Reactions to the Putz Affair
The fallout from J.J. Putz’s comments about his injured elbow has been substantial — seemingly everyone has an opinion on who was right, wrong, negligent, distrustful, unbecoming, irresponsible, and so forth.
Lennon’s take was even-handed and unbiased, putting blame on no parties (Putz, the Mets, nor the Mariners).
The bone spur was never a secret, but even Putz admitted the Mariners told him he didn’t need surgery — shortly before shipping him to the Mets. Was that a ploy by Seattle to get something for him with a ticking bomb inside his elbow? Maybe. …
The bottom line is that the Mets chose to take that gamble and got burned by it. Any supposedly “healthy” pitcher will tell you they have no idea what is actually happening inside their elbow or shoulder unless they have an X-Ray or MRI. In most instances, there probably is something floating around or torn and they don’t want to know. But they have to continue to pitch until it is impossible to do so. It’s their job. …
In hindsight, should the Mets have made the trade in the first place? Well, Putz looked nasty in spring training and threw in the upper 90s during the World Baseball Classic, so he seemed OK then. Again, with a bone spur in the elbow, it was just a matter of time. If Putz made it through the season, it would have worth the risk.
Fair enough. The only part with which I disagree is the idea that Putz looked “nasty” in spring training and the WBC — I remember the spring quite differently. Going back to the archives, I was reminded that Putz’s velocity topped out around 94 MPH in the WBC — strong, but still below the advertised “upper 90s”. That peak came only after the big bright red flag waved a week earlier, when Putz couldn’t break 90 MPH in a WBC appearance nor in a Port St. Lucie exhibition game.
As something of an addendum to Lennon’s column is the unique perspective shared by Sikes — someone who is more qualified than any of us to speak on the subject of injured players.
… the Mets did an MRI on Putz before they let him go the the WBC. Putz said nothing of this in his interview. To say the Mets mishandled or mistreated him is false. They took a chance that Putz’s elbow would be a non-factor and probably relied on much of what they Mariners were telling them.
Pitchers frequently pitch with spurs or chips present within the elbow’s hinge joint. Unless problems begin – meaning pain – they are allowed to pitch. But when a pitcher begins hurting, it’s shut down time. As in Putz case and from the timeline that Janish provided, it appears that the bone spur that Putz developed is something we see quite frequently. To make a comparison, the development is similar to that of heal spurs after years of plantar fascitis on the bottom of a foot. We often inject painful heal spurs with some success.
Unlike a shoulder where a bursa sack can be injected, the elbow does not provide such an effective target for cortisone. Putz received an injection last year in May last year likely intended to decrease the spur.
The easiest path has been to jump in another public Mets beat down and I would have if the medical staff hadn’t done an MRI prior to Putz going off to the WBC. A larger issue that provides much more interesting dynamics comes up when one notes the large number of Mets whom participated in the WBC suffered season ending injuries last season.
Sikes begins to open another can of worms — the WBC itself — but before that gives a pass to the Mets’ medical staff, since they did their due diligence in ordering the MRI before the Classic. The problem, though, is that by then it was too late — why wasn’t there an MRI done prior to the trade?
Another bit gleaned from Sikes’ commentary is in regard to “pain” and “shut down time”. If it’s true that a pitcher with spurs and chips can continue pitching until pain sets in, then why wasn’t Putz shut down in March, April, or May, when he was feeling pain? More to the point, if the Mets were aware of this “ticking time bomb”, why in the world did Jerry Manuel overuse him in the first two months of the season — using him in 19 of the team’s first 33 games and, at one point, allowing him to throw 144 pitches in a seven-game stretch over 12 days? (Manuel, of course, thought we all were “confused”.)
The Mets problems with their handling of personnel — particularly in regard to injuries — isn’t going away. More and more it is becoming clear that the problem is not with the medical staff, but with the people that the medical staff reports to — i.e., the “powers that be”. This latest debacle concerning J.J. Putz is just the tip of the iceberg.