ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The New York Mets fired their vice president of player personnel, a local sports story to be sure. But add some bizarre behavior on the part of that VP, a few very odd news conferences and the newspaper headline "Smears of a Clown," and you have a story tailor-made for NPR's Mike Pesca.
MIKE PESCA: The Mets' season turned from disappointing to disturbing a few weeks ago, when team executive Tony Bernazard took the highly unconventional tact of ripping his shirt off and challenging members of the Mets' double-A Minor League affiliate to a fistfight. The Mets decided that having a topless 52-year-old man threatening a group of professional athletes in their early 20s wasn't the kind of guidance they were looking for from their vice president of player development. Yesterday, Mets General Manager Omar Minaya lowered the boom.
Mr. OMAR MINAYA (General Manager, New York Mets): My recommendation to ownership was to - that we needed to let Tony Bernazard go.
PESCA: Then Minaya, a friend of Bernazard, took aim at the Daily News reporter who broke the Bernazard story. Though Minaya's shirt remained on, he didn't pull his punches.
Mr. MINAYA: Coming from Adam Rubin, okay - and Adam, you've got to understand this, Adam, for the past couple of years, has lobbied for a player development position.
PESCA: As this was a press conference, and as Adam Rubin is quite obviously a member of the press, it shouldn't have come as a shock that he would be in the room. He was soon passed the microphone.
Mr. ADAM RUBIN (Reporter, Daily News): Is what you're alleging that I tried to tear Tony down so I could take his job? Is that what you're saying?
Mr. MINAYA: No, no. I'm not saying that. All I'm saying was that I know that when you wrote the reports - but I am saying...
PESCA: Minaya couldn't really say why he brought up Rubin's lobbying though he did frequently repeat the verb lobbying. After Minaya was done with his press conference, a somewhat stunned Rubin answered reporters' questions in his own press conference. He characterized the supposed lobbying as general career discussion.
Mr. RUBIN: It is so deplorable that he would dredge that up like that, just absolutely ludicrous.
PESCA: It didn't end there. Before the game, Minaya conducted another press conference where he stood by his original comments, but said he shouldn't have aired them in a press conference. The Daily News issued the statistically strained statement: We stand by Adam Rubin 1,000 percent. While Rubin did get his facts right, and Minaya did handle the play more hamhandedly than Luis Castillo dropping a game-ending popup, there is still a question of conflict of interest. Keith Woods, the director of faculty at the Pointer Institute for Media studies and a former sports writer, says Rubin was wrong to put himself in a compromised position.
Mr. KEITH WOODS (Director of Faculty, Poynter Institute for Media Studies): Can you say that it had absolutely no effect on his reporting? I dare anybody to prove that. But did it have an obvious and definitive effect? I would think not.
PESCA: And oh, by the way, they did play a baseball game last night. The Mets won their third game in a row, the first time they've accomplished that since May. Somehow it doesn't seem they're on much of a winning streak.
Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.
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