The New York Mets, besieged by unfavorable publicity generated by off-the-field problems, stopped talking to the media yesterday.
"Because of what we perceive as slanderous attacks aimed at members of this ballclub, we regretfully have found it necessary to immediately cease to communicate with all members of the media," a one-paragraph statement posted in the clubhouse and the team's spring training press room read.
"We have been ripped apart as a family and we will stand together in this as a family."
The statement was signed by 31 players, three of whom -- Dwight Gooden, Vince Coleman and Daryl Boston -- have been named by their lawyers as subjects of a rape investigation.
David Cone, accused in a lawsuit filed this week of exposing himself to three women while in the Mets bullpen, also signed the statement which Mets general manager Al Harazin described as largely symbolic.
Last week, the Mets cut off access to the press box and clubhouse to non-baseball writers because of heightened media interest in the team as a result of the rape allegations made by a 31-year-old New York woman.
Harazin said he believes the players intend to remain silent for the remainder of the training camp and possibly a few games into the regular season.
He added that he doesn't think the players' stand is aimed at sportswriters, who generally enjoy unlimited access to the clubhouse during spring training, as much as tabloid reporters and others who don't normally cover baseball.
* PADRES: Right-hander Ed Whitson has a torn ligament in his right elbow and likely will start the season on the 60-day disabled list.