(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
In all of the excitement of the trade deadline and relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia’s second suspension for steroids use last week, the return of third baseman and still Mets franchise face David Wright to Citi Field, even if it was just a visit for informal workouts and to meet with the media, was a big story that kind of got overlooked.
With the exception of the first two weeks of April, David has missed the entire season because of a balky back. Extensive medical tests revealed that he was suffering from a malady called spinal stenosis. This is a condition where dorsal nerves can become compressed because of a narrowing of space near the spinal column causing numbness or severe pain.
Wright told the press that he has been undergoing therapy and that he felt certain he would return to the Mets this season. He conceded that he has had a few bad days but they have been outnumbered by the good ones of late. “It’s not an injury from which you recover; it’s a condition which has to be managed,” he somberly stated.
I asked Wright if his condition was similar to arthritis in the sense that those who suffer from it generally have little warning when it will flare up. He wasn’t sure but he did add one distinction. Whereas weather can affect an arthritic condition, it has no bearing on spinal stenosis. To prove his point, he picked a very hot and humid week to come back and work out.
Baseball’s most famous player agent, Scott Boras, was also at Citi Field last week. I asked Boras, who has a degree in pharmacology, about steroids and whether it is possible for players such the vilified Mejia to use them inadvertently such as by taking ordinary prescription medicines.
“Athletes should always check to make sure that NSF, an international certification group that tests for anabolic steroids, has given its approval to any supplement,” he said. He went onto add that even if they failed to do their due diligence, the odds are highly unlikely that an athlete would unwittingly use a product that contained anabolic steroids because they are very expensive to manufacture. It would be the equivalent of eating beluga caviar by accident at a local diner.
Boras felt that many young players get bad advice from mentors who they have known for a long time and completely trust. Sadly, that trust can often be misplaced.
“Steroids are not physically addictive but they can be psychologically addictive,” he added. If a player is doing well, whether it be a hitter belting more home runs or a pitcher striking out more hitters, it can be very difficult to stop using them because their confidence may suffer.
Alex Rodriguez is a former client of Boras but they are still friends. “I told Alex that he had to publicly admit that he was using performance enhancing drugs in order for him to start over and prove that he could play well without them,” he said as we were parting.
Surprisingly Major League Baseball does not have the equivalent of a defensive driver to reduce points on a license for those caught using steroids. It would be in the best interests of players, teams, and Major League Baseball itself, if players serving a suspension for their first offense attended a seminar about performance enhancement substances. In return, MLB could knock off say a dozen games from that player’s suspension.
The day before the ill-fated trade negotiations between the Mets and the Brewers took place, I asked Mets manager Terry Collins if Sandy Alderson consults with him about potential trades. “He doesn’t and I don’t want to know!” Collins answered at his pregame press conference.
Mets rightfielder Curtis Granderson told me last Tuesday that fans know about trades before players do. “My friend called me on Monday to say that we acquired relief pitcher Tyler Clippard. I then went on metsblog.com to learn more about the deal.”
The non-trade that would have sent Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler to Milwaukee in exchange for centerfielder Carlos Gomez made headlines, not because it fell through when nearly every Mets beat writer was reporting that it was a done deal all during last Wednesday’s loss to the San Diego Padres, but rather because Wilmer Flores was still on the field playing for the Mets even though his departure appeared to be a fait accompli.
When Flores learned from the fans at Citi Field that he was about to be dispatched to Wisconsin he started to tear up which of course led to all kinds of jokes from the press and on social media about the Tom Hanks line from the 1992 film, “A League Of Their Own,” that there is no crying in baseball.
Someone from the Mets should have gotten Sandy Alderson to come up and speak with the press once the reported trade gossip started catching on like wildfire no matter what the status of the trade was. If the deal was totally off the table then Sandy could have simply told the media that it was dead in the water. It would have prevented a lot of hurt feelings and embarrassment.
There has been a lot of speculation as to why the Carlos Gomez deal did not happen. Mets sources state that they were ill at ease about medical reports concerning his hips. The Brewers claim that the Mets wanted them to absorb more dollars on his existing contract that runs through 2016.
My sources tell me that there is truth on both sides. When the Mets found out about Gomez’s alleged hip issues they still seemed interested in the deal but now wanted the Brewers to shoulder more of the financial load than what was originally agreed upon. At which point the folks from Milwaukee told the Mets to stuff it and wound up trading him the next day to the Houston Astros without incident.
The Mets did acquire a slugger at Friday’s trade deadline as they sent two minor league pitchers, Luis Cessa and former first-round draft pick Michael Fulmer, to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets will be Cespedes’ fourth team in two years and it appears that this will be a classic team rental since his contract expires at the end of this season and he can be a free agent then.
Arguably Cespedes’ greatest moment in baseball came at Citi Field when he won the home run hitting contest at the 2013 All-Star Game as a member of the Oakland Athletics.
I have to give Mets general manager Sandy Alderson credit for significantly upgrading the team without mortgaging the future. He was able to obtain veteran infielders Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, relief pitcher Tyler Clippard, and Yoenis Cespedes without giving up anything close to a household name. In short, Alderson may not be going all in as far as this season goes but he will have plenty of chips to play with at this December’s winter meetings.
Although no one is saying this publicly, a very important goal for the Mets is to have a winning season in 2015 and that means coming up with 82 wins. The stakes will be higher in 2016.
I was saddened to learn of the passing of wrestling legend Roderick Toombs who was better known to all as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. It is not hyperbole to state that pro wrestling took off in the 1980s because of his quick wit that made wrestling mainstream comedic entertainment.
A pair of New York sports legends, Keith Hernandez and Walt “Clyde” Frazier, are teaming up for a new series of TV commercials for the hair coloring product, Just For Men. Their old ads were hysterical with tag lines as “No play for Mr. Gray!” and “Rejected!” whenever a guy with salt and pepper in his hair would approach an attractive woman. Frazier did not disagree with my assessment when I said that the ads glorified rather shallow values. Then again, they were so over the top, that you could only chuckle.
Dick Enberg, who was for years the main tennis voice for CBS at the US Open and is now the play-by-play broadcaster for the San Diego Padres, told me that he heard that the media center at Billie Jean King Tennis Center will be named in honor of veteran tennis writer and broadcaster Bud Collins this year. Enberg added that he might try to visit the Open when the Padres are 100 miles down the road in Philadelphia at the end of the month.
Veteran NBC Sports producer Michael Weisman, who grew up in Flushing and graduated from Queens College, was just named executive producer of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.