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Mets Drop Own Bomb: Coleman Is Finished

August 27, 1993|MARTY NOBLE | NEWSDAY

NEW YORK — Brought here in December of 1990 to run the Mets into the World Series, Vince Coleman Thursday was run out of town. Citing the best interests of Coleman and the club, Met co-owner Fred Wilpon changed Vincent Can Go into Vincent Van Gone. "He will not play here again, as a Met," Wilpon said, seemingly bringing the month-old situation to an unofficial but decisive end.

Wilpon made his declaration after addressing the team--Coleman was not present--and after announcing the club would take no new and official action regarding Coleman until after Oct. 8, when Coleman's arraignment hearing on a felony charge of possession of an explosive is complete. Instead, the club has decided, with the consent of Coleman and the baseball players union and major league baseball's executive committee, that Coleman will remain on so-called "administrative leave" through the end of the season. He has been on "leave" with pay since Aug. 12, after having been granted a six-day leave of absence without pay.

The owner characterized Coleman as a player lacking the selflessness necessary for team success and said "a number" of other players on the current roster warrant similar characterization. In what he said was his first address to the team in his 14 years of ownership, Wilpon also told the players they were privileged to be in the major leagues and playing in New York; that, as professional athletes, they do have responsibilities to the public and to their employers and "if any of them chose not to live by the rules of baseball and the good rules of society, just ask out. We'll do whatever the hell we can to get them out of here."

Speaking for himself and for fellow owner Nelson Doubleday, who was out of town, Wilpon read a statement that said: "Our reasoning for maintaining the status quo is to afford additional time for any further facts to be revealed."

After Coleman's attorney gained an adjournment of the hearing, major league baseball conducted an investigation of the July 24 incident in Los Angeles, in which Coleman tossed an explosive out of a Jeep driven by Dodger outfielder Eric Davis as the two and Bobby Bonilla were leaving the players' parking lot at Dodger Stadium. A 2-year-old girl was among three people injured.

The Mets interviewed Coleman Tuesday. But according to Wilpon and Met counsel David Howard, Coleman didn't respond to certain questions at the suggestion of his attorney and the players union. "We have reserved all our rights to complete our investigation and take disciplinary action following the Oct. 8 hearing," Wilpon read.

To accomplish what Wilpon said will happen, the Mets can release Coleman, paying his $3-million salary for 1994; terminate the contract without pay, a move that almost certainly would prompt a grievance from the union; or trade him--if a taker could be found. There also is the possibility, Howard said, of suspending Coleman without salary for a period next season and then following the suspension with a release.

No matter what course is followed, Wilpon said it will not be predicated on the legal resolution of the felony charge against Coleman.

Coleman, 32 next month, signed a four-year, $11.95-million contract with the Mets as a free agent in 1990. He has played 235 games in three seasons with the Mets, including 92 this season. He was batting .279 in 373 at-bats. He has played twice--briefly and on the road on each occasion--since the incident.

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