Fred Wilpon should write the questions for 'Beer Money'
I never had spent much time around Mets CEO Fred Wilpon until Wednesday, when he held court for 30 minutes with a handful of sports media/business writers at SNY's studios.
It was impossible not to be impressed by the guy, who is sharp as a tack, self-deprecating, baseball-savvy and not afraid to sprinkle in a naughty word - befitting a guy out of Lafayette High in Brooklyn. He even has thoughts on how to improve SNY's "Beer Money!"
Wilpon began his media session with a story about Lafayette - also the alma mater of Sandy Koufax and John Franco - and its sad current state.
After that, I turned on my digital recorder.
I squeezed some of Wilpon's comments into an article for Wednesday's newspaper. But if you click below, you can check out more than 2,000 words or so worth of his thoughts on a variety of topics.Wilpon on Tuesdays loss to the Phillies: Nothing could take the sting of last night away. Im still licking my wounds. I dont know if it gets harder, but it never leaves me . . . When youre emotionally involved, it hurts. I didnt sleep last night, I can tell you that.
Wilpon on whether he has lost sleep after other losses: I think weve had others. A lot of them I lose sleep over. But Im pleased in the direction were going. Im very pleased what Im seeing in the energy. I think with Jerry [Manuel], you have to go through problems as a manager, losses, disappointments, as well as the good things where you really can manage at a level.
Wilpon on Manuels media relations: Im so pleased with the way he deals with you [media] guys. We tried, but we couldnt get that done [with Willie Randolph]. Thats just about personality. You know when [Manuel] is telling you something, he believes it. He may be wrong, but hes telling the truth and hes not guarded, and I think its great. Im very pleased with him. Ive had two very long meetings with him. Ive had one with the pitching coach. I think were going in the right direction.
Wilpon with more on Manuel and the media: One thing is when youre leading a major league ballclub, whether youre the general manager or the manager, you have to communicate with the media. The media is reporting on you every day. You have to be able to communicate with them in a way they dont feel theyre being shut out. Certain things they cant tell you, I understand that. But the fact hes very open, and says the truth and the way he feels about it, I think thats good. I think also the pitching coach is getting through in a much more simplified way, and thats good too. I think Rick [Peterson] was a very good pitching coach, but Dan [Wharthen] is sort of simplifying some things and has his own point of view.
Wilpon on the pitching decisions Tuesday night: We held Billy [Wagner] out. To the best of my knowledge he possibly could have gone last night, but Jerry did the right thing. We still have 60 games or whatever we have left and to risk that was not a good risk . . . Im not in the dugout. But I watched very closely the pitching and my thought was I think Johan [Santana] may have been getting a little tired, it appeared to me in the back end of the eighth inning. Could he have gone out? Yeah, he probably could have gone out again. But we were leading, 5-2.
Wilpon on whether the Phillies are in the Mets heads: Absolutely not. I could substitute the Mets for that statement. I think the Mets feel today that theyre in there and theres no team they cant beat right now. I feel that way.
Wilpon on whether he ever regrets the Santana contract: Im very pleased with the addition of Santana. I think hes a pros pro, hes a very competitive guy and I think hes going to be there for the [seven] years. We knew Pedro [Martinez] might not be there 4-for-4. We knew that. I expect that Santana will be there, and I think you cant look at what his record is. How has he pitched? Hes pitched very well. Has he pitched as dominantly as he had maybe last year or the year before? Maybe not. He used his changeup a lot last night. I think he could have gone out there and just thrown changeups. I would say he threw maybe 50 percent changeups very effectively.
Wilpon on the Mets leaders: I think youd probably say the apparent leader would be David [Wright], and he is a leader. Hes young but hes leader. He walks the walk. But youd probably be surprised if I tell you that [Carlos] Beltran is a real leader on this team. He may not be a vocal leader, you may not hear from him, but he plays hurt, and hes a leader. Leadership doesnt always mean being a cheerleader.
Wilpon on adding the Big East as a winter programming partner: There was only one programming open, really, and that was the Devils. And clearly we were not in the market at the level the Devils were signed for. You have to look at the dollars that will be expended to what the ratings are. Its great to have, but what then do you have? We know were not going to get [pro] basketball. So these guys are really working hard to create programs were doing. Maybe not all of them are going to make it. Some of them will. Some of the personalities are going to make it. Im very pleased to see whats happening with the afternoon programming.
Wilpon on whether he records Beer Money: No. But I watch it. But lets be sure that the editors dont pick too esoteric questions. The questions that should be asked in my view should be ones a really good fan is likely to know the answer. This is not an intelligence test or a memory test.
Wilpon on being involved for the first time with a TV network: Let me tell you, this has been great for me personally. Not just for my family, the value of the network, but for me personally. At this stage of my life learning a new business, its been great. These guys are teaching me the business, and I love it. Im challenging them on different things and theyre doing really exceedingly well.
