The Mets and Marlins did not play on Thursday night, instead taking the field, removing their hats, having a collective moment of silence — 42 seconds to honor Jackie Robinson — and leaving a Black Lives Matter shirt on home plate as they headed back to their clubhouses in Queens.
It was an incredible moment, indelible imagery of a movement that will echo well beyond this unforgettable week in America.
How they got there, though, was an absolute clusterfuck that showed just how clueless someone is.
Who? That’s up for debate.
Thursday afternoon, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen was caught on a hot mic and camera, talking about an idea that had been floated to have the teams take the field, walk off in a show of solidarity, and then play an hour later.
“Can’t leave this room,” Van Wagenen said, well aware of how fabulously stupid and counterproductive this idea was.
Now, who could be that fabulously stupid and counterproductive? There are two possibilities. Rob Manfred and Jeff Wilpon.
“Baseball’s trying to come up with a solution,” Van Wagenen said in the video, suggesting that it was Manfred’s idiotic plan.
Asked directly by someone off camera who said that, Van Wagenen answered, “Rob.”
Further, he said, “They’re not playing. But that’s Rob’s instinct. And Rob — exactly what you and I were talking about — at leadership level he doesn’t get it. He just doesn’t get it.”
As the video went viral, Manfred released a statement denying that he was the big dummy here, saying, “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 justice. 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.”
As America has slid deeper into fascism over the past three-plus years, there’s been a George Orwell line from 1984 that’s become quite popular: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
Everyone heard Van Wagenen say “Baseball’s trying to come up with a solution.” Everyone heard Van Wagenen say “Rob” said it. Everyone heard Van Wagenen say “That’s Rob’s instinct … he just doesn’t get it.”
In a statement released Thursday evening, Van Wagenen tossed his immediate boss right under the bus.
“I misunderstood that this was the Commissioner’s idea. In actuality, this was Jeff’s suggestion. The players had already made their decision [not to play] 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.”
Now, even with the video, in which we can assume Van Wagenen was speaking candidly because he was unaware of the hot mic, it is legitimately plausible that Jeff Wilpon was indeed responsible for the idiotic idea of a sham “show of solidarity” only to come back and play an hour later. We’re talking about Jeff Wilpon here. It doesn’t require a lot of imagination to get to the scenario where he talked to Van Wagenen and said something like, “Rob and I were thinking…”
But the ease with which you can pin this on Wilpon also makes him a perfect fall guy, especially since his days running the Mets appear to be numbered. We’ve heard that before, of course, but as bids are coming in, it really does seem that a sale is going to happen, so it makes a lot of sense for Van Wagenen to echo the commissioner and apologize profusely to him, while Wilpon knows everyone already hates him and doesn’t care because he’s about to be sitting on a beach, earning 20 percent.
And perhaps to underscore their own incompetence, Jeff Wilpon and his dad Fred put out statements of their own on Thursday night in which they also agreed Jeff had the disastrously awful idea, and lambasted Van Wagenen for daring to speak about it, while going a combined 1-for-3 on spelling his first name correctly. Only Robinson Cano is hitting above .333 on the Mets right now, so that’s pretty good, right?
What’s the truth? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because the players got it right, Wilpon will be gone soon, and if people don’t reject the evidence of their eyes and ears, it’s just another pile of trash into the dumpster fire of a commissionership that can’t end soon enough.
The final night of the Republican National Convention wasn’t just a wildly flagrant violation of federal law and a public health menace in the midst of a pandemic, it was a festival of sports horrors.
Darryl Strawberry was on hand, because of course he was as a longtime Trump supporter. And so was David Wells, in the middle of a whirlwind trip to Washington where he also got to spend time with such luminary lunatics as Matt Gaetz and Kayleigh McEnaney.
On the program, there was UFC’s Dana White, following in the footsteps of Herschel Walker and Lou Holtz by spewing hot garbage about Donald Trump somehow being good at his job. In this case, White praised Trump for bringing back sports, even though his fighters continue to test positive for coronavirus.
And there also was a bizarre sports montage, which featured an image of Jackie Robinson at the start to serve as visual ipecac, then clips of Trump congratulating athletes who have visited the White House, including Tiger Woods, the Chicago Cubs, and… Amelia Earhart for some reason? Oh, and there were the 2018 Red Sox presenting Trump with a jersey, a team that cheated their way to victory — weird that Trump would so closely identify with such a thing, isn’t it?
Oh, hey, remember when the Pittsburgh Penguins visited the White House and Sidney Crosby said, “there’s absolutely no politics involved” in such a thing? Well, Sidney, you might have been lucky enough to avoid being in that video (the last two Stanley Cup winners, the 2018 Capitals and 2019 Blues were), but you and every other athlete who’s been naive enough to believe that over the last three and a half years just got played.