Mar 07

Good Idea To Ease In David Wright

There will be a David Wright sighting this afternoon for the New York Mets. Manager Terry Collins, referring to an oblique strain in previous springs, took the approach of easing Wright and Daniel Murphy into the lineup this spring.

WRIGHT: Easing into it. (AP)

WRIGHT: Easing into it. (AP)

My first impression is Wright doesn’t need to be rushed and if this helps him stay healthy, I’m behind it all the way. Spring training is a grind as it is, so resting is a good strategy since Wright will get the necessary at-bats needed to get ready.

“Spring training is so long. It’s really for the pitchers’ benefit, to get them stretched out,’’ Wright said earlier this week. “Terry approached me even during the offseason and kind of told me, `Don’t be surprised if in spring training I slow you down a little bit and push you back.’

“The last couple of years I’ve had the abdominal/oblique injuries. So to kind of slow it up this year, to kind of take those baby steps before ramping it up, I think helps me out.’’

Hitters normally get close to 90 at-bats in the spring. If they feel like it isn’t enough, they can always be scheduled in simulated games where they can get up to seven in a game. Wright, as he usually does, shows up several weeks earlier. He’s been taking batting practice since the Super Bowl.

“I felt like I got good work in,’’ Wright said. “I felt I’m a lot more prepared now than I have been in recent spring trainings to enter games, and I think I’ll get a little more out of it.’’

Wright’s work entails hitting, defense and conditioning. It’s been a concentrated effort since the games began; an effort he wouldn’t have been able to do had he been playing all this time.

There has been more intense training this spring compared to last year because then he was playing in the World Baseball Classic.

As always, everything is up for review. If, during the season, Wright feels fresher, then this has been a good routine. If he doesn’t feel as sharp at the start of the season, he can always change next year.

Either way, this is a useful experiment.

 

Mar 29

Did Mets Win Santana Deal And Contract?

With Johan Santana’s season and possibly career over, it might be time to wonder if the Mets won the trade and subsequent contract signing.

Was he worth it, or does he fall into the Jason Bay-Oliver Perez category?

SANTANA: Bargain or bust?

SANTANA: Bargain or bust?

For the cost of $137.5 million, Santana never pitched in a playoff game for the Mets and each winter his health was in issue. However, it is unfair to label him a bust, because unlike Bay, he produced when healthy. And, unlike Perez, there was never an issue of his effort or competitive nature.

Never was that in doubt. Not after pitching Game 161 in 2008 on an injured knee. There can be no question of his dedication in spending nearly two years rehabilitating his shoulder. There can be no question of his grit as he showed the night he threw 134 pitches in the only no-hitter in franchise history.

Getting a pitcher of Santana’s caliber was a no-brainer because with how the 2007 season ended for the Mets, blowing a seven-game lead with 17 remaining, pitching was a necessity.

However, a case can be made they overpaid, perhaps in prospects and definitely in terms of money.

At the time, the Yankees and Red Sox were engaged in a game of chicken with Minnesota for Santana’s services. Both deemed the Twins’ asking price too high and backed off to let the Mets swoop in.

However, the Mets didn’t read the market correctly. Although there was no competition for Santana, they still surrendered prospects Deolis GuerraCarlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey.

Humber pitched a perfect game and Gomez – once one of the Mets’ three prized outfield prospects – is still in the major leagues.

Whether the Mets gave up too much in talent is up for debate, but the money was clearly too much. It wasn’t as if they were in a bidding war with anybody, so that makes $137.5 million exorbitant, especially since Santana had a history of arm injuries with the Twins.

On those nights when Santana was at the top of his game, he was a joy to watch. The initial shoulder injury was just the nature of the sport. However, this last spring was a study in frustration. There was the snit over Sandy Alderson’s comments that prompted Santana to throw off the mound when he wasn’t ready.

Did Santana re-tear his shoulder that day? Nobody knows for sure, but it didn’t help.

With hindsight being 20/20, maybe the Mets should have let Santana pitch in the World Baseball Classic. At least, that way his contract would have been insured.

In the end, Santana pitched only one complete season with the Mets, and they only had one winning year with him.

All for the paltry sum of $137.5 million. Not exactly hitting the jackpot.

Mar 26

Encouraging News For Wright; Opening Day A Possibility

After he played in a minor league game today, the Mets softened their position on whether David Wright could be ready for Opening Day. When Wright was pulled from the World Baseball Classic last week, manager Terry Collins was thinking a month. Not any longer.

“I would not be surprised if David Wright is there Opening Day,’’ Collins told reporters today. “There will be a lot of things considered here on Thursday or Friday.’’

The Mets are doing the right thing in that both Wright and Murphy are playing in minor league games, so if there was a setback and they had to start the season on the disabled list it could be backdated into spring training.

Among the variables Collins will consider is the weather, as the intercostal muscles both are fighting could be vulnerable to further injury in the cold.

Both players were 1-for-5 today.

THE GAME: The Mets were ripped today, 11-4, by St. Louis, but the most thing to take from the game was Jeremy Hefner – who’ll replace Johan Santana in the rotation and on the roster – left early with a bone bruise on his right elbow.

On a bright note, Lucas Duda had three more hits, including his fifth homer, to raise his average to .302.

Mar 25

Did Santana Commit Career Suicide?

Santana10

HOW MUCH IS SANTANA CAUSE OF HIS OWN PROBLEMS?

