Baseball’s Most Hated Man – Mets’ Bernazard Is a Jerk

Published on: 27th July, 2009

by

*Jun 24 - 00:05*
Baseball's Most Hated Man - Mets' Bernazard Is a Jerk

New York Mets vs Seattle Mariners. Mets Assistant Tony Bernazard. TONYB26S  | read this item

A look back at Tony Bernazard’s week:

Wednesday

Multiple sources tell The News that the Binghamton Mets clubhouse nearly erupted July 1 when Tony Bernazard, the Mets’ VP for player development, removed shirt and challenged the Double-A players to a fight during a postgame tirade. GM Omar Minaya acknowledges Bernazard spoke to the B-Mets in a “stern voice,” but says he had no knowledge of the scope being portrayed.

Thursday

Minaya, speaking about the Bernazard situation, mentions the word “investigate” 13 times during a six-minute, 20-second press briefing in the visitors’ dugout at Nationals Park in Washington. “We do take these matters very seriously,” Minaya says. “We are going to investigate these things.” Minaya says he has not yet decided whether Bernazard will be allowed to carry out his duties during the investigation.

Friday

Assistant GM John Ricco says the investigation into Bernazard’s conduct will last “as long as it takes to assemble the facts.” Ricco handles briefing before Friday night’s game against the Astros as the highest-ranking front-office official on this leg of the trip. Ricco confirms that the organization’s human relations department is taking the lead in the investigation.

And, published in New York’s Daily News on Sunday:

Houston — Mets VP Tony Bernazard’s notorious temper isn’t limited to events of the past few weeks. Tom Romano, who worked in the Mets clubhouse in the mid-1980s and later for the Brooklyn Cyclones, told the Daily News that he was on the receiving end of an eruption from Bernazard while running the visitors’ clubhouse in Lakewood, N.J., when the Mets’ South Atlantic League affiliate faced the BlueClaws in April 2006.

The event, widely known in Mets circles, was dubbed “The Bus Driver Story” by the organization’s farmhands.

As the Mets investigate Bernazard’s recent behavior, which sources say includes removing his shirt and challenging the Double-A Binghamton Mets to a fight, berating a fellow Mets official in the stands at Citi Field and nearly coming to blows with Francisco Rodriguez in Atlanta nine days ago, whistleblowers have continued to surface. Pitcher Nick Abel, who was released by the Binghamton Mets two weeks before Bernazard’s July 1 tirade, described to The News yesterday the bullying tactics the Mets VP uses, even to those farmhands fresh out of high school.

“If you’re developing people by saying, ‘Look, I can fire you,’ is that really development or is that intimidating people?” asked the 26-year-old Abel, who attended Wantagh (L.I.) High School and Stony Brook University. Abel signed with Lancaster in the Atlantic League after his June 12 release from Binghamton. Bernazard could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Romano, a New Jersey teacher who still works the clubhouse for the BlueClaws during summers, said he predicted a Binghamton-type blow-up to his wife three years ago. Romano experienced Bernazard’s rage firsthand after the Mets VP entered the visitors’ clubhouse in Lakewood in April of 2006, shortly before the first pitch of the BlueClaws’ game against Hagerstown, which then was a Mets affiliate.

“The back door of the clubhouse opened up,” Romano told The News. “It was left open because the players go out there to use their cell phones. That’s the explanation for the door being unlocked. A gentleman walked in the back door. Being 10 minutes prior to game time, I honestly thought it was a fan coming in the wrong door. Minor-league stadiums, nothing is marked. It’s very vague. The door opened. This guy walks in. I said, ‘Can I help you?’ No answer. ‘Can I help you?’

“The Lakewood BlueClaws locker room, the visiting locker room, it’s huge. It’s a brand new stadium. It’s gorgeous. He was probably still about 30 feet away from me. He kept walking toward me. He was wearing a pair of khakis, a short-sleeve button-down shirt and his keys were hanging down. I saw no credentials. I worked at Shea in the locker room back in the ’80s. I know how the locker room is supposed to be. And I know that officials wear credentials usually. And there was nothing. So I asked him. I said, ‘Who are you? Can I help you?’ No response. And then I thought, well, the keys are hanging down, ‘Are you the bus driver

“Ninety-percent of the time any older person who walks in that back door 10 minutes prior to the game, it’s the bus driver. He’s parked the bus. Now he’s going to come in and sit in his seat and watch the game. It really wasn’t out of the ordinary. And I should give this piece of background: My grandfather was a bus driver, so it was nothing derogatory. He drove cross-country. It was nothing derogatory. At that point, he took about four or five quick steps, very similar to a player or manager arguing with an umpire. He got about an inch from my face and he said, ‘You stupid (expletive). Somebody who looks like me could only be a bus driver?’

