Reese Kaplan -- Jeff Wilpon: Meddler-In-Chief


In 1985 the braintrust at Coca-Cola got it into their heads that a decline in one of more than a dozen sales channels was declining to arch rival Pepsi.  That company’s famous “Pepsi Challenge” advertising was ringing a lot of cash registers in supermarkets, thus the executives concluded that the solution must be to change the formula to make it taste more like its competitor. 

Thus New Coke was born and it was introduced to the public with great fanfare along with the poorly formulated research experiments that “proved” the new formula was preferable to the old one.  Ummm...no!  Instead, protests evolved around the entire world demanding that Coca Cola return to its original formula that they knew and loved.

What happened then?  Well, the introduction of the original formula known as Coke Classic surged to the number one spot atop the soft drink sales list.  Slowly the bad idea of New Coke was rebranded as Coke II and then allowed to die a quiet and long overdue death.  In 2009 Coca Cola Classic was once again positioned simply as Coca Cola. 

Why this history lesson?  There’s an old axiom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

In 2003 the Wilpon family bought out the NY Mets from the Doubledays and with rare exceptions it’s been an unmitigated disaster of the Coca Cola variety for the very same reason – executive meddling in day to day affairs of the folks paid to know better.  Specifically Jeff Wilpon is the MIC – Meddler-In-Chief – who is almost singlehandedly responsible for the demise of an otherwise respectable franchise.

Recently Good Fundies Co-Founder Brian penned an extensive article that didn’t editorialize but merely chronicled media reports of Wilpon interference in baseball operations with negative results.  A few highlights of that very fine article will show that the MIC in particular does everything short of demanding loyalty oaths from his staff lest they be fired.

Back in the beginning, Joel Sherman wrote, Jeff Wilpon did not dispute he is in charge of the day-to-day running of just about every facet of the organization from clean bathrooms to player procurement.

Executives who speak regularly to Duquette say the GM lacks autonomy, is worn down by the Wilpons’ penchant for micromanaging via voluminous phone calls and meetings, and by Jeff’s inability to recognize ownership has too much else on its plate to grasp all the pieces of data needed to make an informed decision.”

In 2005 Pedro Martinez related a story in which, though injured, he was commanded by the MIC to pitch because, “While I’m the boss here, you’re going to have to do what I say.”  Apparently Wilpon felt selling more tickets in late September for Martinez’ start was more important than the risk of further injury.

In 2008 when the MIC was officially named the COO of the Mets, former owner Nelson Doubleday quipped, “Jeff Wilpon said he’s going to learn how to run a baseball team and take over at the end of the year.  Run for the hills, boys.  I think probably all those baseball people will bail.”

Almost immediately following that change in the helm the infamous 3:00 AM massacre occurred in which Willie Randolph was fired by Omar Minaya, but reporter Bill Madden noted, “he was just the messenger…Jeff Wilpon and Vice President of Development Tony Bernazard were the ones who really wanted Randolph fired.”

Joel Sherman said in an article in 2010 about the MIC, “(Jeff Wilpon is) short tempered.  Tone deaf.  An accountability deflector.  A micro-manager.  A second-guesser.  A less-than-deep thinker.  And bad at self-awareness.”

Even more telling was a quote he obtained from a baseball executive who opined, “Jeff is the problem with the organization and he’s is never going to realize that.  He cannot help himself.  He has to be involved.  He will never hire anyone who will not let him have major input.  He will hire anyone who does not run every personnel decision through him.”  In Sherman’s opinion, only a Marlins executive has a lower industry reputation than does Jeff Wilpon.

Perhaps most telling (and detrimental to Mets’ player development) was how the team moved on from Norfolk in AAA to baseball hell in Las Vegas.  Brian Costa of the NY Times interviewed an executive from the Norfolk Tides who confirmed, “the relationship soured after Jeff Wilpon became the Mets chief operating officer…When he became involved in everything was when things changed…He had his nose and hands in everything.”