When Johan Santana said he doesn’t know when he will pitch again, it isn’t inconceivable it could be never.

Santana’s left shoulder is not getting better and it isn’t unfair to wonder if the prideful or stubborn lefthander – take your pick – may have committed career suicide on March 3, a quiet Sunday that turned into one of the Mets’ loudest days of spring training.

The day after GM Sandy Alderson said he thought the Mets’ $31-million commitment was at least ten days from getting on the mound and not in good shape, Santana took it upon himself to prove him and the questioning media wrong.

Now, there’s no longer doubt of him staying in Florida or being on the Opening Day roster.

“I’ve just got to stay here and work out and get ready,’’ Santana told reporters over the weekend. “… I’m making progress. It’s just I don’t know when I’m going to be pitching again. That’s the thing: We cannot think ahead. The way we’re approaching everything is every day make sure we have a good day.’’

Too bad he wasn’t thinking that way when he expressed displeasure in not playing in the World Baseball Classic, and later anger at Alderson. Who knows what went through Santana’s mind when he took the mound with an “I’ll show you’’ chip on his shoulder.

How can there be progress when he can’t think ahead? How can there be progress when his shoulder isn’t close?

Since that day, Santana threw a light session, but was scratched from a start and has been reduced to 90-foot long tossing. Do you realize how far away that distance is from a regular season game?

He must gradually build up to 180 feet, and after cleared at that distance will he be allowed on the mound. Then, it’s throwing batting practice and building his pitch count up to 100. Manager Terry Collins said Santana needs to go through a spring training, which is six weeks. But, that clock doesn’t start until he gets on the mound, and nobody can say when that will be.

That’s progress?

And, that’s assuming there are no setbacks, of which there have been several during this struggle since shoulder surgery in September of 2010 to repair a torn anterior capsule.

Of course, it is hard to pinpoint an exact time when a pitcher’s million-dollar arm turns to ten cents. There was the injury in 2010, but Santana had issues with his shoulder in Minnesota before the trade to the Mets.

The wear and tear on a major league pitcher’s arm begins with the first pitch. Santana made 34 starts in 2008, his first year with the Mets, but had surgery in the off-season and hasn’t come close to pitching a full season since.

After two winters of rehab, Santana made it back last year with initial success, including a controversial no-hitter, the only one in franchise history.

Did Collins make a mistake leaving Santana in for 134 pitches, thinking he was giving the pitcher a shot at a career moment and Mets’ fans their lone bright spot in what would be a dark summer?

Of course, Santana didn’t want to come out, and no pitcher admits to being tired, but this was different. Had the no-hitter not been on the table Santana never would have continued pitching. His summer quickly unraveled and included a career-worst six-game losing streak.

After two winters of rehab, Santana, with the Mets’ knowledge, did not have a normal offseason. Then again, nothing has been routine about his winters since 2007 as there has been an injury issue each year.

“I’ve been in this game for a while,’’ Santana said. “I went through that [surgery] a couple of years ago and I’m still here. So I’m going to battle and try to come back and help as much as I can. When that is going to happen, I don’t really know.’’

Several questions are raised through Santana’s uncertainty. How much did the no-hitter hurt him? How carefully was Santana monitored in the offseason? Did going slower backfire? It is easy to suggest the no-hitter hurt, but how much did Santana contribute to his own demise this spring?

“I’m just building up my strength and throwing more volume,’’ Santana said. “… With injuries you never know. I got to spring training feeling good. And then, once I started getting to pitch and stuff and I got on the mound, I didn’t feel I was making progress.’’

If he didn’t believe he was making progress, then why consider the WBC?  More to the point, if he wasn’t making progress why did he get on the mound March 3, when his manager wasn’t expecting him to throw for nearly two weeks?

What forced him, pride or anger? Perhaps, he simply ran out of patience waiting to find out if he’ll ever make it back.

Santana might finally have his answer.

Mar 02

Trying To Understand The World Baseball Classic; David Wright Departs

David Cone once told me there could never be a true World Series after the real one because there are only so many pitches in an arm.

It just wouldn’t be practical for one to put his career in jeopardy for a mythical world tournament. Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander – neither of whom are in the World Baseball Classic – instead remain in their spring training camps preparing to pitch for teams that pay them.

WRIGHT: Playing for USA

WRIGHT: Playing for USA (AP)

Make no mistake, the World Baseball Classic is about two clashing financial perspectives. First, there is the noble objective of trying to promote baseball globally, and yes, that means selling even more Yankees and Dodgers caps in countries where the $20 to buy such a hat could more than feed a family for a week.

The other financial viewpoint is from the athletes who are training for their jobs. Mike Trout, arguably the best player in the sport last year, isn’t playing. There are dozens of others staying home.

David Wright is going. This is important to him.

However, baseball is not like soccer or basketball, sports that can be played in a tournament format. Excellence in baseball takes a month in the United States, with three levels of competition. And, that’s with ten teams.

To do a baseball justice on a world stage would require at least two months, not the two weeks they are trying to jam this in.

And, can it be a true tournament if many of the best players in the major leagues aren’t present? Another thing I find puzzling is why don’t the major leaguers – who represent teams in the United States – not play just for the United States. There is not even a masking of their loyalties.

Johan Santana wanted to play for Venezuela, his native country and not for the United States, the home of his employer who will pay him $31 million this season whether he throws a pitch or not.

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