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Sued For Discrimination, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon Has A LONG History of Being the Absolute Worst

While the accusations against Mets COO Jeff Wilpon are enraging, the worst charge is that he tried to blame anyone else for his 12-year reign of ineptitude.

baseball field, sunset

The wrongful termination lawsuit filed against Mets COO Jeff Wilpon is another in a long line of embarrassing disasters for the Mets organization under the Wilpon family, but it’s certainly no surprise to Mets fans who have seen the younger Wilpon wedge his way into power only to see his ego and temperament bring about one of the darkest eras of a team whose history is littered with dark eras.

On the heels of Clippers owner Donald Sterling and Hawks owner Bruce Levenson being criticized out of power over discrimination, Wilpon faces not only a lawsuit from a woman who claims the exec fired her for having a baby out of wedlock and made disparaging remarks about her, but also a rabid public who just got their first taste of bringing down the wealthy and all-powerful from their tall protected perches above the teams that are part of entire cities’ identities.

Former Senior Vice President for Ticket Sales and Services Leigh Castergine has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Wilpon and Sterling Mets LLC. alleging that Wilpon humiliated her about being pregnant and unmarried. She claims he then fired her for having a baby out of wedlock.

Wilpon claims she was fired for underperforming Mets ticket sales.

According to the lawsuit, Wilpon told a colleague that Castergine “should be married before having a baby” and repeatedly mocked her by checking her hand for an engagement ring and telling colleagues at front office meetings “don’t touch her belly and don’t ask how she’s doing, she’s not sick she’s pregnant.”

After returning to work after having her child, the lawsuit claims that Wilpon, in a room with Castergine and other executives, said, “I am as morally opposed to putting an e-cigarette sign (ad) in my ballpark as I am to [Castergine] having this baby without being married.” She says that when she complained about Wilpon’s behavior to human resources they did nothing.

The complaint further alleges that shortly after that she received her first “issues” on a performance review despite having consistently received performance bonuses. She was fired for failing to meet sales goals after Wilpon says she was no longer “as aggressive as she once had been,” which she says “echoes previous comments by Wilpon about the effectiveness of other female Mets employees post-pregnancy.”

The lawsuit goes on to poignantly note that the period of underperforming sales numbers came when she was on maternity leave and not handling the day-to-day operations.

If anything in that lawsuit is true, Wilpon’s actions are despicable and far too reminiscent of a Mad Men version of the business world than is acceptable in today’s society, especially in today’s front offices dominated by men to an absurd degree.

First of all, consider that Wilpon fired Castergine for poor ticket sales. For Mets games? Even the lawsuit notes that many referred to her job as “selling deck chairs on the Titanic.” This is the most obscene charge of all, especially coming from an executive who is a caricature of a bumbling oaf of a bigwig.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons that the team’s ticket sales might be… a tad low, outside of Castergine’s supposed lack of “aggressiveness”.

Sure, there’s the fact that the Wilpons made out nicely in the biggest Ponzi scheme in American history. The one in which his family was reported to have lost money in the Bernie Madoff scandal, only to have actually made $300 million from the Ponzi scheme. The family eventually had to pay out $162 million after victims of the Madoff scheme sued them. This caused the Mets to drastically cut their payroll, directly leading directly to guys like Kirk Nieuwenhuis manning left field even though, by my high school dropout-level quick math, the Mets still walked away with a hefty profit from the whole fiasco.

And sure, aside from Madoff, Wilpon is also accused of strong-arming coaches out of Manager Terry Collins’ staff, chiding the team for not hitting enough opposing batters, and lying that he played for the Montreal Expos when he was only drafted as a favor to his father and released a week later.

But it goes even farther back than that.

The Wilpons took over control after Nelson Doubleday couldn’t deal with them anymore in 2002. After two decades of dual ownership filled with bitter feuds over Doubleday’s resentment of Jeff’s father Fred Wilpon and a later lawsuit in which Doubleday accused Wilpon and Major League Baseball of artificially deflating the team’s value to screw him out of hundreds of millions, he finally sold his half of the team, making the Wilpon family the outright owners of the franchise.

A dark day indeed.

The Mets are 940-990 in nearly 12 full years of official Wilpon ownership.

In 2003, Doubleday warned Mets fans of not Fred but Jeff Wilpon, who he could tell even then was a smarmy power-grabber looking to bring everything in sight under his control and then ruin it.

