Feb 17

Johan Santana Has A Good Throw Day

The highlight of the day in Mets’ camp was Johan Santana’s first mound session of the spring; 20 pain-free pitches in chilly Port St. Lucie.

“This is my first time in a while, but it was fine,” Santana told reporters in Florida, where the weather has been brisk and rainy. “I don’t think it was my best or anything, but it’s Day 1. You’ve got to start at some point.

“Today was a beginning for me. … You always worry about how you feel and everything, but at the same time I was just trying to get my job done and not trying to overdo things out there.’’

Not surprisingly, the Mets’ plan is to treat Santana with kid gloves. He needs to throw again and pitch batting practice before getting into an exhibition game. Usually the first exhibition is 30 pitches or two innings, and there’s no reason to think the Mets would deviate. Normally, pitchers make six starts and up to 30 innings during spring training.

The Mets are scheduled to pay Santana $31 million this year, including a $5.5 million option. A $25 million option for 2014 kicks in if he throws 215 innings this summer, and there’s no way the Mets will let him approach that figure.

The Mets are in a difficult position because they need to move on from Santana’s contract, yet at the same time if he were healthy and productive it gives them a chance to have a competitive season. Ideally, the Mets would like to deal him, but the innings clause applies to any team that trades for him and that would make him more than just a rental.

Santana didn’t pitch in 2011 as he was rehabbing from shoulder surgery. His first season with the Mets in 2008 was his only one with the team where he made all 34 starts. He ended last season on the disabled list with lower back inflammation.

In looking at the Santana trade, it is clear the Mets overpaid, both in terms of prospects – although none panned out to have successful major league careers – and obviously in terms of salary. In looking at a trade, one must also consider the circumstances at the time.

In 2008, the Mets were coming off a historic season in which their bullpen collapsed and they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. The previous season they lost the NLCS in seven games to St. Louis. In both seasons their pitching was suspect and a workhorse was needed.

Both the Yankees and Boston were after him, but pulled out when Minnesota’s asking price was deemed to high. Then GM Omar Minaya said Santana fell back to them and he did because there was no other competition.

Feb 17

Delcos Sunday Column: Wright Being The Mets’ Jeter

As usual, David Wright was attempting to be modest when he downplayed owner Fred Wilpon’s comments this week that he “is the Mets’ Derek Jeter.’’

Statistically, there’s not a comparison, in that Jeter has over 3,000 hits and five World Series rings and is a slam dunk Hall of Famer if he didn’t play another game. Unquestionably, he’s in on the first ballot. There’s no denying is greatness as a player.

As for Wright, he hits for more power, but will have to turn it on for the remainder of his contract if he’s to catch Jeter in a number of statistical categories.

As a clutch player, Jeter has few peers.

Defensively, both are good at their positions. Both can run.

Of course, Jeter has played longer and with a better team, so his numbers would be superior.

However, Wilpon wasn’t talking about statistics. Wilpon was referring to the intangibles both bring to their respective teams. These are qualities that can’t be measured.

Jeter is the Yankees’ captain and I expect Terry Collins to make a similar appointment to Wright, although neither needs an official designation to know they are the leaders of their teams.

When something happens in baseball or with their teams, both are sought after as being the player spokesman. Writers know articles with quotes from Wright and Jeter seem to be more authoritative. When you want the temperature of the Mets, one talks to Wright. When you want it of the Yankees, Jeter is the guy.

Both are players the younger guys look up, and both have no problems calling out somebody who doesn’t hustle or makes a mistake. When a pitcher needs calming down, you’ll see both go to the mound.

Both are the respective faces of their teams. Both are their current identities. Unquestionably, both are the players the fans pay to see.

Both have the intangibles you can see and feel, but there is no statistical measure.

And, you can’t imagine either in another team’s uniform. That’s why free agency never really applied to either. Despite his coy references, you knew Jeter wasn’t going anywhere.

And, despite the Mets’ economic crunch, I never had the feeling Wright would leave on his own. Jeter will retire a Yankee and go to the Hall of Fame. Wright will retire a Met, and if he finishes the second half of his career like the first half, he too, should see Cooperstown.

That’s what Wilpon meant.

Feb 10

What To Make Of Schilling, Braun And A-Rod

There are several things I want to bring to the blog on a regular basis, something you can depend on. Beginning with a Sunday column centering on the main story of the week.

It is a shame, but the week leading up to the start of spring training was dominated by stories of PEDs. It will never end. There will always be somebody wanting to gain an edge. There will always be cheating. Is it human nature? Yeah, I think so, sadly.

First, Alex Rodriguez. Is anybody really surprised to hear he’s in trouble again? It’s bad enough to be linked again to PEDs, but to come out and say MLB and the Yankees are out to get him? Why not leave well enough alone?

He already hired a big-time lawyer, so he should let his mouthpiece do the talking for him. Sure, the Yankees will try to void his contract, but the MLB Players Association will make it a costly fight. It’s not my money, but if I ran the Yankees I’d go for it, just to send a message.

Rodriguez was not suspended after his admission, so if he’s suspended this time it will be for only 50 games. Bud Selig needs to take that step.

The decision the Yankees must make is whether they believe Rodriguez will ever be healthy enough to be a viable player again. If they decide no, then they might has well try to buy him out or release him outright rather than have him be a distraction for the next five years.

