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June 9, 2006
  
Milledge, Mets and the Media
by: Matt Gelb on Jun 9, 2006 12:00 AM | Filed under: Articles

Lastings Milledge is here to stay. The media storm surrounding him? We may be talking about an immovable entity.

Let’s preface this by getting to the bare-bones truth. There really is no “situation” here. The Mets have a history of incompetence when it comes to media relations. No one’s insulting Jay Horowitz here, but is there a chance he’s lost (or never had) touch with the New York daily tabloids? Is there such a “touch” that exists? Are the Mets’ actions overblown by the tabloids and some renegade bloggers who are supposedly in the know? Perhaps.

What we have here is an enormous finger-pointing contest. So why not jump in?

Daily News staffer Adam Rubin claims the Mets threatened to sue the paper after printing Milledge’s alleged involvement in a Triple-A scuffle with Jonathon Schuerholz. Rubin reports Milledge slid spikes-high into Schuerholz at third base, tearing his pants. Richmond took exception and the benches cleared.

Rubin and News media critic Bob Raissman - who we will discuss later - claim the Mets contacted the paper to inform them of possible legal action for libel. The irony is far too great. Rubin did no such reporting; instead, he was doing what any good reporter normally does: read. I’m certain Rubin, the former minor league writer for the News, is familiar with the local press in Norfolk and being a good reporter, which he has proven himself, brushes up on the local reporting done in both Norfolk and Binghamton. In fact, this is exactly what he did in this case.

The Mets threatened to sue the Daily News for something Rubin lifted from a Norfolk writer, who paraphrased a Mets employee. See, told you it was ironic. Rich Radford writes at the end of his game story (with Daily News-like headline) in the May 22 issue of the Virginian-Pilot:

The Tides and Braves benches emptied in the bottom of the first inning when Braves third baseman John Schuerholz took exception to a high slide by Lastings Milledge. Tijerina reported that Milledge’s spikes tore about a four-inch hole in the thigh of Schuerholz’s right pants-leg. There were no ejections.

Now that sounds vaguely familiar. We won’t even get into the creative license Rubin took, but rather stick with the facts. Radford - and eventually Rubin - got their material from Tides’ interim manager Tony Tijerina. So the Mets apparently wanted to sue the Daily News because it paraphrased a Mets official - and not just some nobody. Rubin took things a bit further and discussed Milledge’s popularity in the International League. Mike McGann, well-known (but sometimes forgotten and pardoned) in these parts for his work at the rumor-happy and now on-hiatus Gotham Baseball, lets us in on a little secret. McGann, who must have had correspondence with Rubin (I hope), points out the Norfolk media also received a warning. This statement goes unsubstantiated in McGann’s piece. He claims he could not receive confirmation.

But let’s assume for a moment and say McGann, through Rubin, is telling the truth. The Mets threatened to sue the Virginian-Pilot for paraphrasing what Tijerina said. This means one thing and one thing only. The Mets never read the original print. Someone in the organization heard it through the grapevine, passed it down the line and it spiraled out of control. When the Pilot is contacted, Radford defends himself, tells the Mets official where he got the material from and that’s that.

Obviously, the Daily News (and the Virginian-Pilot) are in the right. Rubin knows how to attribute information, he failed this time and it should cost him something. In fact, if he attributed it, he would have saved himself hassle in dealing with the Mets. Meanwhile, speaking of the Mets brass, they sure do make a good al-Yankzeera impression.

What follows is probably something similar to what Bob Sikes experienced as a former Mets trainer. Then, it was GM Frank Cashen approaching the trainers and ordering the tight lips; today, it’s a safe bet one of the Wilpons is the censurer. If the Mets intention is to promote its best prospect in the brightest of lights, Tijerina likely received a phone call from Flushing and a legnthy conversation.

Which brings us to Phase II of the Milledge and the media non-situation. The formerly mentioned Raissman is the primary instigator this time. While it appears Raissman, like McGann, has his own hidden agenda, he brings up a couple of thought-provoking ideas. But in reality, that’s all they are: thought-provoking.

In his June 2 column, Raissman claimed the gigantic cross Milledge sported was a “smoke-screen issue,” which, he says, derailed the Milledge criticism on the air during his major league debut. Basically, Raissman was criticizing the SNY announcers for not being critical enough. In a way, I actually agree with Raissman, but not with his entire idea.

The way Raissman makes it sound, he would have liked to hear some discussion about Milledge’s past and namely the rape allegations he faced as a teenager. This is unecessary. Milledge faced no consequences; the charges were dropped and he’s had years since to repent for those mistakes. However, Milledge’s reputation does precede him and the SNY broadcasters (Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez) barely talked about it - other than the dress style. I, like Raissman, would have liked to hear Gary and Keith talk about Milledge’s style and attitude, but it didn’t have to be in a negative light. Talk about how the Mets have worked with him in the minors and about how a veteran clubhouse could help him (briefly discussed Cliff Floyd adopting Milledge, but not enough). Raissman wanted more biting commentary than this. He has no good intentions in writing this column.