“Mr. Jeff Wilpon has decided that he’s going to learn to run a baseball team and take over at the end of the year,” Doubleday told the Newark Star-Ledger a year after he sold the team. “Run for the hills, boys. I think probably all those baseball people will bail… Jeff sits there by himself like he’s King Tut waiting for his camel.”

How prophetic he was.

By 2009, even ESPN’s Peter Gammons confirmed that Jeff Wilpon is the team’s true general manager and then-GM Omar Minaya was “just there to take the heat.”

Since then, Joel Sherman of the New York Post has reported that fellow executives consider Wilpon, “short-tempered, tone deaf, a credit seeker, an accountability deflector, a micro-manager, a second-guesser, a less-than-deep-thinker, and bad at self-awareness.”

Sherman has reported that a baseball executive who frequently has discussions with the Mets said, “Jeff is the problem with the organization, and he is never going to realize that. He cannot help himself. He has to be involved. He will never hire anyone who will not let him have major input.”

Another executive reportedly told Sherman, “The only person with a worse reputation than Jeff Wilpon in the game is [Marlins president] David Sampson.”

I mention this because despite the Mets employing Steve Phillips, Jim Duquette, Omar Minaya, John Ricco, and Sandy Alderson as GMs-turned-scape goats in just 12 years since taking over, the Wilpons, and particularly Jeff, have been the reason for the Mets finishing under .500 eight years between 2003 and this season.

Since the Wilpons took full control of the team, the Mets:

-Allowed 3B Edgardo Alfonzo, one of the team’s top players, to depart in free agency in 2003 but signed a 40-year-old David Cone, who lasted five games and posted a 6.50 ERA.

Signed SS Kaz Matsui to a 3-year, $20M contract in 2004. Matsui batted .266 with 13 HR, 30 SB, 94 RBI in 271 games over three years and soured all of baseball on Japanese hitters.

Traded a coming-up Jose Bautista to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a throw-in in a trade for Kris Benson in 2004.

Traded away then-top prospect Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano in 2004. Over the next three seasons, Zambrano went 19-21 with a 4.42 ERA and 1.53 WHIP before the Mets got rid of him.

Signed Carlos Beltran to a seven-year, $119 million contract in 2005. Beltran averaged 124 games played, .279 BA, 22 HR, 82 RBI over six full seasons with the Mets before he was shipped to San Francisco.

Gave Angel Pagan away to the Cubs, got him back a couple years later, only to let him go in free agency again.

Traded for Oliver Perez in 2006. Perez had an ERA under 6.38 in two of five seasons with the Mets while making $12 million per year.

Signed Jason Bay to a 4-year, $66 million contract in 2010. Bay batted .234 with 26 HR and 124 RBI in 288 games for the Mets.

Allowed Jose Reyes to leave in free agency after he posted a league-leading .337 BA, .877 OPS, 7 HR, 31 2B, 16 3B, 39 SB, and 101 runs in just 126 games in 2011.

Finished among the bottom third of the league in wins seven times between 2003 and 2013, and likely will again this season.

-Haven’t made the playoffs since 2006.

-Haven’t finished above .500 in four straight seasons.

-Continued to rake in off of inflated ticket and concession prices while continuing to slash payroll.

-Made this ridiculous song:

-Thought this photo of Reyes and David Wright looking like cast members from The Warriors would be a good idea:

wright reyes

Credit: New York Mets

With that in mind, the idea that Wilpon would blame anyone outside of the guy putting that parody of a baseball team on the field is as ludicrous as the fact that this fan base is saddled with an exec with infinite impunity since he’s the boss’s son and likely future owner.

Though he said some cringe-inducing things to a seemingly nice lady doing her best to sell any amount of tickets to a team whose management has never seen Mets fans as anything but a subpar income stream, perhaps the most offensive charge in the lawsuit is that he blamed the results of his woeful tenure on this woman’s ability to do her job.

Though I would have pushed to have him removed long before these new allegations, now is truly the last straw for an inept, credit-seeking, accountability-deflecting executive who apparently runs his office like a 1950’s ad man. One even other executives point to as not only the “problem with the organization” but among the two worst executives in the league.

The Wilpons have owned the Mets for 30 years. Jeff essentially grew into an adult as a Mets heir. Now, after his reign has embarrassed a Mets fan base that has had far more than its share of crummy management, it’s time for him to fade away as just another Mets fan, one that has to helplessly endure the unfruitful results of Jeff Wilpon’s reign of tone deaf ineptitude.

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