Wilpon on taking criticism without complaint: I have never almost in 30 years never called the booth, radio, television, never called an editor. Have I ever called any of you guys, even if you beat the --- out of me? Ive never called you. I dont do that. I dont say it doesnt hurt sometimes, but I dont do that. I dont think thats fair. So three or four years ago when we said we were going to be New York sports [on SNY], I know there were doubters and we really have stuck to it. You guys didnt like the way we fired Willie, and for two weeks there you beat the ---- out of us, personally, Jeff, me, Omar. You dont like it, but its part of the territory. We learned from it, by the way.
Wilpon on what they learned: I know this didnt go down right. But on Sunday [June 15] when Omar called me down and said, Can you come down to my office, he said, Heres where I am, Im really close to wanting to do this. Heres what I want to do. I said, When do you want to do it? He said, I want to sleep on it tonight. I said, Its probably a good idea because I dont think you want to do it on Fathers Day. Why dont you call in the morning and lets all get together on the phone and tell me what your decision is and what you want to do. He told me the decision and he said, I want to go out there personally because I promised Willie Id tell him personally, but Im afraid there is going to be a leak. I said, When are you going to do this? He said, Im going to do this after the game. I wasnt smart enough to say, Cut the New York press out of it [because of the late hour]? I didnt even think about that. By the way, I had a lot of other people on the phone, but the buck stops with me. I screwed up. I should have said, Wait a second, lets balance it may leak with, why not do it the next morning? Do it in the morning. People will criticize that you sent Willie out there, but the general manager went out there also. We didnt do that . . . I think Omar tried to explain but the die was set already. This [criticism] was a universal thing. There wasnt one person in the media who said, Well, maybe. Everyone said, Slam dunk.
Wilpon on Randolphs comments regarding SNYs coverage of him and a possible racial slant to the perception of him: About a day or two after Willie called to apologize. I thought he was wrong in what he said. I think he was inaccurate, but it was also clear to me that this wasnt something that just blurted out of his head. This was in his mind and whether he was going to say it to you or you or you, he was going to say it. He wanted the press to know he was defending himself against what was happening. Thats natural. Im not criticizing him for that. But thats when Harvey [Araton of The New York Times] wrote the article and you started to see things that didnt come from the Mets, it came from somewhere else. I dont think that was the thing. I left this completely in Omars hands. He tried to make this work, as did I because I like Willie for a lot of good reasons. Hes a good person. He tried to make it work. There certainly were people in the organization that would have done it earlier. Thats when he made his decision.
Wilpon on whether it bothered him that the Yankees invited Randolph to the All-Star Game: No. I specifically didnt go to the All-Star Game. Bud [Selig] wanted me to go. But I didnt go because I didnt want to call attention to myself. It was the Yankees thing. It was the All-Star Game for baseball at Yankee Stadium.
Wilpon on what owning the Mets means to him: Its my love, my passion. Ive lived it my whole live. Im fortunate to be the caretaker of this franchise, so yeah, its different, completely different [from other businesses]. People say you have buildings and things and whatever. Everything has a price. Not the Mets. I said this to Marty Noble 30 years ago. I said, Marty, Im never going to sell. Nelson [Doubleday] may sell but Im never going to sell.' My family is going to have this asset, whether my granddaughters or my grandsons, theyre going to have this asset. This is different to me. I still look at the picture every day of Ebbets Field and think Im 10 years old and walking into the stadium with my Dad.
Wilpon on his excitement over Citi Field: Oh, my God. Sandy Koufax said to me the other day when we were at the Wednesday Billy Joel thing, he said, Now I see it. I see us walking in.' He loved my Dad. And wed walk in together. My Dad would hold our hands and wed walk in the stadium. And of course ultimately he played there. It looks like it and feels like it. Its my fathers legacy. Its Citi Field, but its my fathers legacy.
Wilpon on his concern over rising ticket prices at Citi Field: Its my personal greatest concern. Because it is partly a public trust. We will have games where you can get a seat for $10. Its a bit of a Robin Hood. Down below people will pay significant prices but were going to have $19 seats, $29 seats, $12 seats, whatever. One of the reasons that I wanted this intimate small stadium like Ebbets Field was because every seat is really good, Im telling you. You go to the last seat in the upper deck and you will not feel you are out of the field. You can hug it. That was the goal. I am concerned with [ticket prices]. Im concerned with that for baseball. Im concerned with that for us. But those are the economics. You build an $800 million stadium and your revenues go up but so does your [revenue] sharing. Its go to come from somewhere.
Wilpon on whether he has legally bound his heirs not to sell the team: Its hard to mandate. You can, but what happens is thats unfair to them if for some reason they needed to. But right now everybody in my family thats involved, my immediate family, my brother-in-law, my sister, nieces and nephews, everyone is on board as to what were doing. As to whether others will be involved other than Jeff, my grandson Bradley, my other grandson Benjamin, my granddaughters, that I dont know. But they know how I feel about this.