Coleman through as Met, team says Player to remain on paid leave in '93

August 27, 1993|By Joe Sexton | Joe Sexton,New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- The ownership of the New York Mets, in the first step of what it promised would be a significant cleanup of the clubhouse, announced yesterday that Vince Coleman's playing career with the team was over.

The decision effectively brings to a conclusion the abjectly unsuccessful project embarked on when the Mets signed the outfielder to a controversial four-year, $11.95 million contract before the 1991 season.

Co-owner Fred Wilpon, while saying the club would delay taking formal disciplinary action against Coleman until he is arraigned on a felony explosives charge in Los Angeles next month, was unequivocal in stating that Coleman would not put on a Mets uniform again "in the interests of both Vince Coleman and the Mets."

Coleman, who has not been with the Mets since the felony charges were announced formally Aug. 3, will remain on paid administrative leave until the end of the 1993 season. The end for Coleman began when the outfielder tossed an explosive device from a Jeep in a Dodger Stadium parking lot July 24, injuring a handful of people, including a 2-year-old girl.

"He might have good stats this year, next year," said Wilpon. "We don't want him on this team."

Wilpon said Coleman had not yet been informed by the team that his playing career with the Mets was done, although he added the newswould not "probably be a complete surprise."

Wilpon, saying the club had endured a series of embarrassing on-field and off-field incidents in 1993 that had rightly subjected it to "local and national criticism," made clear that Coleman would not be the lone player the organization would rid itself of in an attempt to restore its competitiveness and reputation.

"There are a number of players I don't think have the kind of attitude Dallas Green thinks he needs to have a winning team," Wilpon said.

Green, who yesterday declined to say precisely what he had recommended to ownership be done with Coleman, endorsed Wilpon's decision, saying Coleman's priorities were often counterproductive.

"Being a baseball player goes beyond stats. I talk about head and heart and belly. For whatever reason, Vinny played very well for me. But that's not the bottom line in baseball," Green said.

The bottom line has not yet been completely reached in the Coleman case. The Mets said they had agreed to permit Coleman to end the season on paid leave because the picture of what had taken place in Los Angeles was not "fully developed."

During the club's 75-minute interview with the outfielder on Tuesday, Coleman, on the advice of counsel, had chosen not to answer questions regarding some of the specifics of the Los Angeles incident.

"We recognize and respect Vince Coleman's constitutional rights refrain from answering these questions at this time," Wilpon said.

Coleman was not present at yesterday's announcement by the Mets. His agent, Richard Bry, did not respond to telephone messages.

The Mets, asserting that they were reserving "all of our rights to complete our investigation and take disciplinary action" following theOct. 8 court hearing in Los Angeles, are undoubtedly considering terminating Coleman's contract before next season. Coleman, 31, is scheduled to receive $3 million in the final year of his deal in 1994.

The Mets, if they decide to try to terminate the contract, would argue that Coleman had breached the contract by failing to "conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship" as mandated in the standard player's contract.

Other options involve trading outfielder or releasing him and honoring the remaining terms of his contract.

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