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The Mets and Carlos Beltran

Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran speaks to reporters after

Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran speaks to reporters after he joined program participants at the Harlem RBI Field to donate $50,000. (November 11, 2009) Photo Credit: Newsday/Charles Eckert

You've seen the news by now, and you know, simply from reading their statement, that the Mets are not happy with Carlos Beltran for getting his right knee surgically repaired. The Mets are expected to hold a conference call today to, a few weeks late for Festivus, air their grievances.

I suppose I could just link to Joel Sherman's column on the matter, endorse it and get on with my day, but a few quick thoughts:

--Public perception matters greatly to the Mets. Profoundly. From old-fashioned newspapers, to talk radio, to Twitter. So they'd better exhibit some discretion today, when they voice their views.

Because if they go too hard after Beltran, they're not going to do more than just alienate Beltran and other players. They're also going to alienate, further, their paying customers.

While I'm generally reluctant to speak for others, I feel pretty comfortable in asserting their fans don't want to hear about how the Mets were wronged by Beltran.

The Mets haven't simply lost the benefit of the doubt on the injury front. The benefit of the doubt has placed a restraining order on the Mets, not allowing them to come within 100 miles, when it comes to matters of player health.

As they plan their PR strategy for today, the Mets should consider this question: If you polled players, agents, owners, general managers, trainers, fans, media folk - heck, let's just say "People of Earth" - whether they'd rather have their health supervised by the Mets, or by Scott Boras, how many people would choose the Mets?

Two, maybe?

--We're once again left with dissecting precisely what the problem is here: Is it the doctors? The public-relations people? Why does this keep happening with the Mets?

I think it starts at the top. I think ownership needs to get on board with a more macro approach to injury care and prevention. The Wilpons have to de-prioritize the next day's game and think of the bigger picture.

Beltran should've gone on the disabled list far earlier than he actually did last season. Perhaps they could have nipped the condition in the bud and avoided the current mess. But the Mets were so anxious about last season, what with Citi Field opening and all, that they urged Beltran to hang in there as Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes already were out.

The Mets learned just this past month, with the Jason Bay negotiations, that the end justifies the means. They took myriad hits re: "Why aren't they do anything?!" but managed to wear down Bay with a not-horrible contract. They need to take that approach over to player injuries.

--What does this mean for the Mets' 2010 chances? Let's take the Mets' "12 weeks until baseball activities can be resumed" estimation. That takes us right around to the opening week of the regular season. Now let's say Beltran needs a month of a personal "spring training." Let's throw on another month because it's the Mets. So now we're talking a Beltran return in early June.

Does that sink them? It hurts, greatly. But of all their Plan Bs, Angel Pagan might be the best. He's better than Alex Cora, for sure, or what's left of the starting rotation after Johan Santana. Pagan delivered 3 Wins Above Replacement (according to these calculations) last year.

The Mets did seem to fall apart last year right after Beltran went down, and I do think that broke their spirit, somewhat. But if you look at their month-by-month pitching splits, you'll see that August, when their season officially became irrelevant, was their worst month on the mound.

Can they survive a significant Beltran absence? Sure. But at this point, again, this Beltran news reflects more poorly on the Mets' big picture than it does concerning the period of Beltran's rehabilitation.

UPDATE, 3:41 p.m.: Well, I confess to being a geek today, as I listened to the Mets' conference call out of curiosity even though I'm not working. It was a good idea having assistant GM John Ricco run it - the excuse, I think, was that Omar Minaya was travelling back from the owners' meetings in Arizona, but come on, now - and the party line was that the Mets were frustrated that Beltran underwent surgery before fully discussing it with the Mets.

The Mets are now going to get hammered, because most people's reactions will be, "Really? You expect Beltran to have respect for your medical protocal? Really!"

Stupid. If they had to protect themselves legally, in case this surgery damages Beltran (highly unlikely), then they should have done so, and then simply not commented if a reporter or two ferreted out the dispute. But by publicly protesting, they're just begging people to poke more fun at them.

 

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