Beltran's knee: were the Mets incompetent, cheap or both?

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Peter Gammons has this habit — which I love by the way — of casually dropping bombs in such a way that is sounds like it’s not news at all. But as far as I can tell, this is news:

Everyone in the business understands that the Mets did not insure
Beltran, so that when team physician Dr. David Altcheck and trainer Ray
Ramirez signed off on Dr. Richard Steadman’s decision to perform
arthroscopic surgery in Vail, Colo., it was clear they were afraid that
their worst time-frame fears might be realized and that Beltran could
be out for — and paid for — much of the 2010 season.

I’ve not seen anyone say that the Mets didn’t insure Beltran’s contract. If that’s the case, wow. Sure, you may eat it if your fourth outfielder or lefty specialist goes down, but how do you not insure the centerpiece of your team?

That aside, everything I’ve read previously frames the Mets’ failure to sign off on Beltran’s surgery as the team simply dithering. But were they dithering because they’re simply incompetent when it comes to getting things done or, as Gammons suggests, were they hoping to block the surgery and get Beltran out on the field at some limited percentage rather than have to pay a player to sit on the DL?  It’s great sport to make fun of the Mets’ decisions, but if it truly was the latter in this case we’ve gone from more or less benign bumbling to something much, much more troubling.

And for what it’s worth, Gammons reports that it’s almost certain that Jeff Wilpon knew about the surgery stuff all along, implying that he was the one holding off on giving his OK. In light of this it would not shock me in the least if Omar Minaya’s reluctance to be out in front of this the other day, and instead, have assistant GM John Ricco be the team’s spokesperson, was a function of Omar not wanting to be the fall guy for his boss’ incompetence.  If that was the case, good for Omar.  His imminent termination will probably come as a relief.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.