He does bring up na interesting topic and sure to be a contentious one between Mets fans and media. Since the inception of SNY and Cohen’s switch from radio to television, I honestly think he has become less critical of the Mets front office. Whether this is a direct byproduct of the Mets telling him to keep it simple or just coincidence, it is happening. This was the general greatest fear among die-hard Cohen fans during the offseason when the switch was announced. Something to monitor for the rest of the year.

The Milledge watch intensified - and turned national - in Phase III after Milledge hit his first Major League home run. McGann, Raissman and every Milledge critic must have jumped for joy upon seeing Milledge run down the right field line, giving fans high-fives. I watched the game on the Fox Sports Bay Area feed, with Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper in the booth. Kuiper was extremely critical of Milledge throughout the game, especially of his arm/elbow armor. Kuiper was no short of shocked and unhappy after Milledge hit his home run.

Raissman, on the other hand, indicates the lack of candor the SNY announcers (Howie Rose and Keith) used.

Judging by Hernandez’s recent words, his silence was curious. Maybe he did not see anything wrong with Milledge’s show of “exuberance.” Or maybe he did not want to needlessly incur the whining of certain Mets suits who are sensitive when it comes to anyone in the media casting aspersions on Milledge.

Are the Mets attempting to turn SNY into YES? Probably not, but Mets executives may be wielding a powerful hand over what goes on during the broadcasts. Or how about Hernandez’s faux pas earlier in the season at San Diego? Does this make him less willing to contribute controversial critique? Raissman does not consider this.

The national reaction to Milledge has been mixed, but mostly negative. However, the Giants, other than pitcher Steve Kline, showed little aggravation over the stunt. Against the grain, Jon Styf of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune sees the New York media as the antagonists.

While Styf’s viewpoint may be boarding extreme conspiracy territory, I agree with his basic theory. The past is the past and Milledge should not be attacked by it when he has already demonstrated overcoming it. On the other hand, Milledge has an attitude and a distinct style, something which should not go overlooked. With Floyd injured and a timetable for Nady’s return unknown, Milledge will have plenty of opportunities to play, in front of many eyes. If he keeps hitting over .300, we’ll see how Raissman and McGann can spin it.


131 Responses to “Milledge, Mets and the Media”

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  1. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester on June 9, 2006 at 5:12 pm (#45996)

    There was a link on the bottom to suggest new Milo Facts, I would definitely send in the Clemens one, its good.

    I seem to be on a roll lately. Hope I haven’t wasted them all for the rest of the year.

  2. Comment posted by Paladin on June 9, 2006 at 5:15 pm (#45997)

    I’m not cool with the deal myself

    Seriously, who cares? At this point, it just doesn’t matter. Kaz never was able to find his place, not only on this team, but in the Major Leagues. His defense improved dramatically this season, but he continued to be death at the plate. It’s for this very reason that I have no desire to see Ahern up here, no matter how fantastic his defense is. A player can only be so much of a liability at the plate. Can’t go hitting .200, and not giving ANYTHING what-so-ever at the plate.

    I’ve tried desperately to find any info I possibly could regarding the specifics of this deal, but to no avail. I can’t imagine that Colorado would take too much of Kaz’s contract, but the bottom line here is salary dump. Even if it’s a quarter of the contract, this club just had to get this guy out of here. Can’t go paying a bench player 8 million bucks. Even if Marrerro doesn’t even have a future on this team (and I sincerely doubt that he does), it’s worth it just to get rid of some of that salary, not to mention a player that had no place on this team.

  3. Comment posted by metswin2006 on June 9, 2006 at 5:22 pm (#45998)

    Bye, Bye Kaz. Sooooo Sooorrryy

  4. Comment posted by wdwrkr35 on June 9, 2006 at 5:22 pm (#45999)

    mets just traded matsui for guerrero

  5. Comment posted by Danny on June 9, 2006 at 5:22 pm (#46000)

    mets just traded matsui for guerrero

    Pedro or Wilton?

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  7. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on June 9, 2006 at 5:24 pm (#46001)

    For marero right? no guerrero

  8. Comment posted by udamnwright on June 9, 2006 at 5:28 pm (#46002)

    Sianorah Kaz. The deal official Eddie C on the Fan talking about it now.

  9. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on June 9, 2006 at 5:29 pm (#46003)

    yeah its marero, sorry, can play catcher if needed Ed Coleman reports, he didnt know about salaries at his point

  10. Comment posted by Danny on June 9, 2006 at 5:31 pm (#46004)

    Um, I am assuming Omar will try to now move Marrero. I don’t think he has any options or anything like that.

