CHICAGO — Mets manager Terry Collins delivered a simple message to his team before its first game since owner Fred Wilpon’s frosty comments about three of the club’s biggest stars were published.
Focus on what you can control.
"Fred Wilpon loves this team with all his heart and I know that," Collins said following the brief meeting, "so we’re just going to rally together and win as many games and play as well as we can play."
Collins and the Mets returned to the field Tuesday night for the first time since The New Yorker posted a profile of Wilpon on its website that contained some sharp criticism of David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran — the latest in a long line of mishaps for the stumbling franchise.
The manager said the meeting was planned before the profile of Wilpon put the Mets on the back page of New York tabloids for all the wrong reasons again. But the message was going to be about continuing to play the game the right way through a rash of injuries that put Wright and first baseman Ike Davis on the disabled list.
It turns out there was plenty to talk about.
"You don’t want to be in this situation, but it is what it is," Beltran said. "We’re all professionals here. Like I say, all I’m looking for is to turn the page, go forward and play hard."
Beltran and Reyes spoke to Wilpon on a speakerphone in Collins’ office in the visitors’ clubhouse at Wrigley Field, and a spokesman for the team said he was trying to reach Wright, who flew to Los Angeles on Monday to get his injured back examined by a specialist.
Most of The New Yorker article deals with Wilpon’s upbringing in Brooklyn, his real estate business and his relationship with Bernard Madoff. But the owner really let loose during New York’s 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros on April 20, when the Mets dropped to 5-13.
Sounding a lot like the team’s frustrated fan base, Wilpon disparaged the Mets’ play, called the franchise "snakebitten," and made a couple of stinging comments about three key players.
— On the oft-injured Reyes, who can become a free agent at the end of the season, and speculation he could be in line for a big new deal: "He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money," Wilpon said. "He’s had everything wrong with him. He won’t get it."
Crawford signed a $142 million, seven-year contract with the Boston Red Sox last winter.
"The only thing I can control right now, like I said before, is continue to play," Reyes said. "You know he’s the boss. He can say whatever he wants to."
— On Beltran: "He’s 65 to 70 percent of what he was," Wilpon said.
"I feel that right now what is important is I’m healthy and I’m back playing," Beltran said. "I’m enjoying the game. I don’t feel 70 or 65, I feel 100 percent and I’m glad that I’m here helping this team."
— On Wright, a five-time All-Star third baseman and the face of the franchise: "A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar."
Wright, who didn’t travel with the team to Chicago, released a statement though his agent Monday calling Wilpon "a good man" who is "obviously going through some difficult times."
Wilpon is facing a multimillion dollar lawsuit filed by a court trustee seeking to recover money for victims of the Madoff Ponzi scheme. The Mets received a loan from Major League Baseball in November to help cover expenses, and Wilpon and his son, Jeff, are looking into selling part of the team.
"Obviously, there’s a lot more factors going on here than just an owner of a baseball team," outfielder Jason Bay said. "There’s a lot of things that we don’t even know about, so I can’t pretend to know and then pretend to speculate on what’s going to happen. Like I said, it’s just kind of an unfortunate turn of events."
While the Mets were processing Wilpon’s comments to The New Yorker, another interview with the owner also included some revealing statements — comments that could have a more far-reaching impact on the club’s future.
Wilpon told Sports Illustrated the team is "bleeding cash" and could lose up to $70 million this year. He also said the team might slash the payroll next year, and there could be an agreement within three weeks to sell a minority share of the team.
That puts the future of Beltran, in the final season of a $119 million, seven-year contract, and Reyes in question for the rest of the season.
"Honestly, I’m not worried about that because it’s not in my hands until they approach me and tell me that they want to trade me or whatever," Beltran said. "But right now, like I said, I’m just concentrating on trying to help this team."