Mar 04

Johan Santana Signs With Orioles; It’s Official, Mets Lost Deal

Despite both sides saying continuing their relationship remained a possibility, we all knew when the New York Mets gave Johan Santana a $5.5 million buyout for this season that would never happen.

It’s what parting sides always claim when they don’t want to say what’s really on their minds.

SANTANA: Offiical: Mets lose trade (AP)

SANTANA: Offiical: Mets lose trade (AP)

From his part, Santana would liked to have kept on milking the cash cow. The Mets however, weren’t happy he threw before he was scheduled that final spring and ended up sitting out the entire 2013 season.

After spending $137.5 million, they weren’t about to throw good money after bad, especially since Santana made it clear he wasn’t going to offer a “home team discount.’’ Instead, Santana settled on a minor league contract today with the Baltimore Orioles.

Any contract is a risk, especially a six-year deal for a pitcher who had already experienced shoulder problems before he broke down with the Mets. In the end, for all that money, the Mets received one solid year, a tainted no-hitter, but without question, 100 percent effort whenever Santana took the mound.

They did not receive the repeated 20-win seasons and playoff appearances they had hoped. In short, they gambled and lost.

After they lost Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS and kicked away a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining in 2007, and in dire need of pitching, the Mets rolled the dice on Santana.

The Mets sent four prospects – one of them turning out to be All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez – for the overworked and already damaged left-hander. They then signed him for at the time was the richest contract in franchise history.

As what often has been the case with the Mets, in both the trade and subsequent contract negotiations, they bid against themselves.

Santana became available because both the Yankees and Red Sox backed off, so as the only real party to the table, they could have had him for less. And, because the Twins weren’t going to bend to Santana’s salary demands, the Mets agreed to giving him way too much money.

Outside a 15-7 record with a league-leading 2.53 ERA in 34 starts in 2008, his first season with the Mets, Santana never completed a full year in New York and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 and 2013 because of shoulder injuries.

With a full season is considered 34 starts, Santana left 95 starts on the table. That is far more glaring than his production of 46-34, a 3.18 ERA and the only no-hitter in franchise history.

The no-hitter came in his 12th start after rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. To this day, manager Terry Collins laments letting him throw 134 pitches.

Ironically, it was a tainted no-hitter because a blown call on what should have been an extra-base hit for Carlos Beltran |was ruled a foul ball.

Had that call been made correctly, then Santana doesn’t throw that many pitches, then, who really knows?

Santana made only 10 more starts for the Mets before he was shut down in August of 2012. In spring training of 2013, in an angered response to GM Sandy Alderson’s comments he didn’t report in shape, Santana went against his prescribed rehab routine and without Collins’ knowledge, threw off the mound and aggravated the injury.

In another dose of irony, the pitcher often fueled by pride was done in by the same. Santana re-tore the capsule and underwent a second surgery.

To this day, Santana never acknowledged his mistake of throwing off the mound, and Anderson never admitted whether his dig at the left-hander’s condition was meant as motivation and backfired.

Either way, after that day, the Santana Era was over, regardless of what either side claimed.

Mar 04

What’s Going On With Early Mets’ Injuries?

The New York Mets have frequently been criticized for their handing of injuries, and already this spring there have been several, many of them of the tight muscle variety.

The first case was left-hander Jonathon Niese, who complained of a tired arm, caused by weak muscles in the back of his shoulder.

I raised several questions, primarily that he might not have been given the exercises needed for rehab. Niese is now throwing again and has been given a series of exercises.

The Mets’ other injuries this spring are new, and could fall under the umbrella of not warming up properly.

First basemen Ike Davis and Lucas Duda have missed time with tightness in their leg muscles; shortstop Ruben Tejada has a tight left hamstring; and outfielder Eric Young has muscle tightness in his side.

Manager Terry Collins told reporters in Port St. Lucie he attributes these injuries to the fields being hard from being baked by the sun and the players could be overly exerting themselves.

While they could be contributing factors, there might be others, such as whether they spend enough time doing stretching exercises getting loose and are they properly hydrated?

Also, players these days spend an extraordinary amount of time lifting weights and perhaps not enough stretching or doing flexibility exercises. These causes wonder as to what type of off-season workout programs they are on.

Who knows, Collins could be right and this could be a freak thing. However, there have already been four players – excluding Niese – who have missed time because of tight muscles.

This all must be analyzed, especially considering the Mets’ history in their handling of injuries.

Mar 03

Mets’ Harvey Gets Valuable Advice From Strasburg

Shelved New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey has received unsolicited, yet valuable advice, from the opposition. First Roy Halladay, prior to his retirement this winter, spoke with him on whether to undergo Tommy John surgery.

STRASBURG: Advises Harvey (AP)

STRASBURG: Advises Harvey (AP)

Now, Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg, through an interesting column by The New York Post’s Kevin Kernan, counseled him on his rehab. Strasburg, who blew out his elbow in his 2010 rookie season, advised him on the slow rehab process. Strasburg, who shares the same agent as Harvey in Scott Boras, also volunteered to speak with him.

Strasburg said it is a long, slow process, and the idea of taking things day-to-day isn’t always the best method as it can get frustrating.

“You’ll feel great one day, and the next day it’s terrible,’’ Strasburg said. “The best advice I got was, `Look where you were at the start of the month and then at the end of the month. Don’t look at where you were yesterday.’ ’’

It’s kind of like dieting in that stepping on the scale every morning can drive you crazy. There will be setbacks, whether it is a donut or a little tightness one morning.

