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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Need for 'third opinion' on Carlos Beltran shows what is wrong with Mets' organization

In 2004, the Mets' medical staff signed off on trading for damaged goods Victor Zambrano allowed Mike DeJean to pitch with a broken leg and had numerous injury issues with players ranging from Mike Piazza to Jose Reyes. After the 2004 season, the Mets, realizing they needed to make major changes, brought in a new GM, Omar Minaya, switched to a new set of doctors led by Dr. David Altcheck and replaced their trainer with Ray Ramirez. But over the last year, similar medical issues have arisen with the current regime.

Maybe the problem goes beyond changing the medical staff or improving communication between the medical staff and the front office. Maybe it has something to do with an organization that seems eager to minimize injuries to the point where their failure to deal with them in a timely fashion only increases the time the injured player is out.

Johan Santana and J.J. Putz were allowed to pitch with elbows that will require surgery. Jon Niese was allowed to throw warmup pitches after tearing his hamstring. Jose Reyes and now Carlos Beltran underwent surgery after already missing several months. In 2008, Ryan Church was allowed to fly to Colorado just after his second concussion.

The Beltran situation is still developing, and it is unclear whom, if anyone, is to blame. The Mets did not feel Beltran needed surgery, but neither did his doctor from outside the organization, Dr. Richard Steadman. At least until a couple of days ago.

The Mets have a right to be "disappointed" that Beltran did not explicitly get their approval for the surgery, if that is the case. But what is truly disappointing is that the Mets have turned the situation into yet another public relations debacle.

Even if Beltran did deliberately defy the Mets by having the surgery, the Mets should have kept any complaints they had private, rather than publicly air their concerns, which make both Beltran and the team look bad.

Even if it turns out that Beltran's agent Scott Boras encouraged him to have the surgery now to make sure Beltran would be healthy for his contract year of 2011, Boras ultimately wants the same thing the Mets want - a healthy and productive Beltran.

I am not used to defending Boras and would not be surprised if it turns out he got Beltran to have the experimental microfracture surgery that could sideline him for a year, sacrificing 2010 for 2011. If that is the case, my support for Beltran vanishes.

But based on what has currently been made public, it is hard to criticize Beltran for bypassing the troubled Mets' medical staff and doing what he feels he needs to do to get back to full strength as soon as possible.

Especially when the Mets' big complaint in Thursday's conference call was that they wanted to seek a "third opinion."

Some say the Mets' medical staff is incompetent. Others blame lack of communication between the team and the medical staff, and between the team and the public when it comes to medical matters.

But what if the process is flawed because Met management only wants to hear good news when it comes to injuries? No need for the DL. No need for surgery. And if someone brings bad news, seek out a second opinion. And if necessary, a third opinion.

Considering how often the Mets have denied the necessity for surgery, only to have a player eventually go under the knife much later than he could have, it is better for Beltran to have the surgery on January 13 than to continue a debate that might only end up pushing Beltran's return date further back.

***

The Mets' organization has done at least one thing right this offseason - signing Jason Bay. The need for power hitting turned out to be a lot greater than people knew.

And if Beltran had his surgery before the Bay signing was finished, Jason's demands might have suddenly gone up and the Mets would had either lost him or been forced to give him more money and years. Or they might have thought twice about having another over-30 outfielder with a big contract.

At least when it came to signing Bay, the Mets did not hold out for a third opinion.

7 comments:

Jonmouk71 said...

Doesn't seem like it took the Yankees that long to decide that A-Rod needed the hip procedure and not just rest - and that was at the beginning of Spring Training. Call me crazy - I'd rather have a 100% Beltran than a subpar one that is continually on and off the DL.

Anonymous said...

The mets are a mickey mouse organization. the only way to affect any real change is to convince the wilpons to sell the team.

Jonmouk71 said...

Easy to blame the Wilpons - I remember the "George Must Go" signs of the late 80's at the Stadium......now he's some sort of sainted figure because they won a lot in the late 90's and last year. Winning cures all!

Anonymous said...

don't know if winning can cure all here. the mets just continue to step in it time after time. completely unnecessarily as well. organization is a mess top to bottom, need a whole culture change there.
fans have had it as well.

Uncle Mike said...

The Mets have to get to the "winning that cures all" first. But it should be noted that the Yankees have had two "collapses" in the Steinbrenner era, 1982 and 1989 -- and while the "rebound" from the first, which began in 1993, finished the job, the second, in 1985, didn't.

By contrast, the Mets, in the Wilpon era, have had three collapses: 1992, 2002, and 2009. The first two led to rebounds that included, respectively, a Pennant and a Division Title that came within one run of a Pennant. But, still, the competence that the Yankees showed in building the 1993-present contender, and the 1996-2003 and 2009 champions, has never been there.

Any team can have bad luck with injuries. Certainly, the Yankees have, at various times since I've been old enough to watch them. But, on occasion, they've managed to win in spite of those injuries: David Cone's aneurysm in 1996, Derek Jeter's shoulder in 2003, Alex Rodriguez's hip in 2009. They've managed to hold on long enough for those players to come back and make an impact, because they've made the management decisions necessary to get the players to fill out the roster and to fill in the gaps.

By contrast, the Mets have gone the 1980s -- and 2002-08 -- Steinbrenner route of "I want big stars and I want them now! Winning will follow!" And it hasn't worked in Queens any more than it's worked in The Bronx.

So it's time to clean house: Get rid of Omar Minaya. Have Fred Wilpon pull an Ed McCaskey (Chicago Bears) and take the keys to the car away from Sonny Boy. Get proven winners: Omar Minaya is not one, any more than Billy "Pennant? What's a Pennant?" Beane in Oakland is. And fix the organization, top to bottom.

The right people are out there. The Mets found them in time to build 1969 and 1986, and they need to find them again if they ever want to be respected like the Yankees are -- or to be respected at all.

Uncle Mike said...

Correction: The first rebound was 1985-88, and that failed; the second rebound was 1996-2003, and it succeeded.

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