Mar 17

Mets Matters: Alderson On Defensive; Pitching Injuries; Beat Marlins

Mets GM Sandy Alderson defended the organization’s handling of Zack Wheeler’s injury. However, as is often the case with Alderson, there were holes in his argument.

“Why would we treat somebody like [Matt] Harvey with the kind of caution that we did and then throw somebody else under the bus – somebody of essentially equal value to us as an organization?’’ Alderson said to reporters today. “That wouldn’t make any sense. I understand people can debate the number of pitches and the number of innings and this and that. We simply wouldn’t treat two guys that differently.’’

mets-matters logoHowever, Harvey was shut down shortly after the All-Star break in 2013 while Wheeler continued to pitch at the end of last season.

Wheeler flew to New York this evening and will be examined tomorrow by Dr. David Altchek.

METS PITCHING INJURIES: For those scoring at home, the following Mets’ pitchers had significant arm injuries during Alderson’s tenure: Harvey, Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Johan Santana, Jenrry Mejia, Jeremy Hefner and Jon Niese.

TODAY’S GAME: DeGrom was again sparkling, giving up one hit in five scoreless innings with six strikeouts in Tuesday’s 6-4 victory over Miami in Port St. Lucie. DeGrom gave up a single to the first batter he faced, and then retired 14 straight hitters. … Kevin Plawecki hit a solo homer and Johnny Monell hit a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth for the game-winner.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright left the team to return to Virginia for what the family termed a “family matter.’’ He is scheduled to return to camp Tuesday night. … Reliever Vic Black, who has been sidelined with weakness in his throwing shoulder, resumed throwing Tuesday. He threw on flat ground and might not get on a mound until Friday. … Parnell, who had been penciled in to throw in a minor league game today, has been pushed back several days. Parnell said there were no problems, but didn’t say why his session was delayed. … The Mets have their lone day off of the spring Wednesday.

 

 

Mar 17

Alderson Defense Of Handling Of Wheeler Injury Weak

Mets GM Sandy Alderson answered many of the questions pertaining to Zack Wheeler’s injury Monday. However, that doesn’t mean he answered them all, and that’s not to say the Mets’ handling of the injury couldn’t have been better.

Alderson defended his handling of Wheeler’s injury, and as he frequently does with these things, his tenor came off as condescending and maddening. As usual, he came across as the lawyer treating us like idiots.

ALDERSON: Defense of Wheeler injury weak. (AP)

ALDERSON: Defense of Wheeler injury weak. (AP)

Most irksome was how he described Wheeler’s breakdown as “inevitable,’’ much as it was for Matt Harvey and saying the Mets’ treatment of each was the same.

“Let me just ask, why would we treat somebody like Harvey with the kind of caution that we did and then throw somebody else under the bus – somebody of essentially equal value to us as an organization?’’ Alderson said to reporters today. “That wouldn’t make any sense. I understand people can debate the number of pitches and the number of innings and this and that. We simply wouldn’t treat two guys that differently.’’

But, they did.

Harvey was shut down shortly after the All-Star break in 2013, but Wheeler continued to pitch at the end of last season despite soreness in his elbow. Alderson and manager Terry Collins even conceded Monday how Wheeler managed through the pain at the end of last year.

Alderson maintained Wheeler’s elbow was eventually going to break down, yet he was trotted out there every fifth day.

“The other thing is, when a guy is being managed, you understand what the sort of apocalyptic result could be – he blows something out,’’ Alderson said. “But the question is, what’s the alternative? If it blows out, it blows out. The alternative is that you manage somebody to the point where he’s not useful to you.’’

Which is what happened, as it has numerous times with other Mets.

When it comes to the Mets and pitching injuries, the club has a long list, including: Harvey, Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Johan Santana, Jenrry Mejia, Jeremy Hefner and Jon Niese.

That’s more than an entire rotation and nearly a complete staff. A common thread in these injuries have been Alderson and pitching coach Dan Warthen.

The Mets didn’t have Harvey last year, but nonetheless made a run at respectability, as in finishing .500 or better. You can’t help but wonder if the goal to be competitive forced them to push Wheeler too hard.

Questions linger about the others, although not all had Tommy John surgery. What was their training routine like? Did they throw too hard, too soon, at the start of spring training? Were they properly monitored? Did they throw too soon in the offseason? Did they throw too much between starts? What was the rest of their conditioning program like?

