Initial signs indicate Tony Bernazard’s job is safe for now, but the Mets’ embattled vice president of player development is on shaky ground.
Bernazard has been sent home to New Jersey after the Mets announced yesterday that they are investigating the hot-headed former big-league second baseman over a series of bizarre incidents in recent weeks.
“We do take these matters very seriously, and we are going to investigate these things, investigate these reports,” Mets GM Omar Minaya said at a hastily called news conference at Nationals Park before last night’s game.
It turns out that ripping his shirt off and challenging minor-league players to fight him isn’t even Bernazard’s most recent display of outrageous conduct.
All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez confirmed yesterday afternoon that he exchanged angry words with Bernazard on the team bus last week in Atlanta.
“Yeah (it happened), but I’m not going to talk about that,” Rodriguez told The New York Post before the game. “Not going to get into it.”
Another veteran starting player, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Post yesterday that the 53-year-old Bernazard is having a cancerous effect on the Mets’ clubhouse.
“That guy is crazy,” the player said. “No one like(s) him.”
A team source also confirmed the incident with K-Rod, which came to light hours after a published report said Bernazard cursed at the Double-A Binghamton Mets and challenged them to a fight in a wild postgame scene in the clubhouse in Binghamton two weeks ago.
Early indications from several team sources are that Bernazard, who is close to Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, will not be fired despite a long pattern of behind-the-scenes skullduggery since Minaya helped get Bernazard hired in December 2004.
Friends of former manager Willie Randolph told The Post last summer that Randolph held Bernazard — with an assist from Randolph’s replacement, Jerry Manuel — responsible for orchestrating his midseason firing.
But a source said the Mets’ patience with Bernazard isn’t endless and that management could change its mind on Bernazard if more ugly incidents come to light.
As well as being sent home, the indication is that Bernazard will not be traveling with the parent club or visiting its affiliates anytime soon. Assistant GM John Ricco, not Bernazard, will be traveling with the Mets in Houston this weekend while Minaya scouts the Mets’ system.
“I’ve talked to him (and) I’ll continue to talk to him,” Minaya said of Bernazard. “I’ll talk to him this weekend. I’ll notify him that we’re going to investigate these things and sit down with our owners (and say), ‘Hey, look, how are we going to handle this?'”
Minaya did not say when he expects to finish the investigation of Bernazard but admitted the team is chagrined by the incidents.
“Put it this way: You never like to have these things, you never like to have these reports out there,” Minaya said. “When you have a big department, these things happen. What you need to do once reports are out is … look at them.”
Manuel, whose own comments about the team’s medical staff have gotten him in hot water with management recently, sidestepped the entire Bernazard issue.
“From what I understand, that’s probably more of an issue for Omar,” Manuel said. “So I would really not even go there. That’s not my area. Ask me about these 25 guys (on the Mets’ roster).”