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August 27, 2009

Under The Knife

History or Hyperbole?

by Will Carroll

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I hate to keep blowing up story lines about the Mets, but the facts don't match the hyperbole. The Mets' luck this season has been terrible, no question, with the value lost exceeding that of any other team. Still, this is hardly historic. We'd have to go all the way back to... well, 2008 to find numbers so bad. The Dodgers and Cardinals from last season both lost more in terms of salary and value, both on a raw total and a percentage basis, so while the Mets' situation is bad, it's just not the kind of _____ bad that every story seems to want to make it out to be. Fill in that blank with whatever adjective you like-historically, biblically, whatever-and you get a good story, but one that doesn't help us to understand that this run of injuries is inexplicable, but hardly unprecedented. That said...

Johan Santana (10/4)
... there still are what seems to be a plague of injuries every day. The news on Santana was exactly what I'd expected and had talked about as a possibility since he came over from Minnesota. Put simply, bone chips tend to recur, and his occasional struggles with pain in the elbow indicated that this was coming. He'll have the elbow cleaned out and be ready to go by spring training. Since he's had this before, Santana will know exactly what to expect, and should have an easy rehab experience. The questions about allowing him to pitch through this ring a bit hollow to me. Santana was effective this season, whether you look at a 13-9 record that's very good considering the team and its defense, or some of the more advanced numbers where he rates higher than Josh Beckett and CC Sabathia in some measures. On a simpler basis, he had two great starts in August and two lesser ones, but hardly any disastrous outings. It's hard to say that the Mets did anything wrong here from a medical basis.

Oliver Perez (10/4)
Jeff Francoeur (10/4)

Of course, there are two more surgeries to discuss for the Mets, both of the season-ending variety. Oliver Perez will have his knee opened up in hopes that his chronic patellar tendinitis can be dealt with. This season has been a washout for Perez after signing his big contract, but the more I look back at the starts that he made this season, the more I'm left wondering if the knee isn't the biggest reason for this. A lot of people, including me, wondered about the convenient timing of his first DL stint, but I've gone back and watched several of his early-season starts; while it's difficult to learn much from game video, especially watching someone as inconsistent as Perez, the knee does look to be an issue, buckling at times and forcing him to adjust to try and take pressure off of it. If surgery can correct it, Perez has a chance to come back next year and surprise. The Mets have also lost Francoeur for the season, as his torn thumb ligament will require surgery to reconnect, a relatively simple procedure that will have him ready for the start of 2010.

Jorge Posada (8/28)
The Yankees got a big win over the Rangers, but Posada took another foul tip off of his hand. Posada's 29 percent stolen-base kill rate ranks with Joe Mauer's and is slightly better than Jose Molina's, especially impressive given all of his shoulder issues. He's taking a beating on his hand, however, which makes me wonder if there's not some way to protect it. Sure, it's one thing to say "put it behind your leg," Johnny Bench-style, but why cant there be a padded pocket on the uniform leg? A catcher could quickly get his hand out, but have it protected just the same. Posada shouldn't miss much time, though watch to see if the swelling and pain affects his grip and therefore his batting. Joe Girardi understands the problems a catcher has to play with, so watch for Posada to get some extra days off in September.

Andruw Jones (9/15)
The hamstring injury to Jones is more significant than originally thought. He played through a sore hamstring for the last few weeks, but appears to have torn it significantly on Sunday. The team still hopes that he can come back sometime in September, but the roster for the contending Rangers has been in constant motion this season. Jones has certainly outperformed low expectations this year, as his '09 line looks like it would fit right in with his Atlanta years (adjusted for playing time and age), and showing that, yes, there was something left in him. Injuries like this one will hurt his marketability, but as a part-time player with a reasonable contract, a bit of missed time isn't as significant a factor. I won't pretend I know what Jones will do a few years from now, but I can see him playing a Moises Alou role for a couple of seasons. More immediately, he should be back in mid-September to help the Rangers.

