WASHINGTON - The New York Mets plan to investigate reports that vice president of player development Tony Bernazard challenged members of their Double-A Binghamton affiliate to fight him during a postgame tirade.
“We do take these matters seriously and we are going to investigate these reports,” general manager Omar Minaya said Wednesday before the Mets finished a three-game series at Washington. “We need to follow up and we plan on doing that.”
The New York Daily News, citing unidentified sources, reported Wednesday that Bernazard, while visiting the Binghamton Mets early this month, removed his shirt during a clubhouse meeting with players, then challenged them to fisticuffs. Bernazard reportedly directed much of his anger at infielder Jose Coronado, the newspaper said.
Minaya told the newspaper he was aware of the meeting and acknowledged that Bernazard spoke to the minor leaguers in “a stern voice,” but said he wasn’t privy to details of the reported blowup.
Minaya refused to detail how the investigation would be handled, how long it would take or what possible disciplinary actions could be taken against the 52-year-old Bernazard, who has held his current position since December 2004.
Phone messages left for Bernazard by The Associated Press were not returned.
Bernazard had a strained relationship with former Mets manager Willie Randolph, fired last season and replaced by Jerry Manuel.
This year, Bernazard has drawn criticism because the Mets’ farm system has been unable to supply players to replace injured stars such as center fielder Carlos Beltran, first baseman Carlos Delgado, pitcher John Maine, shortstop Jose Reyes and setup man J.J. Putz. The depleted Mets have nine players on the disabled list.
The Mets’ two top affiliates — Triple-A Buffalo (34-58) and Binghamton (37-58) — are both struggling. Buffalo owns the worst record in the International League and Binghamton began play Wednesday last in its division with the Eastern League’s second-worst record.
Minaya said that he had spoken with Bernazard, who has returned to his home in Princeton, N.J. Minaya would not say whether Bernazard would continue his regular visits with the Mets’ farm teams.
“We’ll sit down and talk this weekend,” Minaya said. “We’ll sit down with the owners and see how we’re going to handle it.”
Bernazard played 10 seasons for Montreal, the Chicago White Sox, Seattle, Cleveland and Detroit. From 1992 until he joined the Mets, Bernazard was a special assistant to the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
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