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The Sports Daily > Metstradamus Blog
Controversy? Yeah, They’re Good at That

Only in Flushing can a charitable endeavor become controversial.  Seriously … the phrase “only the Mets” applies here.

Wait, more like, “the Mets can screw up free lunch”.  Yeah, that’s better.

To me, everyone looks bad.  Everyone … capital E … on both sides of this debate.  The three that didn’t show up for the annual visit to the Walter Reed Medical Center, Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, and Oliver Perez, look bad, for sure.  And it’s valid.  It looks bad when the whole team goes except for only three players.  And it sure as hell looks bad to say you weren’t there because you’re squeamish … after all, those limbs were lost so that people like Luis Castillo can play baseball for a living.

But do they look bad because they’re unpatriotic?  Or do they look bad because they’re unpopular ballplayers to begin with?  My question is this: Why is it an issue with these three particular players when this event had never been fully attended in the past?

This is the fourth time the Mets visited the hospital. Attendance grows each year. The players held a barbecue, talked baseball, listened to the soldiers share their experiences. Because the rest of the team went – and because players like R.A. Dickey and Angel Pagan and David Wright spoke about the afternoon’s poignancy – the absentees stood out.

Okay, but for example let’s say that the three players, and I’m not going to even go to the other extreme and pick the three most popular players on the team, were Ruben Tejada, Nick Evans, and Hisanori Takahashi.  Would this have gotten the press that it did?  Would the abscences have been any less disappointing?  Would Tejada, Evans, and Takahashi had been vilified as much as Beltran, Castillo, and Perez?

Visiting the Walter Reed medical center is a wonderful charitable event.  Those who went were moved.  Those who didn’t missed out and that’s their issue.  But I hate to see a charitable event such as this be used in this context.  The Mets did a great job on Tuesday’s broadcast talking about the hospital.  Hell, it led the broadcast.  But on Wednesday it seemed that the organization had a chance to put it to bed by going to the players individually, handling it internally, and then making it known to the media that it was smoothed over and put it to bed.  Instead, we got the passive agressive response of Jeff Wilpon declining to comment, causing a media firestorm.  And I wonder if it would have been handled any differently by the organization if the three players were Tejada, Evans, and Takahashi.

One incensed attendee openly called for a reporter to quiz Beltran about the snub. With nearly six full seasons complete in a seven-year, $119 million marriage that looks like it’s going to end particularly badly, skipping an ownership-fueled visit to veterans — valid excuse or not — adds another layer of friction.  (…)  Beltran is owed $18.5 million next season, making him untradeable unless the Mets subsidize a substantial portion for him to play elsewhere in 2011. Will they? It hasn’t been the franchise’s track record to pay players to perform elsewhere, but maybe the Walter Reed issue will nudge it along.

It’s the last line that worries me if it’s true.  I’d just hate to see the Mets drag the hospital in the middle of what had already been a dicey situation they have with a player or players.  Next season, when the Mets do this, what are we going to talk about?  The visit, or who went and who didn’t?  The good thing is that I bet next year the attendance will be 100%.  The bad thing is that this charitable visit now becomes tabloid fodder, and that’s not fair to the medical center and the work they do.  That shouldn’t be what this is about.  I’d hate to think that something that should be focused on positively be used in a team’s agenda against three of their players, whether we like them or not.