New York Mets Turn One Crisis into Another

This season has been a nightmare for the New York Mets.  Injuries and missteps have marred the once promising hopes of the franchise.  Yesterday afternoon’s press conference by General Manager Omar Minaya to announce the firing of VP of Player Development Tony Bernazard may have been the biggest failure of all.

When Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News reported that Bernazard had tore his shirt off and challenged players on the team’s Double A franchise in Binghampton, the wheels began turning for his ultimate dismissal. That tirade along with many others became an embarrassment for the Mets and could no longer be tolerated.

However, what Minaya did at the press conference yesterday afternoon was the team’s biggest embarrassment. It was also a failure of the communications team to properly manage and control such a crisis situation.

By revealing that Rubin had discussed a player personnel job with the Mets, Minaya was directly implying that his reporting on the situation was done to try to get rid of Bernazard and gain a position for himself.  This deflected from the reality that his reporting was right on and led to the dismissal of Bernazard.

In Jay Horwitz, the Mets have one of baseball’s longest-tenured and most respected media relations directors in the sport.    Unfortunately, his reputation is now tarnished by the executives and ownership that have failed the team and its fans.

The Mets organization knew of Bernazard’s transgressions and admitted through their disclosure yesterday that the team’s human resources department had actually conducted the investigation, meaning that it had been taken out of the hands of the general manager.  But then, rather than have ownership in the guise of Jeff Wilpon announce the firing, they put a totally unprepared Minaya in front of the media where he eventually attacked the messenger in Adam Rubin.

What the press conference showed was an inability for the Mets organization to grasp 21st century communications tools.  It is obvious that the Rubin player personnel discussion was something that had to be communicated through ownership and Minaya prior to the press conference. A decision must have been made to reveal this.  Unfortunately, it was a decision that was not thought out.

The big question is did the Mets involve their communications team, namely Jay Horwitz to advise on what needed to be said at the press conference?  If they did not, shame on them. If they did and he went along, then he has some explaining to do to Adam Rubin and other members of the press.

 Too often we are seeing professional sports teams fail in crisis management because they do not grasp the need to properly disclose information, control the message and diffuse a situation rather than ignite a new one, which is what they did yesterday.   

As the character played by actor Strother Martin said in the motion picture Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”   That was never more true than yesterday afternoon.

Tom Cosentino

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One Response to “New York Mets Turn One Crisis into Another”

  1. Tom-
    You’re spot on with your post. I don’t know Jay, but know of him. I couldn’t help but feel for him yesterday no matter what the extent of his involvement. The thing that struck me as odd is that even though this was already evolving into a high profile story, why the press conference in the first place? With all due respect to Tony Bernazzard and the position he held, did this news really warrant a full-blown presser? Would a simple press release, followed by benign comments from Omar about Tony and his time with the organization, have been that difficult? Unless as you said, the idea was to embarrass Rubin was premeditated. Crazy, you can’t make this stuff up.

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