NEW YORK - Mets general manager Omar Minaya fired a team executive Monday for a series of blowups, then openly questioned the motives of a local beat writer who reported the turmoil after asking about getting a job in baseball.
Vice president of player personnel Tony Bernazard was dismissed after getting into a heated argument with All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez, challenging Double-A players to a fight and berating a team employee over a seating mix-up.
Then the news conference took a bizarre turn when the focus shifted to Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News and a series of stories he wrote, documenting problems in the club’s minor league system.
“You got to understand this: Adam for the past couple of years has lobbied for a player development position. He has lobbied myself, he has lobbied Tony,” Minaya said.
Rubin was seated near the back of the room and buried his face in his hands after hearing his name come up. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, then asked Minaya if he was alleging that he conspired to get Bernazard fired.
“No, I’m not saying that,” Minaya said. “I am saying, in the past, you have lobbied for a job.”
“Over the years he said a number of times that he would like ... he asked me personally ... to work in the front office,” Minaya said, “in my front office. Not only me, but he’s asked others.”
Rubin vehemently denied Minaya’s allegations and said he had merely asked for general advice about getting a job in baseball.
“I was flabbergasted,” Rubin said. “When he first mentioned my name, I thought he was paying a compliment, an uncomfortable compliment for him. This was absolutely startling.
“I never asked Omar directly for a job,” he said. “I don’t know how I’m going to cover the team now. I’m absolutely floored. I asked, ’How do you get a job in baseball.’ That’s it.”
Daily News editor in chief Martin Dunn said: “This was a well-reported, well-researched, exclusive story, and it’s a shame that the Mets deemed fit to cast aspersions on our reporter instead of dealing with the issues at hand.”
“We stand by Adam 1,000 percent,” his statement said.
After the news conference, Minaya discussed what had transpired with chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon. The pair visited the Citi Field press box about two hours later, before the start of the Mets’ game against the Colorado Rockies.
Minaya said he stood by his comments about Rubin but acknowledged that it “was not the proper forum to raise those issues.” Asked if he would reach out to Rubin, who left the ballpark shortly after the news conference, Minaya said, “Possibly.”
Wilpon said Rubin had also consulted him about career advice.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Wilpon said. “I believe Adam was just doing what anybody else does. I probably get a call a week from someone asking for career advice.”
Rubin recently reported that Bernazard tore off his shirt and challenged members of the Mets’ Double-A Binghamton affiliate to a brawl during a postgame tirade this month.
A scrappy infielder in the majors from 1979-1991, the 52-year-old Bernazard had held the Mets’ job since December 2004. Prior to that post, he was a special assistant to the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
A text message sent to Bernazard by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.
The Mets have struggled this year on the major and minor league levels. Beset by injuries, New York began the week 10½ games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. Triple-A Buffalo has the worst record in the International League and Double-A Binghamton has the poorest record in the Eastern League.
Bernazard hit .262 with 75 home runs and 391 RBIs with Montreal, the Chicago White Sox, Seattle, Cleveland and Detroit.
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