Browsing Archive August, 2009

Mets Forgot About Johan Santana’s Elbow

During the team’s conference call with the press today, Ben Shpigel asked Omar Minaya if Johan Santana’s elbow issue was related in any way to the discomfort he felt back in February. Minaya was stunned by the question — he had not remembered the elbow problem, stating that “spring training was a long time ago”. Later, Minaya said that the “spring training problem” had “more to do with Santana’s knee”.

Wow … and we wonder why the Mets’ medical issues have been such a problem this year. If the team can’t remember their $137.5M investment and ace pitcher had elbow issues, how can they possibly deal with the phyical problems of “lesser” players?

Now we understand why Jose Reyes played on a bad hammy, Carlos Beltran on a bad knee, and J.J. Putz with a bad elbow (among others) — the Mets simply “forgot” those players were injured!

Another strange quote by Minaya … after being asked why Santana wasn’t shut down earlier in the season — since he hasn’t thrown in between starts since June — Minaya’s response was:

“That’s why we’re shutting him down now. … After his last start is when he brought it up.”

Um …. huh?

In any case, Johan Santana was seen by Dr. David Altcheck, and the result of the examination is that Santana has bone chips in his elbow. He will have season-ending surgery to remove the chips.

There has been no confirmation one way or the other as to whether Santana had an MRI — only that he saw Dr. Altcheck. Strange, no?

Minaya also announced that Oliver Perez would be heading back to New York to have his knee examined. No word on whether Perez would also have his head examined, unfortunately.

Further, Minaya confirmed the Billy Wagner trade, and said that both Pat Misch and Nick Evans would be activated.

Finally, J.J. Putz will NOT pitch tonight in Brooklyn as scheduled. The Mets are going to “play it safe” with Putz and have him wait a little longer before throwing in a live game.

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Billy Wagner Agrees to Trade?

TheRopolitans has three sources confirming that Billy Wagner has agreed to a trade to the Boston Red Sox.

So far no official word from the Mets, though it could be coming soon.

No word on who the PTBNL will be, either. But since the Red Sox are taking on all of the rest of Wagner’s contract, and presumably agreeing to the lefthander’s demands regarding his option and arbitration, I get the feeling that the players will not be top-10 prospects.

Strange deal for the Red Sox, considering these caveats:

– Wagner can only pitch once every 3 days
– Wagner insisted that his option for next year NOT be picked up, so he can become a free agent
Wagner also insisted that he not be offered arbitration, so the team who signs him won’t relinquish a draft pick
– The Red Sox are taking on all of the rest of Wagner’s 2009 salary (roughly $2.7M + $1M buyout)

A healthy Wagner who can set up for Jonathan Papelbon 3-4 times a week could be a difference-maker. But a recovering Wagner who can only pitch one or possibly twice a week at most is not likely to have an impact on the stretch run.

Trading Wags means the Mets get his $2.7M off the books plus the $1M buyout that they would have had to pay if they chose not to pick up his $8M option. However, it also means the Mets will need to think long and hard about picking up J.J. Putz’s $8.6M option — if they don’t, then who is the setup man in 2010?

We won’t know how to evaulate this trade until the players coming from Boston are identified; I imagine we won’t hear about them until after the season.

** UPDATE **

Via Twitter, Bart Hubbach of the NY Post suggests that the Mets will receive two AA players, and that the Bosox WILL offer Wags arbitration (and thus get the draft picks when he signs elsewhere). Per Hubbach:

The Mets are getting two AA-level prospects. The Red Sox agreed to decline Wagner’s option but are retaining draft-pick compensation.

The top prospect on the Red Sox AA team (the Portland Sea Dogs) is 22-year-old 1B Lars Anderson, but I doubt they’d give him up for a one-month rental.

** ANOTHER UPDATE **

David Lefort of Boston.com has this to say about the players going to the Mets:

It is not expected that any more than one of the two players the Sox are giving up will come from the 40-man roster, and neither is considered an upper-tier prospect.

Translation: the Mets are likely to receive filler material. I’m betting on RHP Bryce Cox and catcher Juan Apodaca. Time will tell.

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1969 Mets Game 123: Win Over Dodgers

Mets 7 Dodgers 4

The love-hate relationship between Ron Swoboda and the Shea faithful continues.

Swoboda swatted a screwball from the hand of Jim Brewer with the bases juiced in the seventh to send home three runners and give the Mets a 6-4 lead they wouldn’t relinquish — much to the delight of the 48,435 fans at Shea Stadium, who showered him with applause.

Initially the recipient of catcalls and boos, “Rocky” was in the middle of everything in this contest, or so it seemed. He walked with the bases loaded in the first to give the Mets and Gary Gentry a 1-0 lead, and in the sixth, with LA up by one, Swoboda threw out speedster Willie Crawford attempting to go from first to third on a single by Ted Sizemore.