Alderson answered the question as to why he didn’t immediately order a MRI for Wheeler. It seemed somewhat plausible at the time, but after sleeping on it and considering the long list of ailing Mets’ pitchers under his watch, it left something to be desired.

Using “lawyerspeak,’’ Alderson defended his handling of Wheeler’s injury. There was his usual fancy language, but a sharp district attorney would nail him.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s Notebook.

Mar 16

Alderson Answers Critical Questions About Wheeler

Mets GM Sandy Alderson answered several questions raised Monday following the announcement Zack Wheeler‘s MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow that would require Tommy John surgery and cost the highly-touted prospect this season.

Earlier today I raised several questions pertaining to the Mets handling of Wheeler’s injury. Alderson addressed most of them in a conference call this morning prior to the exhibition game against Boston in Fort Myers.

WHEELER: Done for year. (AP)

WHEELER: Done for year. (AP)

Wheeler underwent an MRI Saturday despite Alderson insisting one wasn’t needed and traveled Monday to New York to meet with Dr. David Altcheck at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Among the questions raised and subsequently answered by Alderson:

* After two MRIs in the offseason, which were negative, Alderson said another MRI wasn’t needed, but relented Saturday and ordered one. What was his reasoning? In a conference call, Alderson said he changed his mind because “the area of pain had increased in size.”

* Earlier the Mets said they weren’t concerned about discomfort in Wheeler’s elbow. Why? “We had been forewarned by the doctor that his elbow was a concern and it was going to have to be managed over the course of this season. It wasn’t clear that the ligament was involved at that time, but we understood we were going to have to manage his elbow condition over the course of the season. So when he complained of the elbow pain, it wasn’t a surprise to us.”

* Is there any good news in all this? Alderson said if there’s a positive it is that the issue will finally be addressed, as it was with Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, and hopefully this will be the end of it. Said Alderson: “It’s a blow, but at the same time we knew there would be a lot of uncertainty surrounding Zack and his elbow over the course of the season. We’re obviously not happy he won’t be with us. But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that we now have some certainty and we have a solution for this that he won’t have to manage the kind of pain that he had to manage over the course of last season. Doing that over the course of a career is simply unsustainable.”

Manager Terry Collins said Wheeler managed discomfort last season, but what isn’t known is how adamant Wheeler was in complaining of the pain. Did he fail to disclose this, something Matt Harvey did the previous year?

Both Collins and Alderson said the two MRIs in the offseason were negative, so apparently this issue resurfaced this spring. What isn’t known is whether Wheeler threw too hard, too soon.

While Alderson addressed the obvious, something for down the road is how their pitchers throw in the offseason and the start of spring training. What exactly is the monitoring process and how can the pitchers be forced to be more open in disclosing injuries and pain?

While Alderson addressed the most pressing questions, the perception is the Mets mishandled this in not immediately getting a MRI. Again, if I were a Met pitcher and felt something wrong I would immediately want it checked out.

That’s because one critical question remains unanswered: Why does this always seem to happen to the Mets?

 

 

Mar 16

Wheeler Injury Raises Questions

When it comes to the New York Mets and injuries, specifically their pitchers, never take the initial news at face value.

NEVER.

Wheeler facing the knife.

Wheeler facing the knife.

GM Sandy Alderson was adamant initially saying Zack Wheeler didn’t need a MRI. Manager Terry Collins, after saying Wheeler had two MRIs over the winter, indicated prior to Saturday’s start, “everybody could use a little rest.’’

The Mets finally gave into common sense and Wheeler had a MRI, which showed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow that will likely require Tommy John surgery. That rest Collins was speaking of, well, we’ll get a lot between now and next spring.

“Everybody gets MRIs today,’’ Collins told reporters. “That’s the nature of the beast. You come in with an upset stomach and they give you an MRI. And then you have an abdominal strain. It’s what you do to protect yourself.’’

So, why the delay?

UNBELIEVABLE.

Just a couple of days ago, Alderson said a MRI wasn’t necessary. Today, he told reporters: “This is what happens to pitching. You see guys going down all over the place.’’

What exactly changed his mind? Could it have been the potential of negative backlash?

