MLB commissioner Bud Selig accused the Mets of throwing his office "under the bus" by divulging that the league banned players from wearing caps honoring emergency services workers during the 9/11 game at Citi Field, the New York Post reported Tuesday.
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A red-faced Selig put in an irate phone call to the organization Sunday night.
"[Selig] got embarrassed by it," a Mets official said before Monday night’s 3-2 loss to the Nationals. "The game got moved into prime time because of 9/11, and [MLB] ended up getting embarrassed."
The Mets did not wear the NYPD, FDNY and PAPD caps during Sunday night’s game, as they had in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Amid lingering outrage, the organization and MLB went into damage control mode Monday.
In an interview with Sirius XM radio, MLB disciplinary chief Joe Torre denied the Mets were threatened with a fine if they did not comply with the uniform code. The Mets were allowed to wear the caps honoring first responders during batting practice and the pregame ceremony, but had to remove them for their game against the Cubs.
"Nothing was ordered," Torre said. "I think they were sent a memo, but in no way was it heavy-handed. I don’t think money was ever an issue or they were ever threatened with a heavy-fisted fine. If that’s the case, I have no knowledge of it."
A person familiar with Selig’s thinking said the commissioner never threatened the Mets with a fine. The source hinted the Mets’ hierarchy perhaps used the threat of a fine as a scare tactic in getting players to comply. The source also suggested the Mets perhaps fueled the fire by waiting until the last minute to inform players they could not wear the caps during the game. MLB had issued the memo several days in advance of the game.
But another source said Mets COO Jeff Wilpon was "back and forth" with the commissioner’s office on the matter until the proverbial 11th hour, when it was decided the Mets, on the hook for a $25 million loan from MLB, should not risk the wrath of Selig.
"It was in our control a little bit, but yet it wasn’t," catcher Josh Thole said.
When the Mets entered the clubhouse following pregame ceremonies, they put the emergency services caps on a table and signed them for charity. They were not confiscated by MLB, according to multiple sources, as some reports had suggested.
"I talked to a number of players and the one thing that comes about is not about the hats," manager Terry Collins said. "It was about celebrating the people who lost their lives on 9/11, the first responders that were heroes among us, that is who we were honoring. Whether we wore the hat of that was not the issue. It was not what we had on our heads — it was what’s in our hearts."