  11. Comment posted by Danny on June 9, 2006 at 5:35 pm (#46005)

    Rubin is saying in his “blog” that the Mets are still responsible for the remainder of Matsui’s salary.

    Um, that makes no sense.

  12. Comment posted by Gabe on June 9, 2006 at 5:35 pm (#46007)

    Marrero is actually a useful bench player. He can catch and play the OF, and is a decent hitter–certainly better than Kaz. I see no downside to the deal. We weren’t going to get anything more, and if Castro gets hurt or struggles, Marrero gives Willie more options there. I like the move; another quiet, but useful, trade by Minaya. Also, Danny could be right–Marrero could be shipped out–but I doubt it. Marrero gives the Mets a lot more options during games for flexibility, double switches, using Dukes or Castro to pinch-hit, etc.

  13. Comment posted by Danny on June 9, 2006 at 5:37 pm (#46008)

    Yeah, but this does nothing to answer the question about what will happen when Nady comes back from the DL.

  14. Comment posted by Gabe on June 9, 2006 at 5:37 pm (#46009)

    Danny, why does it matter? Sure, it would be nice if Colorado paid some, but Marrero is a better player than Kaz anyway, and Matsui was probably 5th on an unimpressive list of 2B Mets fans would like to see in there (behind Valentin, Woodward, Hernandez, Keppinger). Marrero has at least shown the ability to hit in the majors and gives some flexibility. He’s also pretty fast, surprisingly.

    Unless someone here actually thinks Matsui is a better baseball player than Eli, I see no problems.

  15. Comment posted by Gabe on June 9, 2006 at 5:42 pm (#46010)

    Agreed; it doesn’t solve the OF logam in and of itself. But IMO, if you can get a superior talent, you do it. Kaz had worn out his welcome and some here. He was never going to be a succesful contributor. It was a smart move-on trade. Remember that just releasing Kaz or what not wouldn’t have solved the Nady issue either. Sure, it frees a spot for him, but we can cut someone easily enough to do that anyway, or make another small move. That issue is going to be more interesting than this.

  16. Comment posted by Victor Zambrano on June 9, 2006 at 5:45 pm (#46011)

    Sianorah Kaz. The deal official Eddie C on the Fan talking about it now.

    At times, he was the only one who would listen to be in the clubhouse. I’ll miss him. I hope we can be teamamtes again when I come back from arm replacement surgery
    Much Love
    Victor

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  18. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on June 9, 2006 at 5:48 pm (#46012)

    At times, he was the only one who would listen to be in the clubhouse. I’ll miss him.

    I don’t know about that Victor, he may have listened but I doubt he understood a word you said.

    THE KAZ MATSUI ERA HAS ENDED. REJOICE!

    We can always release marero when Nady gets back if he has no options, and that’s worse case scenario. At least we have someone more useful than KazMat for the next 2 weeks or so.

  19. Comment posted by chris in ga on June 9, 2006 at 5:52 pm (#46013)

    http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20060609&content_id=1497161&vkey=pr_nym&fext=.jsp&c_id=nym
    Official press release. KazMat was optioned to Colo Springs

  20. Comment posted by Danny on June 9, 2006 at 5:59 pm (#46014)

    How can Colorado option Kaz to AAA? Shouldn’t it be a DFA? Then why couldn’t the Mets have just optioned Kaz to Norfolk? I am even more confused.

  21. Comment posted by udamnwright on June 9, 2006 at 6:01 pm (#46015)

    Them being able to option him is puzzling and yes I know I misspelled Japanese goodbye. It has been a bad trip for Kaz here.

  22. Comment posted by Paladin on June 9, 2006 at 6:05 pm (#46016)

    Newsday article just put out by Jon Heyman:

    http://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/mets/ny-spmtrade0610,0,7480526.story?coll=ny-entertainment-promo

    He states that the Mets pay all of the salary for both Kaz and Marrerro.

    Hmmm… odd. I know it was going to be next to impossible to get rid of him, and have someone take a good portion of the salary, but now the trade doesn’t make as much sense. Marrerro really doesn’t have a place on this team at all, so unless Omar has a move planned in advance that involves Marrerro, I don’t get it.

    Makes sense to just do any trade if a salary dump is in order, but to pay it all just to get a fairly usless body in return is curious. Addition by subtraction. Should have just cut him if that’s the case.

    Interesting…

  23. Comment posted by Danny on June 9, 2006 at 6:09 pm (#46017)

    He states that the Mets pay all of the salary for both Kaz and Marrerro.