Gentry was hit hard by the suddenly potent Dodgers lineup, and removed after allowing 4 runs on 7 hits in only 4 2/3 innings — an outburst highlighted by Wes Parker’s 13th homer of the year, a towering, 2-run blast in the third. Jack DiLauro put out the fire in the fifth and held the Dodgers scoreless in the sixth before yielding to Cal Koonce, who won his sixth straight game in relief.

Notes

Swoboda — who was 2-for-3 on the day with 4 RBI — started against a righthander (Don Sutton) for the third straight game, and I’m wondering how Gil Hodges comes up with these hunches. Sutton is a curveball specialist — the kind Swoboda has struggled against all year — and Rocky is only hitting .243. At least Hodges isn’t taking at-bats away from Art Shamsky, who started at 1B and went 2-for-5 in the cleanup spot. Though, getting Swoboda and Shamsky in the lineup does mean that Eddie Kranepool rides the bench. Kranepool was starting to get it going last week but went cold again — he’s 0 for his last 9. It’s been that kind of year for the 24-year-old, and one wonders if he’ll ever hit enough to play first base in the big leagues.

Jerry Grote struck three singles, scored twice, and drove in a run — but was victimized by the base thefts of Maury Wills and Willie Davis. Cleon Jones also had three hits.

Davis had two hits, extending his hitting streak to 22 games.

Nolan Ryan is pulling extra duty on his reserve hitch so he can be available for the entire month of September, weekends included. Something tells me the Mets will be happy to have the young fireballer available down the stretch.

The Mets closed a wildly successful homestand with nine wins against one loss, and now head to the West Coast — against whom they are 21-5.

Scoreboard Watching

The Cubs split a doubleheader with the Astros. In the opener, Ernie Banks hit his 492nd and 493rd career homers, tying him for ninth place with Lou Gehrig.

The Cubs are now 79-49, eight wins better than the Mets’ 71-52, but the key number is in the loss column. The Mets can always win more games but the Cubs can’t lose less. It’s only taken a week to see Chicago’s season-high, 9-game lead shrink to 5. If the Mets can keep up this pace they may pull off a miracle comparable to Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.

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Johan Santana To Have Elbow Examined

As if the Mets’ injury problems couldn’t get any worse, it’s been announced that Johan Santana will miss Tuesday night’s start in Miami and have his elbow checked out by physician David Altcheck.

According to Mets manager Jerry Manuel:

“He has not been throwing between starts for quite awhile,” New York manager Jerry Manuel said Monday after his team’s 6-2 loss to Philadelphia. “I would say since before the All-Star break. He has been pitching with this problem, but not with the level of discomfort he has now. … Now, it concerns him.”

Since before the All-Star break, eh? Suddenly, Santana’s inconsistent command and velocity issues are explained.

You may remember that we discussed the possibility of an elbow injury right here at MetsToday back on June 15th.

To refresh your memory:

In the case Johan, he has had both a loss of command and velocity. From what I’ve seen, he’s also been throwing more pitches, and had a different approach from previous years, in that he’s been more aggressive about getting batters to swing and miss, as opposed to “pitching to contact” on occasion. As a result, he’s been throwing more sliders, which tend to put more strain on the elbow and forearm. Again, this is what my eyes tell me …

What does it mean? My best guess is that Johan is hiding an issue with his arm. He’s too much of a competitor to use it as an excuse, and he’s too intent on fulfilling the value of his contract and filling the role of “the franchise”, to consider taking off a few starts. He has watched so many players go on the DL, he may feel obligated to pitch through pain — the old concept of the captain must go down with the ship.

You may or may not also remember that Johan had an issue with his elbow in spring training, which some people thought may have been “made up” as an excuse to miss the World Baseball Classic. (You may also remember that the Mets scheduled, and then canceled, an MRI on his elbow back in February.) Now we may wonder if indeed Santana has had an elbow problem all year. Further, I wonder if his first two months of lights-out performances were thanks to the Mets’ magic needle — a cortisone shot. With nearly every injury that’s been reported this season, the first treatment has been a shot. That said it wouldn’t be surprising if Johan received one to provide temporary relief, and put off the inevitable.

In any case, Johan will not pitch on Tuesday night, and regardless of what the doctor says, it behooves the Mets to shut down Santana for the remainder of his senseless season. After all, there are at least four more years and about $100M left on his contract.

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Mets Game 125: Loss to Phillies

Phillies 6 Mets 2

So much for playing the spoiler.

The Mets managed to lose three out of four against the NL East-leading Phillies, helping their arch-rivals extend their cushion over the second-place Atlanta Braves and set the stage for a September runaway.

Bobby Parnell plunked the first batter he faced, allowed a three-run homer a few minutes later, and eventually escaped a five-frame effort with five runs, four hits, three walks, and three strikeouts on his line. Parnell was blasted twice by Ryan Howard, who deposited souvenirs in both the left- and right-field stands.

