ST. LOUIS — Jordany Valdespin was sitting alone Wednesday in the New York Mets clubhouse, listening to blaring music on his iPod that could be heard from 20 feet away, swaying, singing and scrolling through his Twitter feed.
If he had taken off the Dr. Dre headphones and dared to look around, he might have realized his teammates were talking about him, frustrated, irritated and downright angry.
This is a team badly struggling with the second-worst record in the National League, but the selfish actions of a career .239 hitter have the entire team being scorned for the perception they turned their backs on a teammate.
The Mets had listened and read the ridicule for five days, and Wednesday they could no longer contain their fiery emotions, revealing their frustrations in interviews with USA TODAY Sports about an immature act by an apparent naive teammate.
"The easiest way to describe this is that it's stupid," Mets captain David Wright said. "The whole incident is stupid. It's gotten way too much attention. This thing should have been over, and now it's turned into a life of its own. To read these reports how we don't have his back and how we don't care about him is absolutely ridiculous. It couldn't be further from the truth. It's ridiculous."
The incident that refuses to go away occurred Friday in the Mets' 7-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets were down 7-1 in the ninth inning, and Valdespin hit a solo homer off veteran Jose Contreras. Yet, instead of simply running the bases, Valdespin flipped his bat, admired the ball and slowly jogged around the bases.
"I couldn't believe he did that," Mets veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins said. "We were all dumbfounded. It was a bonehead thing to do. And to do that against Jose Contreras? He's old enough to be his father, and one of the nicest guys in the world."
The Pirates were furious, and they quietly vowed revenge. The Mets knew it. And understood it. And just to make sure Valdespin understood it, manager Terry Collins sent him up to pinch-hit in the seventh inning the next day.
They warned Valdespin that he likely would get hit, and catcher John Buck even recommended that he might want to wear an elbow guard.
Valdespin was drilled on the right forearm on the second pitch by reliever Bryan Morris.
It should have been end of story.
It was only beginning.
"The Pirates did what you were supposed to do," said Mets veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd, who has counseled Valdespin on numerous occasions this year. "They just sent a message that you don't do that.
"We would have done the same thing to another team. Any of the 29 other teams would do the same thing. Anybody around baseball who knows anything about the game knows that's what's supposed to happen. It should have been done and over with."
The next thing the Mets knew, Valdespin was sending out angry Twitter messages, fans were wondering why the Mets didn't retaliate, Collins was being criticized for sending him into the game knowing he was going to be hit and everyone but Valdespin suddenly was the bad guy.
"What were we supposed to do there?" Hawkins said. "We were down six runs, he hits a home run and he acts like it's a walk-off. This isn't Little League.
"What, now we're supposed to get into a fight for that? We're supposed to throw at somebody because he did a bonehead thing? Now, if they throw at him for no reason, that's a different story. We protect our team. But to do what he did put us in a bad spot, a real bad spot.
"He showed absolutely no respect. If you're going to pimp it, you're going to suffer the consequences. I have no problem defending my teammates, but some things, you just can't defend against.
"He's created a lot of unnecessary tension around here."
Valdespin, who has a world of natural ability, has yet to publicly apologize, privately apologize or speak to the news media about the incident. The Mets keep waiting. Collins called him into his office Tuesday, scolded him for sending out a Twitter message as if he were the victim: "They criticize me to lower my self-esteem but I go straight to the top. I wasn't born to lose."
"I tried to explain to him that if you were a (expletive) star or a big-time star and you do that, you might get away with it," Collins said. "But we're getting beat 7-1 with a 12-year veteran on the mound. Come on.
"I don't care what the fans think. This is the big leagues. It's a big-man's game. I told him, 'Look, it's not about you. It's about us. It's about the team. We're all trying to teach you a lesson here.'
"We'll see if he gets it."
And the jury is still out, with no one in the Mets clubhouse having a clue about what Valdespin will do the next time he homers.
"Sometimes you have to look yourself in the mirror," Hawkins said. "He's got to ask himself, 'What can I do to gain the respect back from my teammates?' And he's got to come up with that answer on his own.
"For some reason, he doesn't want to do things the right way. He wants to do it the hard way. Hopefully, he'll figure it out, because he's got a chance to be a damn good ballplayer."
Valdespin, 25, certainly has the ability to be a star. It's entirely up to him.