In light of the heavy criticism the Mets medical staff received last year, it’s tempting to blame the current dustup over Carlos Beltran’s knee surgery on the team and to cast Beltran as the good guy. That’s certainly the prevailing thinking in the blogosphere this morning.
Now, we obviously don’t know everything that has happened here, but maybe, just maybe, the Mets are entitled to some benefit of the doubt. Why? Because this is not the first time Beltran has gone rogue on his team’s medical staff:
The players’ association filed a grievance Friday to block the Kansas City Royals’ suspension of AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Beltran.
Beltran was suspended without pay Thursday for refusing to report to
the team’s Florida training complex for rehabilitation. The Royals said
the suspension would last for 30 days or until he reports, whichever is
Granted, that was when Beltran was with the Royals, and the Royals’ medical staff has taken just
as much heat as the Mets, so I suppose we still can’t know for sure.
Still, I don’t know of any other player that has had two high-profile disputes with his team over medical treatment, so we can’t really eliminate the possibility that it’s Beltran, and not the Mets, that is the problem here.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