As if we didn’t know by now, something is wrong — drastically wrong — with the Mets front office and the way they’re handling their players. All the fuss over Carlos Beltrán’s surgery and management’s indignation over not being informed might have been written off as a failure to communicate. But the current travesty involving reliever J.J. Putz can’t be swept under the tarp.
According to John Harper in today’s Daily News, Putz says, “It was a mess from the beginning … I never really had a physical with the Mets, I had the bone spur [elbow], and it never got checked out by any other doctors until I got to spring training, and the spring training physical is kind of a formality…It [the bone spur] was bugging me through April, and in May I got an injection. It just got to the point where I couldn’t pitch.'”
Here’s the capper: Putz now regrets allowing the Mets brass to talk him into pitching with a bone spur, which eventually required surgery anyway.
“[I learned] that it’s my career, and when you know something doesn’t feel right, and they want to take little sidesteps to do something and just wait and wait and wait, you’ve got to get it taken care of instead of trying to prolong the inevitable.”
Putz learned what Carlos Beltran already knew and what every professional athlete should know: it’s always “my career” and it’s always the athlete’s responsibility to consult a personal physician and not allow the team to influence that decision. Awareness of this fact dates at least as far back as 1995 when Red Sox player Marty Barrett won a $1.7 million malpractice suit against Red Sox team physician (and part owner) Arthur Pappas. Pappas misdiagnosed Barrett’s knee injury and gave him the wrong surgery which, Barrett successfully contended, brought his career to a premature end.
Pappas’s dual roles as team physician and owner, Barrett’s lawyers argued, constituted a conflict of interest. In point of fact, though, Pappas’s role as part owner of the franchise had nothing to do with it: What Barrett should have understood (and his agent should have told him) from the outset is that in any and all situations a team physician is likely to make a medical decision that is most beneficial to the team — and that usually means getting the player back in the lineup as quickly as possible rather than looking at the long-term picture. And in the era of free agency, the player might not be around long enough to make it worth the team’s while to consider the long-term picture.
Note to the Players Association: Until the Beltran and Putz situations came up, it’s been years since the question of conflict-of-interest surgery has been an issue. Maybe the players need to be reeducated on what constitutes their own best interests.