Adam Jones (8/28)
Things seem to be clearing up for the Orioles' Jones and his back, but is this the sign of things to come? Young players with back problems aren't players you want to invest in long-term, so for one with as much talent and upside as Jones, this is a major concern. Jones has a known, chronic hip issue and there's certainly a chance that the two issues are interrelated in some manner. It's the same body, after all. Jones thinks he'll be able to play today, but the O's have every reason to be conservative here, so maybe the weekend would be a better goal. It's better for you to let him play a game or two and make sure he's back before putting him in for your daily fantasy leagues. The longer-term implications are less clear. Jones is never going to be a risk-free player, but it sure seems like he's a darn good one.

Johnny Cueto (8/31)
I've long ceased trying to figure out what Dusty Baker's thinking, and I'm going to give up trying to read tea leaves on the Reds as well. I don't know why they have Cueto out there, getting ready for a weekend start at this stage in the season. I realize they need pitchers, and to create some positives this season, but Cueto has given every sign that he's hit a wall in the second half. Whether it's the hip or the shoulder that's the real problem, the Reds are giving nice lip service to "preserving" their young starter without seemingly understanding what goes into that process. Baker talks about his low pitch counts in the second half, but Cueto hasn't been good enough to stay out there long enough to rack up high counts. If we assume the best and that Cueto is simply fatigued, then the additional stress of pitching while fatigued might push him more towards damaging his arm. With Edinson Volquez gone for next year and this season long since hopeless, the Reds seem to be looking for a positive so hard that they're willing to risk a big negative.

Nick Johnson (9/5)
So the Marlins waited until the last minute to put Johnson on the DL, as the retroactive move went back nine days, meaning that he could come back from the DL as soon as next week. Still, it's difficult for the Marlins or Johnson himself to get a good handle on where he is in the healing process. Johnson says he's seeing "some progress," but that he's not functional yet. Given the self-reporting, it's easy to see that this is the typical slow recovery for Johnson. There's not much that anyone can do about that, including Johnson, so the team is playing it smart. The problem is that by the time he's ready it might be too late for the Marlins, who can use all the offensive help they can get.

Mike Hampton (10/4)
Hampton is trying the latest thing, PRP injections, in trying to avoid a record-tying 95th surgery. OK, it might not be quite that many, but it seems that way, doesn't it? His shoulder has a significant tear, but given his age and history, trying everything isn't a bad idea before submitting to a surgery that would cost him at least a year. If the prolotherapy works, Hampton thinks he can come back this season. I'm not sure it's going to work, and I'm even less sure why Hampton wants to come back, aside from perhaps going out on his own terms. The Astros can't still think they're in this thing, can they? I don't have much faith that Hampton will return, but he's come back from worse in the past. Just not quickly.

Quick Cuts: I'll be down in Ft. Myers this weekend calling a weekend series on the radio with the Miracle's play-by-play man, Zach Spear. You can listen in from their homepage online. ... Alex Rodriguez left Wednesday's game after fouling a ball off of his leg. It was painful, but the Yankees were in command of the game, so this was just precautionary. ... In his last rehab outing, Brett Myers went 24 pitches while showing low-90s velocity with his fastball. He'll be ready to join the pen when rosters expand. ... Sources are all over the place on whether Jake Peavy will pitch this weekend or not. What they do agree on is that the decision will be made regarding his ankle, not his elbow. ... Hiroki Kuroda made it through a pen session just fine, and will face live hitters this weekend. The Dodgers could have him back in the rotation next week. ... Francisco Liriano had a cortisone shot in his elbow, an indication that the Twins think he'll be starting again before long. ... Joe Crede had an epidural into his chronically problematic back. He's likely headed to the DL. ... Felipe Lopez will miss a couple of games with a mid-foot sprain. He should be back by the weekend. ... Eric Hosmer will have LASIK surgery that will end his season. The wrist problem he's been dealing with made the decision easier. ... Chris Snyder can't squat due to a tight glute. I'll skip the jokes and say that's a problem for a catcher, the not-squatting part. He should be out a couple of games, which is OK with Miguel Montero. ... Snow Leopard!

Related Content:  Back,  The Process,  This Time It Counts,  Bad Season

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