I’m not blaming Alderson or Collins for Wheeler’s injury, because the right thing was done in shutting him down when he reported persistent pain. But, I am criticizing them – and Wheeler, too – for downplaying this whole thing. None of the three are doctors and Wheeler especially, since it is his arm and career, should have been concerned.

However, the perception garnered from this case follows that of how the Mets handled injuries in recent years, and that’s they don’t know what they are doing.

This raises several questions:

* Collins said Wheeler managed the discomfort last season. If that’s the case, why wasn’t he shut down and examined when he first complained of pain?

* Of course, that’s predicated on whether Wheeler reported the pain in the first place. Did he fail to disclose this, something Matt Harvey did the previous year?

* Collins said Wheeler underwent two MRIs in the offseason. Why wasn’t anything discovered at that time?

* If Wheeler was clean, as Collins said, it stands to reason he injured it at the start of camp. If so, did he throw too hard, too soon? If so, why wasn’t he monitored better? If Wheeler pushed himself, why wasn’t he more careful? How come he wasn’t smarter?

* If Wheeler did everything properly this spring, it would seem this injury was “just one of those things,’’ or it was missed in the two offseason MRIs. If it is the latter, shouldn’t the Mets go back and look at that film to see if that’s the case?

* While the surface issue is Wheeler being hurt and down for the season, underneath there are a lot of nagging questions that paint the perception something was amiss in how this was handled.

When it comes to the Mets and pitching injuries, perception is reality. Bottom line, if I were a Met pitcher and felt something in my arm, I would be concerned.

Very concerned.

NOTE:  Will update later after Alderson conference call.

 

Mar 13

Memo To Alderson: Stop Treating Mets Fans Like Chumps

I understand as a longtime baseball executive, Mets GM Sandy Alderson knows more about the inner workings of the sport, and his team, than I do.

By definition, he has to.

ALDERSON: Has shades when it comes to Met fans. (AP)

ALDERSON: Has shades when it comes to Met fans. (AP)

However, I am not stupid, and I don’t think my readers are, either. Sandy, I don’t know how to build a watch, but I know how to tell time.

And, the time has come to say again Mets fans are loyal and passionate, and don’t deserve to be treated like idiots, because they are not.

In the book, “Baseball Maverick,’’ Steve Kettmann – who covered the Oakland Athletics – revealed a disturbing nugget about Alderson.

Alderson said: “Madoff wasn’t even a topic of conversation in my interview for the Mets job. I didn’t raise it. Maybe I should have. The bottom line is, I would have taken the job anyway. It just added to the challenge.’’

The reason Alderson didn’t ask about Madoff is because it wasn’t a real job interview. Of course, Alderson was going to take the job. Alderson was gift-wrapped to the Wilpons by commissioner Bud Selig, and Madoff was a non-issue.

As part of his job in the commissioner’s office, Alderson was re-assigned to be Mets’ general manager.

The Alderson-Selig-Wilpon relationship was too cozy and underscored the deserved criticism of the former commissioner in that he gave Wilpon a free pass. In doing so, it also highlighted his biased handling of the Frank McCourt case when he owned the Los Angeles Dodgers. Selig disliked McCourt intensely and wanted him out, even though his handling of the Dodgers was not as clumsy as Wilpon has been sometimes with the Mets.

Regarding the Mets’ finances over the past four years, Alderson told reporters yesterday payroll has increased by $15 million over last year. It irritates me no end to hear Alderson say the Mets’ payroll is of no relevance to him.

“I never talked about the payroll as an unfortunate limitation to us,” Alderson said. “I haven’t talked about it recently. I haven’t talked about it in the past. I don’t intend to. It’s not relevant to me.”

Let’s get this straight. Alderson is the GM of a major league baseball team and the payroll doesn’t matter to him. What then is relevant to him?

For a New York franchise supposedly on the upswing, that $15 million is a drop in the bucket, and didn’t do anything to upgrade: shortstop, the lefty situation in the bullpen and the offense.

The Mets are going with the hope of cheap patchwork from outside – Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry – the hope of injured players on the mend – David Wright and Matt Harvey – and hope of young players making progress, namely Zack Wheeler, Juan Lagares and Jacob deGrom.

But, as I’ve said before, hoping is not a viable strategy.