Veteran pitchers know their bodies, while Harvey is just learning how his responds to pain and injury. There were times Harvey eschewed talking to the trainers last summer when he felt discomfort. Perhaps, this was overestimating his recuperative powers.

“It’s a different beat,’’ Strasburg said about the differences between rehabbing and training. “Recovery is huge, once you learn how long it takes for your body to recover and how often you need to let your body relax and just get back to full health.

“That’s when you can really accomplish the durable things that pitchers do.’’

The Mets suggested it, but haven’t put Harvey not coming back this season in stone. That might be a prudent thing to do because it takes away the carrot of possibly pitching in late September. Harvey long-tossed this morning and doesn’t have a date when he’ll throw off the mound.

This is part of the problem. What date will Harvey throw from the mound? When will he pitch batting practice?

Just say no, and leave 2015 as the target date, not late this summer.

 

Mar 03

Alderson: Will He Act Like 90 Wins Are Possible?

We shall see if the New York Mets are capable of winning the 90 games general manager Sandy Alderson believes.

I like manager Terry Collins’ response to his players they should take it as a compliment. That’s one way to look at things. Another is if 90 is possible, are then the expectations that of a 90-win team?

ALDERSON: Dances the dance.

ALDERSON: Dances the dance.

While Alderson expects his players to play like 90-win players, and Collins to manage like a 90-win manager, I wonder if that extends to him and Fred Wilpon.

Reportedly, Wilpon said “they’d better in 90 games.’’ If so, will Wilpon he give Alderson the go-ahead to get what is needed at the trade deadline? Just wondering.

For his part, how can Alderson believe 90 wins are possible when he has issues at first base, shortstop, in the outfield and in the bullpen, not to mention an unproven catcher and without his best pitcher?

I also can’t help but wonder how long a leash Alderson will give Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada. In each of the past two seasons the Mets dragged their feet when Davis floundered early. Ninety-win teams don’t just carry struggling players at first base and shortstop, and when they have to make a move they do it, and fast.

 

 

Mar 02

My Favorite Baseball Movies: Field Of Dreams

It’s difficult to make a good baseball movie because of the physical requirements involved from the actors. Quite simply, some of them can’t go through the swinging and throwing motions that make them look realistic.

imgresThere are also unbelievable story lines, historical inaccuracies and the concept of editorial license gone out of control. Even so, in honor of the Academy Awards tonight, I’d like to share with you my top five favorite baseball movies:

FIELD OF DREAMS: It’s the story here matters, plus the bond between fathers and sons, which is the essence behind the film. The acting is superb and the writing terrific. James Earl Jones’ monologue on baseball being woven into the fabric of American history and life is priceless.  Yes, they have Ray Liotta – Shoeless Joe – batting right-handed, which really is unforgivable, like wearing cross trainers in a gladiator movie. Even so, the interaction between Kevin Costner and Jones is terrific, and Burt Lancaster, for a small role, is a driving force in the film. And, the end, when Costner meets his dad, is a powerful scene. “Dad, wanna have a catch?’’

EIGHT MEN OUT: They at least have Shoeless Joe batting left-handed in this one, but it is a realistic telling of a historical story that carries this one for me. The in-game scenes were well done and there doesn’t appear to be the stretching of editorial license, as was the case in *61. Another thing I like in this film is there is no super star actor that diverts your attention from the story. I liked this movie even before Charlie Sheen’s “Two And A Half Men.’’  I liked everything about this movie, and loved the ending when John Cusack was watching a Jackson in a semi-pro game twenty years later.

COBB: Yes, that was Roger Clemens in a bit role. By the way, for his tough guy reputation, had Clemens played in Ty Cobb’s era he would’ve been eaten alive. Cobb would have bunted down the first base line and run up his back. No telling what Cobb would have done if Clemens threw a piece of a broken bat at him. It’s a powerful biography that shows Tommy Lee Jones depicting Cobb in a less than flattering light.

PRIDE OF THE YANKEES: Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in a sentimental tearjerker. Of course liberties were taken, but the movie reveals the human and fragile side that was Gehrig. There were times when it was hard to tell whether Cooper was playing Gehrig or Will Kane, the stoic sheriff who stood up to the evil Frank Miller to save the town.

42: The most realistic version of the Jackie Robinson story ever on the screen. The scene when Branch Rickey – played by Harrison Ford – tries to bait Robinson in his office is as good as it gets. “I want a player with the guts not to fight back,’’ Rickey tells Robinson before offering him that historic contract. It’s hard to pull off a historic moment, but they got it right when Pee Wee Reese put his arm around Robinson. One other thing, Chris Merloni plays a good Leo Durocher, put I still see him as Detective Elliot Stabler.

 

MISSING THE CUT

Bull Durham: Fun movie, but too many clichés. Did love the scene on the mound when they were figuring out what to wedding present to get. Tim Robbins as Nuke LaLoosh just didn’t look like a pitcher.

For the Love of the Game: Another with Kevin Costner. They lost me when Costner’s catcher wore his Tigers cap outside the stadium. That just doesn’t happen.

Bang the Drum Slowly: Sorry, too sappy. Plus, Robert DeNiro is a gangster.

The Natural: I know what they were trying to get at, but hitters don’t carry homemade bats in a violin case and knock the cover off the ball.

I would love to know your favorites.