J.J. Putz signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Chicago White Sox this offseason. His stint with the Mets will not go down as being particularly memorable. He did not pitch particularly well when he was on the field, and spent the majority of the season on the disabled list. It was speculated going back to late-April by Dave Cameron at Fangraphs that Putz did not look like himself, and pointed to evidence such as the loss of 2.5 MPH off of his fastball and a diminished strikeout rate. When the Mets finally put Putz on the DL in June, I wrote:
[T]he team didn’t think then to investigate if Putz was truly injured, kept running him out there for a month, during which he gave the Mets several ineffective innings of relief, and only shut him down a few weeks ago for him to have surgery. Dave Cameron is a baseball writer for a pretty good stats website; he is not a member of the Mets front office, and does not follow the team on a daily basis. If he was able to figure out in late-April that something is wrong with JJ Putz, why did it take the team a full month for them to figure this out?
As it turns out, it didn’t take the Mets a full month to figure out that J.J. Putz was injured; they knew the entire time. Putz gave an interview with Comcast Chicago that does not paint a pretty picture of the Mets’ front office. The money quotes:
When the trade went down last year, I never really had a physical with the Mets. I had the bone spur (in the right elbow). It was discovered the previous year in Seattle, and it never got checked out by any other doctors until I got to spring training, and the spring training physical is kind of a formality. It was bugging me all through April, and in May I got an injection. It just got to the point where I couldn’t pitch. I couldn’t throw strikes, my velocity was way down…
…I knew that I wasn’t right. I wasn’t healthy. The toughest part was having to face the media and tell them that you feel fine, even though you know there’s something wrong and they don’t want you telling them that you’re banged up.
So according to the timeline being laid out here by Putz:
- The Mariners’ doctors found a bone spur in Putz’s elbow during the 2008 season.
- The Mets traded six players for J.J. Putz without conducting a physical of their own. I assume the Mets read the Mariners’ medical reports on Putz about the bone spur, though.
- They checked out his elbow in spring training and discovered the bone spur for themselves.
- They forced Putz to pitch through what I imagine is a very painful injury, while not allowing him to talk to the media about said injury.
- Putz pitched terribly because, you know, having a healthy elbow is important to pitching. In particular, his velocity and strikeouts were down.
- Eventually, Putz went on the DL to have elbow surgery, never to pitch again for the Mets. I cannot confirm this, but Omar Minaya probably called Putz a “pussy” afterwards.
I mean…in which of those steps do the Mets look good? The part where they traded six players for Putz, Sean Green, and Jeremy Reed without making sure he was healthy? The part where they discover the bone spur, make him pitch through it anyway, all while hiding it from the media? The part where Omar Minaya called him a pussy? OK, I made that up, but still, the other stuff is pretty bad.
There has been a lot said about the way the Mets’ medical staff handles injuries. We got another glimpse of that a few weeks ago, with the Carlos Beltran debacle, and now J.J. Putz paints a pretty grim picture of the way this team handles injuries: by sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending they didn’t happen. This isn’t a total failure on the part of the medical staff; they have to share a pretty big part of the burden with the front office.
The J.J. Putz trade and how it was handled is a fireable offense. The Mets traded a good defensive outfielder, two relief pitchers of some value, a decent first base prospect (better than anything they will trot out at 1B in 2010, for sure), and two low-A minor leaguers, and all they currently have to show for it is one relief pitcher of some value, all because they never bothered to make sure the key part of the trade was healthy. Hopefully this story gains some traction in the New York sports media and helps hasten the demise of Omar Minaya. I’m disgusted with the way he is running this team, and it’s not getting any better.