Either way, it could cost them $114 million. And, no way will Rodriguez retire and walk away from that money.

Ryan Braun is proving to be a disappointment and somebody not to be trusted. Yes, he got off on a technicality, but I’m not buying his reasoning his named popped up in the Florida case because he was getting information for his defense. If you’re Braun, you have access to the best lawyers and medical advise available. Why wouldn’t you seek help from a professional instead of going to a shady clinic in a strip mall, one with a checkered history with MLB? If nothing else, wouldn’t the Players Association give him that advice.

Finally, there’s Curt Schilling, who can be a blowhard at times. Including this one. To come out and accuse a member of the Red Sox staff of suggesting he use PEDs while standing in the middle of a crowded clubhouse is absurd.

Although Schilling didn’t mention any names – only that they were no longer with the organization – didn’t mean it couldn’t be figured out who he was talking about. It is highly unlikely, that in a crowded clubhouse, with media access that this would happen. If such a suggestion were made, it would be in private.

 

Jan 30

Yankees Need To Challenge Rodriguez’s Contract

The Yankees, hate them or not, have always set the bar and been the pacesetter.

They must now take a proactive approach with Alex Rodriguez, who is linked to an HGH provider. Rodriguez denies the claim – but lied before – and hired a top-ranked attorney to represent him.

If he’s not guilty, then why the attorney?

If he’s not guilty, then why 16 references to him in documents obtained from the HGH clinic?

The Yankees are on the hook for $114 million over the next five years. Rodriguez has been injured and on a downhill slide for several seasons. To think he’ll rebound into a prolific slugger again is naïve.

Rodriguez admitted using steroids from 2001-2003, but said he never used them with the Yankees or prior to those dates. He had, however, repeatedly denied using them before his confession.

His credibility and believability has long been shot that he’ll never be given the benefit of doubt.

It is easy to say the Yankees made a stupid signing – they should have let him walk when they had the chance – but in fairness they have an argument in claiming they were defrauded.

There seems to be enough evidence to connect Rodriguez to PEDs after his admission. The Yankees extended Rodriguez because they knew the value of him on YES chasing the all-time home run record. In his prime, Rodriguez would have been worth it to them.

However, Rodriguez’s body is breaking down and it isn’t a reach to suggest steroid usage is a contributing factor. If he used HGH while with the Yankees then they aren’t getting the real thing.

That raises an interesting question: What is the real thing with Rodriguez?

We can’t assume it was the Seattle years any longer. We can’t assume it was his early years with the Yankees. I can’t believe it was just a lapse in judgment while in Texas.

What I believe is Rodriguez misled a lot of people, including the Yankees when they signed him. It will be costly, but so is paying off Rodriguez over the next five years and getting nothing.

They must challenge the validity of his contract and attempt to void it, or if nothing else, negotiate a buy out. They need to play hardball.

If they do nothing, Rodriguez will get paid this season (although the Yankees could recoup some of his salary with insurance). Should Rodriguez stay, he will be stung by the booing and it will impact his production. But, he doesn’t care if it doesn’t impact his paycheck.

Through the years the Yankees made several mistakes with Rodriguez. They shouldn’t compound them by not acting now.

Jan 29

Alex Rodriguez In PED Trouble Again

This much we can say about Major League Baseball’s drug policy. It is working. Players are failing tests and being suspended. And, accusations of players using performance-enhancing drugs at an anti-aging clinic in Miami are being investigated.

A-ROD: Not smiling today.

A-ROD: Not smiling today.

Also clear is PEDs won’t go away, with players thinking the risk of being caught and docked 50 games pay is worth it for the performance numbers and an enhanced contract.

There is no greater example than Melky Cabrera, who paid his fine and sat out 50 games and the postseason only to be rewarded with a two-year, $16-million contract.

Perhaps, what should be open for discussion is to strengthen the penalties.

Alex Rodriguez, who admitted using steroids from 2001-2003 before joining the Yankees, yet vehemently denied taking the drug. He finally came clean. To clean your system of drugs permanently, you have to stop taking any, and Rodriguez hasn’t really done that.

He along with Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Gio Gonzalez, were linked by a Miami News Times report they sold performance-enhancing drugs. Reportedly, Rodriguez used human growth hormones.

In material supplied the paper from an employee at the clinic, Rodriguez’s name appeared 16 times. Rodriguez retained heavyweight lawyer Roy Black, who denied the Yankee third baseman used. Even so, 16 mentions represent more than a coincidence.

The documents indicate Rodriguez’s alleged use of HGH began in 2009, the year he helped carry the Yankees to a World Series title.

Rodriguez, who recently underwent hip surgery (his second), might not be able to play this season. If found guilty of HGH use he won’t be suspended 50 games while on the disabled use, but could be fined 50 games salary.

Rodriguez once took great care in protecting his image, but that doesn’t appear the case anymore after being caught in Toronto with a stripper while still married, high-profile relationships with actresses while at the same time attempting to pick up women from the dugout in the ALCS.

Now comes this. As of now, the man many thought could become the all-time home run champion is hurt, connected to PEDs a second time. Rodriguez has his hired gun, but there is over $100 million at stake for the remainder of his contract. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Yankees explore their legal options under the presumption they were mislead when they signed Rodriguez, thinking he was clean.

Teams have been reluctant to challenge players on this issue because of the strength of the MLB Players Association. Now might be the time to go to court.