Not that it would’ve mattered had Parnell pitched well. The Mets offense garnered only two unearned runs on six hits off starter and winner Cliff Lee, and came up empty against the Philadelphia bullpen.

Notes

The Mets are now 16.5 games out of first place. At this rate, they could be mathematically eliminated by early September.

Cliff Lee is now 5-0 as a Phillie, allowing only 3 earned runs in 40 IP. So far, that deadline deal is looking pretty good for GM Ruben Amaro.

Gary Sheffield was the only Met with two hits, though he was brutal in left field.

Both sides played the ball like it was a hot potato in the first few innings, with Chase Utley committing two errors in the first inning — one that allowed Angel Pagan to reach base and another that let him score.

Billy Wagner pitched the eighth, striking out two and walking one.

There were no triple plays executed in the contest.

Next Mets Game

The Mets fly to Florida for a three-game series with the Marlins that begins on Tuesday night at 7:10 PM. Nelson Figueroa most likely will take Johan Santana’s spot while Sean West pitches for the Fish.

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Jeff Francoeur Has Torn Thumb

francoeur-diveAlthough the x-rays proved negative for breaks, an MRI has shown that Jeff Francoeur has torn ligaments in his thumb, the result of a sliding catch made over the weekend.

However, he is not expected to miss significant time. Alex Cora played with similarly torn ligaments in his thumbs, and Francoeur is just as tough — even if his nickname is “Frenchy”.

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Why the Mets May Consider Tony LaRussa

tony-larussaTony LaRussa is currently busy leading his St. Louis Cardinals into the postseason. But he could be on table of discussion in the Mets front office right now.

After two consecutive collapses and a godawful premiere season in their brand-new, billion-dollar ballpark, the Mets have to do something signficant to win back season-ticket sales their fans in 2010. They absolutely cannot stand pat, or make a few minor changes. In order to sell tickets compete in 2010, they have to make a sales-inspiring announcement drastic change at some point this winter.

But what can they do? If they were tightening the purse strings last winter — BEFORE the Madoff scandal came to light — then certainly they won’t have much money to spend this offseason. So forget about the Mets bidding for the services of Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. In fact, I’d be surprised if they have the money or gumption to go after Chone Figgins, John Lackey, or Rich Harden. My guess? We’ll see Mark DeRosa, Xavier Nady, Jon Garland, Benji Molina, Nick Johnson, and Jason Marquis on their radar. Nice complementary pieces, but hardly impact players.

Further, the Mets have next to nothing to offer in trade for a big-name player. No one of value is healthy enough nor expendable, and they’ll get lambasted if they empty their farm system for one player for the third consecutive winter. So, with no big trades and no big free agent signings on the horizon, the Mets will have to try another route to the back pages.

They will start by promoting John Ricco, either to GM or some kind of parallel position to Omar Minaya. With their budgetary concerns, I would be surprised to see them eat the rest of Minaya’s contract — particularly if they plan to eat Jerry Manuel’s. At the same time I don’t see them spending big bucks to lure Pat Gillick out of retirement, or hiring another big-name GM. They won’t do that because a) they don’t want to spend the money; and b) Jeff Wilpon wants to remain the puppet-master. So forget about the nonsense of bringing in a strong-minded personality such as Billy Beane or Bobby Valentine.

Instead, they’ll do the financially prudent move of keeping Minaya in the organization — in some type of “player evaluation” capacity — and promoting Ricco to GM. Such a decision will be a cheap way of making it look like things are changing, and they’ll spin it by positioning Ricco as a young Brian Cashman or Theo Epstein — a numbers-crunching uber-geek who can use his calculator to lead the Mets into the Promised Land. Maybe he can do that, who knows? … but the decision will be financially motivated, and in keeping with the “Jeff’s in charge” theme.

Still, a change in GM and a few mildly impressive free-agent signings won’t be enough to stimulate season-ticket sales improve the 2010 Mets. Soon after Ricco is promoted, expect to see Manuel ousted and replaced with Tony LaRussa.

LaRussa is most likely a bad fit for the bright hot lights of New York City — he barely gets through the mild-mannered press and forgiving fans in St. Louis. But convincing LaRussa to manage the Mets (3 years / $18M?) will be much cheaper than signing a big-name free-agent. Most importantly, it will be seen as a major change in “the right direction” — substantial enough on its own to sell season tickets position them as a contender.

I could be wrong — the Mets may not have enough money to even afford LaRussa. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see a scenario similar to this unfold in the offseason. If not LaRussa, then another big name that won’t cost a fortune (in comparison to an impact free agent). Perhaps Lou Piniella is let out of his Cubs contract, or Frank Robinson comes out of retirement. Or maybe they do something completely off the wall and hire Gary Carter or Wally Backman (not likely). Whatever it is the Mets do, it will be newsworthy, but unlikely to break the bank.

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