At some point today, probably around lunch time, we highly recommend you print out Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker feature on Fred Wilpon and the Mets. It's smart, well-researched, sober-minded, and has unprecedented access to Wilpon and his thought process in matters Madoff, Mets, and Major League Baseball. (There's a fascinating section about just how much it changes your life when you own a baseball team.) Wilpon comes across positively in the piece, as an affable sort of fellow who has made some big mistakes but is hardly worthy of contempt. It's long, complex, enlightening, and worthy of serious reading and contemplation. Unfortunately for Wilpon, no one in sports reads seriously or contemplatively. All they're going to remember is what he said about Jose Reyes and David Wright, and how he pantomimed Carlos Beltran.
Thus, a huge feature story is sifted economically down into: "Fred disses players."
Let's get thee, then, to the dissing! Or, more accurately, what is a diss and what isn't.
First up, David Wright. Wilpon calls Wright, "a really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar," which is probably true and certainly not mean. We're counting that as not a diss.
Next: Ike Davis. "Good hitter. Shitty team. Good hitter. ... We're snakebitten, baby." Obviously, that's a diss to the whole team, but Davis got called a good hitter twice. Clearly not a diss.
Next! Jose Reyes.
"He thinks he's going to get Carl Crawford money," Wilpon said, referring to Crawford's seven-year, $142 million contract with the Boston Red Sox. "He's had everything wrong with him. He won't get it."
You know how much we love Jose Reyes, but we agree: Reyes is not getting Carl Crawford money. The "everything wrong with him" is probably a little harsh, and certainly impolitic, but again: The basic gist is that Reyes won't get the contract that Crawford got. This might not be the best negotiating tactic — and it certainly increases the odds that Reyes is traded in the next couple of months — but as far as disses go, it's merely a mild one.
Which brings us to Carlos Beltran. First, the quote: "We had some schmuck in New York [Wilpon's referring to himself here] who paid him based on that one series [the 2005 NLCS against the Cardinals]. He's sixty-five to seventy percent of what he was."
Then, the pantomime of legend:
At one point, I mentioned to Wilpon the theory that the Mets might be cursed. He gave a sort of half laugh, and said, "You mean" — and then pantomimed a checked swing of the bat. Any Mets fan (I am one) would understand the reference. The Mets took the 2006 National League Championship Series to a seventh game against the Cardinals.
We're not sure we remember a checked swing there; there totally wasn't one. But there isn't a single Mets fan on earth who, every time they see Carlos Beltran — even when he's playing great — who doesn't think of that at-bat. Beltran's earned more of his contract than Wilpon is giving him credit for, and Beltran has never really gotten a fair deal in New York ... but still, this is also only partly a diss.
Wilpon's going to be eviscerated for this whole business today, but we doubt there are many Mets fans who disagree with him, on any of this. Not that it'll matter.