Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rant #54: Angels, Devils and Meet the Mets (and Press)

If ever there was a time that professional sports collided with sports journalism, yesterday was the day.

In a truly New York moment that ended up making national news, Omar Minaya, the general manager of the New York Mets, fired Tony Bernazard, the Mets' vice president of development, after word had leaked out through a column written by New York Daily News beat columnist Adam Rubin that Bernazard, among other indiscretions, ripped off his shirt and challenged one of the Mets' minor league teams to a fight. He also had verbal sparrings with several Met players, and all of this behavior, added to the recent failings of the Mets, led to his firing.

That would have been all fine and good, but during a press conference, Minaya insinuated that the reason Rubin wrote these accounts was ... to get Bernazard's job for himself.

Evidently, Rubin very casually spoke to owner Fred Wilpon some time ago about the possibility of "how to get a front office job." The question was very off the cuff, was done away from the Mets and Rubin's focus of business--the team's new Citifield ballpark--and was asked very innocently.

Minaya claimed that Rubin's more direct line of fire was to "get" Bernazard in his column, and when that was accomplished, move in for the kill--get Bernazard's former job.

As you can expect, Rubin was taken aback by this accusation, as he was now the focus of the story, not Bernazard and not the Mets. Did he write his columns to "out" Bernazard?

Of course, anyone who knows the Mets' situation knows that this is bunk of the highest degree. In fact, Minaya later held another news conference, where he said he still backs his accusations but agreed with others that the way he presented them really wasn't professional.

To use Rubin as a scapegoat for the Mets' mess is deplorable. Obviously, Minaya, Mets Manager Jerry Manuel, and the coaching staff are on the hot seat, and if the Mets don't improve they will be gone by season's end.

That is the obvious. The less obvious facet of the entire episode is this: even if he asked the question innocently, why was Rubin asking the owner of the Mets about future job opportunities--and more importantly, why are Rubin's sportswriter brethren sticking up for him as if he were a martyr?

I read one columnist today who said that with the recent fate of many newspapers--some of which have gone under in recent months--it was a smart move for a sportswriter to be asking about future employment. Also, so many sportswriters have gone into the front office in the past--former commissioner Ford Frick is one--that it is a "natural" move.

I say that Rubin should have known better. Heck, I am a writer. If I went to a competing publication, or one of our advertisers or companies that we deal with, and asked a similar question on the side, and word got out to my boss, my rear end would be on the carpet immediately, and I would surely be at least reprimanded if not fired.

It is totally unethical to ask the owner of the team that you are reporting on about "job possibilities." In fact, Rubin initially hedged when asked about whether he had made such inquiries, but he later admitted to it.

The Mets are under a tremendous amount of pressure to be competitive this year. They have a new ballpark and they are the perennial second team in town, behind the Yankees--who also have a new ballpark and are currently making the most of it. The Mets have been killed by injuries to major players this year, and someone has to take the blame ...

And Omar Minaya has elected Adam Rubin as his blame representative.

How infantile. Minaya should be out on his tush soon too.

But Rubin--if I were the Daily News, I would call him on the carpet too. He is the proverbial cat who ate the canary, and the feathers are beginning to stick out of his mouth.

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