In 2017 the NY Post’s Ken Davidoff reported, “Conversations with 10 people possessing first-hand knowledge of the Mets’ baseball operations produced the picture of … an environment where CEO Fred Wilpon and COO Jeff Wilpon both are prone to micromanagement, with Fred Wilpon more likely to assert himself in on-the-field decisions and Jeff Wilpon more involved in medical matters — such as working on media releases about injuries — clouding the chain of command.”

That same year Marc Carig’s bombshell article late in the season revealed, “Despite what the front office perceived as Collins’ constant tactical blunders and concerns about his relationships with the players, sources said efforts to explore a change seriously were thwarted by the elder Wilpon…

The 80-year-old owner keeps a low public profile and has not spoken at length about his team since 2013. But privately, his influence in baseball matters still looms large, as shown by his ability to single-handedly shield Collins, whom he visited frequently in the manager’s office before games.”

Finally, there is a source within the Mets hierarchy confirming all of this conjecture.  “Jeff gets in the middle of everything that’s going on, and he ends up doing more damage.  He meddles. I can’t come up with a more appropriate term.’

There’s a huge difference between the NY Mets and Coca Cola.  After 79 days of the disaster of New Coke, the Atlanta-based corporation took corrective action to ensure it would once again return to respectability and profitability.  It’s been 15 years now and Mets fans are still waiting for a reason to sell the bags they customarily wear over their heads during the Wilpon reign of terror.  Kudos to Brian and Good Fundies for bringing this issue to light and he, in turn, thanked me for carrying the torch.  I volunteered that I'd willingly carry the pitchfork as well.


Rustyjr said...

I read the post - it’s a sobering/disturbing reinforcement of what we already know about ownership

Thomas Brennan said...

A successful organization does not have the philosophy that "we've deserved a D grade at best for 15 years, so we'll double down on our wrong approaches."

Change is extremely needed.

Oddly, a friend of mine sent me this unsolicited this morning - how coincidental:

“...funny that a lot of Yankee fans are delusional about DeGrom being dealt from The Mets for the lower tiered Yankee prospects...I’d rather the Mets do a few things that would restore my faith in them.

1. The obvious is for The Wilpons and Saul to sell their share of the Mets to a owner that knows about baseball; Doubleday knew baseball and was bought out by the lesser owner.

2. Clean house of everyone person that’s involved with baseball decisions and cut ties with all of the deadweight affiliated with this franchise.

3. Forge your own destiny. Stop living in the shadows of The Dodgers and The Yankees to an extent, learn to build a team like The Cardinals, learn to groom them like The Yankees, learn to scout like The Dodgers and let the ghosts of Tom Seaver and 1969 rest...”

My friend was being kind.

Thomas Brennan said...

Simply put, we need regime change.

Zozo said...

What a great article about a great big dilemma we have

Mack Ade said...

we are the IHOB of baseball

Michael S. said...

Wilpons are and have been problem #1 for decades now. The Mets’ park can’t even have its own identity because of Fred’s childish obsession with the Dodgers.

They’re our curse and I don’t see them going anywhere soon. The group that owns the Sixers and Devils would be a fantastic replacement.

Bob Gregory said...

If the Wilpons are the true problem......then fans are just fooling themselves with any thoughts of hope for the franchise during the next 20 years.

Mike Freire said...

We had an upper level boss like that and life was miserable. Then, one beautiful day, he was removed from the organization and things immediately got better.

It is amazing how much damage a MIC type can do.

I agree that the team will continue to struggle until change is made....where it counts (ownership).

Bob Gregory said...

Problem: Fan bases do not have the patience to wait around for 20+ years anymore.

Too much instant gratification when you can watch any team every night no matter how far away they are.

If Alderson is not responsible for the Mets mess....
If any replacement will produce the same results.....

The Mets fan base will be non-existent in the next 20 years.

Mack's Mets © 2012