Monday, March 4, 2013

Mets wrong to publicly criticize Johan Santana

I know the New York Mets have to do something to keep people interested, but picking a fight with the team’s ace seems like a pretty bad move.

Johan Santana, once again the ace of the Mets pitching staff after RA Dickey was traded to Toronto, came into spring training still trying to fully recover from the shoulder surgery that caused him to miss most of the last two seasons. I’m sure Santana didn’t expect to be criticized by his general manager Sandy Alderson for supposedly coming into camp out of shape. If Alderson had any problems with the way Santana handled his offseason training, or lack thereof, he should have taken it up with Santana and his agent privately rather than igniting a media controversy that pissed off his ace.

Sometimes managers, general managers or baseball owners will criticize players in the media as a way of motivating them. New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was a master at this as proven by his “fat toad” comment about a hefty Hideki Irabu or his condemnation of the relatively vanilla Derek Jeter for his supposed late-night partying. It’s unclear if Alderson was trying to pull a Steinbrenner to motivate Santana, a guy the Mets will need to pitch well if they have any chance of contending. If that’s the case, the criticism clearly had the desired short-term effect of getting Santana back up on the mound.

But I think public criticisms of baseball players tend to have a negative effect on the long-term relationships between ballclubs and players. Do you think there’s any chance Jeter has forgiven or forgotten the remarks by his general manager Brian Cashman during the negotiations for his last contract? If Jeter has another big season this year and declines his 2014 option, rest assured the Yankees won’t be getting the hometown discount that they’ll be looking for.

At least the Yankees don’t demand that their players play hurt. Unlike the Mets, the Yankees tendency is to hold a player back for his own good as they are now doing with Phil Hughes and his injured back. The Mets, for some reason, do just the opposite. They would rather a player go out and risk further injury rather than letting him take time to heal (they better hope Santana didn’t injury himself trying to prove his general manager wrong). The Mets would prefer to publicly criticize players who do not succumb to their demands. At least this time, Alderson put his name to the criticisms rather than engaging in an anonymous smear campaign. But it still seems like the wrong approach.

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