July 22, 2009

Things are quickly going from bad to worse for the New York Mets.

In a surreal turn to a fast-sinking season, the New York Daily News, citing multiple sources, reported Wednesday that Tony Bernazard, the team's vice president for player development, challenged players from one of the club's minor league teams to a fight.

According to the report, Bernazard pulled off his shirt and challenged some members of the Double-A Binghamton Mets during a postgame tirade. Bernazard's actions came about 10 days before the All-Star break, according to the report, and that he particularly targeted second baseman Jose Coronado. A source told the News that Bernazard directed a slang term associated with a woman's anatomy at Coronado, who is hitting .250 in 58 games for Binghamton. The Double-A Mets are 37-58 following Tuesday night's 6-5 win over Connecticut.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya acknowledged that Bernazard spoke to the minor leaguers in a "stern voice," according to the report, but did not have a sense of the tenor and content of the speech. "I know he did have a team meeting with them," Minaya told the Daily News. "It was not a 'you-guys-have-been-great meeting.' I know he spoke to them in a stern voice. But as far as what he was wearing, what kind of shoes he was wearing, I don't know anything about that."On Wednesday afternoon the Mets released a statement on the report: "We take these reports seriously and are investigating the matter."

An organization source told the News that allegations of underage drinking on the team was a factor in Bernazard's tirade.

The News reported earlier that Bernazard had recently ripped into the organization's manager of baseball operations during a game against Arizona at Citi Field. The paper said Bernazard was upset that a Diamondbacks scout was in a seat behind home plate usually assigned to Mets personnel. One of Bernazard's staffers suggested to Bernazard that he wait until the half-inning ended, which, according to reports, prompted a profanity-laced tirade from Bernazard.

The 52-year-old Bernazard has been portrayed by various news media reports as someone who undercut former Mets manager Willie Randolph prior to his firing last June. That firing was announced in an e-mail at 12:14 a.m. PT, after Randolph had traveled to the West Coast with the team.

A former major league second baseman, Bernazard played for six teams during 10 seasons and finished as a career .262 hitter. He also played for Nankai and Fukuoka in Japan. After his retirement in 1991, he worked for the players union as a special assistant to the executive director, Donald Fehr. The Seattle Times reported that Bernazard was one of eight people last October to interview for the Mariners' GM job, and was not asked back for a second interview. Jack Zduriencik ultimately got the job.

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