In a leaked video, New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen revealed that the team’s COO, Jeff Wilpon, attempted to pull a public-relations stunt with the Mets and Miami Marlins on Thursday night in response to the growing civil unrest that has mounted since the shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday.
Van Wagenen explained that in a conversation with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, Wilpon tabled the idea of trying to force the Mets and Marlins to take the field as though they were going to play at their regularly-scheduled start time at 7:10 p.m. ET, only to walk off the field together as a sign of protest. However, they would return to the field one hour later to play at 8:10 p.m.
The Mets and Marlins did walk off the field at 7:10 p.m., but they decided not to return for the rest of the evening.
“I was like what?” Van Wagenen said. “And [Manfred] said ‘[To Mets COO Jeff Wilpon] Jeff, scheduling is going to be a nightmare, there’s so much at stake,’ and I said ‘Jeff, that’s not happening. They’re not playing.'”
“If that’s Rob’s instinct… his leadership level, he just doesn’t get it.”
Instead, Van Wagenen insisted on coordinating a decision with the Marlins, who announced that they would play Thursday night.
He released a statement to clarify that the idea was not Manfred’s, which was initially believed:
“Jeff Wilpon called Commissioner Manfred this afternoon to notify him that our players voted not to play. They discussed the challenges of rescheduling the game. Jeff proposed an idea of playing the game an hour later. I misunderstood that this was the Commissioner’s idea. 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.”
He further expanded on the situation when speaking to the media Thursday night.
“I was not part of this third-party conversation between the commissioner and Jeff Wilpon. Clearly, I misunderstood the first recommendation… and secondly, I didn’t have the tone or the context to it,” he said. “After talking with both the commissioner and Jeff… there was brainstorming about suggestions and it wasn’t Rob and his leadership that was requiring… or mandating anything.”
Such a stunt would have diminished the decision by numerous teams in Major League Baseball — as well as the NBA and NHL — to not play on Thursday or Friday.
You can see the full leaked video here:
— Joe Pantorno (@JoePantorno) August 27, 2020
Commissioner Manfred attempted to clarify the situation, too, releasing a statement saying he had nothing to do with trying to get the Mets and Marlins back on the field.
“Over the past two days, players on a number of Clubs have decided not to play games. I have said both publicly and privately that I respect those decisions and support the need to address social injustice,” he said. “I have not attempted in any way to prevent players from expressing themselves by not playing, nor have I suggested any alternative form of protest to any Club personnel or any player. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.”