“At that point I still don’t know who he is. I went right back at him. I argued with him. We were nose-to-nose. Literally, the bill of my hat was hitting him, almost touching his forehead. It was that close. He was yelling back. He was saying, ‘You stupid f. You dumb m.f. We’ll see how long you’ll be here.’ And I said, ‘Who are you?’ He still wouldn’t answer me. At that point, two or three pitchers who were in the training room, who were on the DL getting treatment, came out. Two of them were Hispanic. They started saying something to Tony in Spanish. Tony said something back to them. At that point he walked away from me. So I said to the trainer, ‘Who is this guy? Is he allowed in your locker room?’ He said, ‘Oh, yeah. Yeah. He’s okay.’ The trainer said, ‘That’s Tony Bernazard. He’s the assistant general manager.’ I said, ‘I know the name.’ ”

Romano said he lost substantial income from clubhouse dues because the Mets successfully banned him from the remaining Lakewood-Hagerstown games that season, although the minor-league team’s GM paid him his salary.

“My GM told me I did the right thing,” Romano said. “The door opened. A stranger came in. That’s what I’m supposed to do. I worked for (Mets equipment manager) Charlie Samuels. I worked for (Mets visiting clubhouse manager) Tony Carullo. Obviously back in the ’80s it was a lot looser to get into the clubhouse. But if a stranger came in, you asked them who they were. That’s doing my job. And I asked him nicely.

“I started out working for them when I was 18 years old,” Romano continued, referring to the Mets. “This guy is nothing like any executive I remember – whether it be Frank Cashen, Joe McIlvaine. I said, ‘This can’t last. If he exploded like that on me, it’s just a matter of time before he does it to somebody else.’ And, sure enough, when we saw the articles in the paper, my wife said, ‘Oh my gosh, totally what you said is coming true.’

“Listen, I’m a high school teacher. I have a master’s degree. I do this as a summer job. I’ve moved on from my clubhouse days at Shea, unlike some of the other kids. But I had to ask who he is.”

Abel calls the Binghamton incident “the tip of the iceberg.”

Specifically regarding the July 1 episode with his former teammates, Abel said the Daily News reporting has been spot-on.

“He came in after a game and he sat everyone down and he just started yelling at people, challenging people, saying, ‘You guys are terrible and you’re embarrassing’ and just discouraging them,” Abel said. “And then he took his shirt off and he started challenging people to fight him, and calling people (a female part of the anatomy) and this and that.”

Asked how he knew for sure, Abel said: “I would prefer not to even mention that. I heard it through the grapevine, let’s put it that way.”

Abel added that he knew of the episode before the Daily News exclusively reported it last week. Abel added that he feels badly for his former Double-A teammates, who may not be able to speak out because their livelihoods are dependent on Bernazard.

“That’s a situation where, if you say the wrong thing, you know what, you can get a bad rap like you’re ratting people out,” Abel said. “You’re a snitch. You try to keep team issues within the team. You don’t want them to come out. But, occasionally, if something is out of line like this, an exception, it should be addressed. At the same time, everyone is still at that point where they’re afraid of losing their job. What are you going to do? Are you going to take the chance and say, ‘You know what, this is what’s really going on?’ Or are you going to say, ‘You know what, maybe I’ll get the point out, but maybe I’ll lose my job doing it, too?’

“A coach’s job is to motivate the team,” Abel continued. “And if he feels like, ‘I’ve been taking it too easy on them,’ maybe he should do something where it kind of puts a little scare in them and do it once – just this one time to give them kind of a rude awakening. The problem was Tony, he would come in there and the first thing he wanted you to know was, ‘Look, I’m the guy who fires you, and you better be on my good side or you’re on the chopping block.’

“If he’s the guy who is developing talent, and developing a guy in the minor leagues – he has, what, 10-plus years in the big leagues? – you would think he would be like, ‘This is what I learned getting up to the big leagues. This is how I got up there.’ But it seemed like he was talking about, ‘Here’s the stats: There are X amount of guys. There’s X amount of teams. Someone is getting fired.’ He was always reinforcing, ‘Look, I’m the guy who does the dirty work here. I’m the guy who puts out the top prospects. I’m the guy in control of your career

Readers Comments