I’d thought we’d been subjected to every possible complaint regarding the World Baseball Classic, but leave it to the New York Daily News’ Bill Madden to come up with a new one.
For starters yesterday, it was hard to tell which was the home team – and not just because seven of the 30 players on the Puerto Rican roster happen to be Mets, including heart-of-the-order sluggers Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, who, combined, will take in about $27 million of Fred Wilpon’s money this year. Tradition was awash with Puerto Rican flags and in the front two rows of the mezzanine behind home plate, a small group of fans with hand-held drums, some of them wearing bright red Puerto Rico shirts, had the ballpark rocking with every Puerto Rico rally.
In one particularly surreal scene, Wilpon was sitting stoically in the box seats in front of them as the drum-wielding brigade chanted “Ber-nie! Ber-nie!” with Bernie Williams coming to bat in the fifth against Billy Wagner, the owner’s new $43 million closer.
Wagner had just committed an error on Alex Cora’s sac bunt to create a first-and-second, none-out situation. But when he proceeded to strike out the Yankee favorite, the subsequent crowd cheers seemed almost muted, especially compared to the raucous roar that greeted Beltran’s two-run single one batter later that broke a 1-1 tie and sent Puerto Rico off to its eventual 6-1 win.
“I tuned that all out,” Wagner insisted. “Obviously, there was a lot of stuff going on. But it was just a spring training game to me. It was fun for the Latin crowd.”
Through it all, Wilpon never turned around to see what all the commotion was in back of him. Probably just as well since sitting right behind him was Tony Bernazard, special assistant to Mets GM Omar Minaya – wearing a Puerto Rico cap.
(Bernazard, right, shown in happier days before he publicly humiliated his paymaster by wearing the wrong hat)
Not since Derek Lowe got hammered for wearing a Red Sox jersey while in the employ of the Dodgers, has someone manufactured such lame outrage over implied disloyalty. Is it too late to start the petition to get Tony Bernazard fired? Other than the one Carlos Delgado was working on last year, I mean.
And Delgado and Beltran should purchase full page advertisements in the New York Daily News, apologizing to Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon’s lovely wife and the entire Tri-State area, for having the unmitigated gall to weaken the Mets squad before an all-important….exhibition game on the 5th of March.