NEW YORK (Reuters) - The embattled owner of the New York Mets has taken a swipe at the struggling team's leading players, saying they are overpaid and underperforming and should not expect top money for their next contracts.
Fred Wilpon, whose ownership of the Mets is under pressure while he is being sued over profits he made in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, questioned the market value of three top players, shortstop Jose Reyes, outfielder Carlos Beltran and injured third baseman David Wright.
Reyes and Wright have long been considered the cornerstones of the Mets and crowd favorites, but Wilpon indicated he may not be offering Reyes the kind of contract he is seeking when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
The often injured Reyes has bounced back this contract-drive season, batting .310 with 17 stolen bases but Wilpon told The New Yorker magazine he was still overvalued.
"He (Reyes) thinks he's going to get Carl Crawford money," Wilpon, 74, was quoted as saying in reference to the seven-year, $142 million deal the speedy outfielder signed this past off-season with the Boston Red Sox.
"He's had everything wrong with him. He won't get it."
At least not from Wilpon, who is being sued for $1 billion by the trustee for victims of the Madoff scheme.
Asked about Beltran, also in the last year of his contract, Wilpon blamed himself for overpaying another player who has since struggled with injuries.
Wilpon, who is trying to sell a minority interest in the Mets to raise funds, said he overestimated Beltran coming off a brilliant 2004 postseason with the Houston Astros.
"(We) paid him based on that one series. He's sixty-five to seventy percent of what he was," said Wilpon, who signed Beltran to a seven-year, $119 million deal.
Wilpon said Wright, sidelined with a back injury for the Mets, who have battled to a 22-24 record despite all their injuries, was good but not great.
"A really good kid. A very good player," he told the magazine about the third baseman and face of the franchise who is pulling down $14 million this season. "Not a superstar."
Asked about all the bad luck that seems to have befallen the franchise, Wilpon said: "We're snakebitten, baby."
(Writing by Larry Fine, Editing by Julian Linden)