CHICAGO -- The New York Mets called a team meeting on Tuesday afternoon at Wrigley Field to discuss critical comments made by principal owner Fred Wilpon.
In a piece in The New Yorker, Wilpon expressed regret signing Carlos Beltran to a seven-year, $119 million deal, said face-of-the-franchise David Wright is a very good player but not a superstar, and suggested free-agent-to-be Jose Reyes is not worth Carl Crawford money (seven years, $142 million) because he is too often injured.
In a separate interview with Sports Illustrated, the embattled Wilpon -- who is being sued for $1 billion by the trustee trying to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme -- predicted the payroll would be slashed next offseason, potentially under $100 million. That's a level the franchise has not seen since 2004, before big expenditures for Beltran and Pedro Martinez reinvigorated the organization.
As for the team meeting, left fielder Jason Bay said: "I think to not address it would just be the elephant in the room. ... So it was like, 'Hey, this is what happened. And obviously it doesn't sound like Fred. And what's done is done.' We've got everybody's back. The big thing was to not let it eat us from the inside out. We know everyone deals with things in different ways. When it's your teammates, yeah, it's tough. It happens. Maybe not this, but stuff happens."
Beltran said he accepted a phone call Monday from chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, the son of Fred Wilpon, and was satisfied with the conversation. Reyes said he did not answer his phone but thought there probably was a call.
"Probably," Reyes said, "but I don't answer. ... I don't know. A lot of people called me."
Fred Wilpon reached out to both Reyes and Beltran from the speaker phone in manager Terry Collins' office before Tuesday night's game.
"We said we didn't care and it was time to move on," Reyes said of the phone call with Wilpon, according to the New York Times.
Beltran had conflicts with the organization before -- during a January 2009 squabble that became public over whether he had permission to have knee surgery, then last year when he did not join teammates for a voluntary trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Beltran said at the time that he had a scheduling conflict with a meeting for the high school he is starting up in his native Puerto Rico.
"It basically surprised not only me -- everyone," Beltran said about the latest incendiary comments. "But at the same time, I just feel in the years that I have been with this organization, I have given everything I have, and I have left everything I have on the field.
"Unfortunately, the years that you are hurt, you can't produce the way I know I can produce when I'm healthy. But, at the same time, I'm just looking forward to move on. I'm so happy this year that I'm healthy and I'm playing the game and I'm out there every day. I'm not going to let this affect the way I approach the game. I'm just going to continue to play hard for this team until my last days here."
The impending payroll slashing all but cements Reyes' departure either as a free agent at the end of the season, or more likely at the trade deadline, despite the shortstop very much wanting to remain a Met. Still, Reyes said he would not consider that possibility now.
"I don't think about that yet because I'm still with this team," Reyes said. "I'm going to give this team everything that I have. It's too soon to think about that. ... I don't care. He's the boss. He can say whatever he wants to."
One of Fred Wilpon's comments about Beltran is that he is a shell of his former self -- at 65 or 70 percent.
"I don't feel 70 or 65," Beltran said. "I feel 100 percent."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com.