failure to recognize elite talent right in front of him. However, Finley had a larger purpose: to pay Blue less in ongoing contract negotiations. With Wright signed through 2013, Wilpon's motivations are far less clear.

On the Mets: “Good hitter,” Wilpon said in reference to first baseman Ike Davis. “S***** team—good hitter. Lousy clubs — that’s what happens.”

Closest comp: Anything George Steinbrenner ever said after the Yankees lost in the playoffs.

Similarities include the disparaging of the very team each man owned. The difference was that in Steinbrenner's case, the Yankees had usually won well over 90 games and made the playoffs.


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