    Fortunately, that’s not what Heyman is saying. Matsui has like 5.1 million left on his salary. The Mets are paying 4.6 million of that. They are then picking up the roughly $500K remaining on Marrero’s contract.

    So, in effect, the Mets are paying Matsui’s remaining salary, and the Rockies are paying Marrero’s remaining salary.

    One would think that Omar could have gotten somebody to pick up a little but of Matsui’s remaining salary. Marrero is fragile to say the least.

  24. Comment posted by chris in ga on June 9, 2006 at 6:09 pm (#46018)

    Reading what they have posted on mlb4u.com concerning Matsui’s contract, he had to approve a trade and the rockies needed his approval to be sent down. Probably agreed to some sort of timeline for being recalled from colo springs which Im sure the Mets wouldnt agree to having, had they sent him to Norfolk. Does this give you guys a better clue?

  25. Comment posted by Danny on June 9, 2006 at 6:11 pm (#46019)

    For those trumping Marrero’s versatility, he was in danger of losing his roster spot this year since his average got down to .216. I guess he is a live body. But I think Omar jumped the gun here. If he was getting any money at all back, then I could understand jumping on the trade. But Omar makes no money on the deal, and takes on a fringe major leaguer at this point in his career. Marrero is just not that good. Versatile, but not good.

  26. Comment posted by Paladin on June 9, 2006 at 6:12 pm (#46020)

    Fortunately, that’s not what Heyman is saying

    BOTTOM LINE: Not a salary dump. The Mets are paying just about all of it according to Heyman. So what exactly was the point of repeating what I just posted?

  27. Comment posted by Danny on June 9, 2006 at 6:13 pm (#46021)

    So what exactly was the point of repeating what I just posted?

    Dude, I agree with you. But what you said was wrong. The Mets are not paying both salaries. Chill.

  28. Gravatar
  29. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on June 9, 2006 at 6:13 pm (#46022)

    If we release Marero when Nady comes back…it’s a wash, same thing as releasing Kaz.

    Maybe the mets did it to save face and not have the “mets release kaz matsui” come across the news wire.

    Basically we’ll have Marero instead of Kaz for the next 2-4 weeks. I can live with that. They both have no value to me.

  30. Comment posted by latrell on June 9, 2006 at 6:57 pm (#46031)

    “Maybe the mets did it to save face and not have the “mets release kaz matsui” come across the news wire.”

    i think this pretty much hits the nail on the head. The team decided that Lastings is not going anywhere and needed to get rid of Kaz - rather than outright releasing him they traded him, which is probably more palatable for him and for the Wilpons.

    What a terrible disapointment the Kaz Matsui era was - i am in no way sad to see it end. lets all move on and try to forget it ever happened…

  31. Comment posted by Lastings Pillage on June 9, 2006 at 9:16 pm (#46056)

    What is all of this garbage that I hear about Omar getting shortchanged for Matsui? Reading this blog, one would think we traded away Ryno Sandberg in his prime? The point is that we got rid of a fringe player who attracted fan scrutiny and arosed memories of the Duquette-Howe era for someone who could contribute as a backup utility player. Man, is it me or did people see the same Kazuo Matsui that I saw the past two and half years?

  32. Comment posted by peeder on June 10, 2006 at 2:36 am (#46369)

    PLEASE can’t we just PLAY ####ING BASEBALL!

    Don’t let another young star get crossed by the media thirsty for dirt.

  33. Comment posted by Future on June 11, 2006 at 2:53 pm (#46659)

    Something I noticed, Manny Ramirez, after he hits home runs at Fenway and crosses home plate, hi fives the fans that are sitting there right by the dugout.

    No mention of that in the media.

    Bottom line, who cares, and we all love DWright, but it seemed judgmental to me that he would say something like that. Milledge wasn’t showing anyone up and he handled himself well, it’s just a difference of opinion. DWright is Old School and doesn’t try to show anyone up. I like his way of playing the game. I also like Milledge’s swagger.

  34. Comment posted by Mike McGann on June 12, 2006 at 1:15 pm (#46976)

    I have to say, I really don’t have an agenda. I thought the Mets’ handling of the situation was poor — and asked questions of various people around the organization — plus I drew on my own interactions with the kid.

    I think light of the Mets’ moves to get Milledge to act a bit more professional, evidently, they, too agree there are some issues. My issue is not with the kid — but whether there was grounds for Rubin to report what he did and the subsequent threat of libel.

    As for my association with Gotham Baseball, it is over. That is in part because I risked throwing away 23 years of professional reporting and a hard-earned reputation because of being linked to “rumor” stories, I neither reported or wrote (and yes, I did write a handful, but none of the ones that seem to have become a legend in the Mets community). I’m out of the trade rumor business once and for all.

    NY Baseball Central is a very different animal.

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