Need for ‘third opinion’ on Carlos Beltran shows what is wrong with Mets’ organization

In 2004, the Mets’ medical staff signed off on trading for damaged goods Victor Zambrano allowed Mike DeJean to pitch with a broken leg and had numerous injury issues with players ranging from Mike Piazza to Jose Reyes. After the 2004 season, the Mets, realizing they needed to make major changes, brought in a new GM, Omar Minaya, switched to a new set of doctors led by Dr. David Altcheck and replaced their trainer with Ray Ramirez. But over the last year, similar medical issues have arisen with the current regime.

Maybe the problem goes beyond changing the medical staff or improving communication between the medical staff and the front office. Maybe it has something to do with an organization that seems eager to minimize injuries to the point where their failure to deal with them in a timely fashion only increases the time the injured player is out.

Johan Santana and J.J. Putz were allowed to pitch with elbows that will require surgery. Jon Niese was allowed to throw warmup pitches after tearing his hamstring. Jose Reyes and now Carlos Beltran underwent surgery after already missing several months. In 2008, Ryan Church was allowed to fly to Colorado just after his second concussion.

The Beltran situation is still developing, and it is unclear whom, if anyone, is to blame. The Mets did not feel Beltran needed surgery, but neither did his doctor from outside the organization, Dr. Richard Steadman. At least until a couple of days ago.

The Mets have a right to be “disappointed” that Beltran did not explicitly get their approval for the surgery, if that is the case. But what is truly disappointing is that the Mets have turned the situation into yet another public relations debacle.

Even if Beltran did deliberately defy the Mets by having the surgery, the Mets should have kept any complaints they had private, rather than publicly air their concerns, which make both Beltran and the team look bad.

Even if it turns out that Beltran’s agent Scott Boras encouraged him to have the surgery now to make sure Beltran would be healthy for his contract year of 2011, Boras ultimately wants the same thing the Mets want – a healthy and productive Beltran.

I am not used to defending Boras and would not be surprised if it turns out he got Beltran to have the experimental microfracture surgery that could sideline him for a year, sacrificing 2010 for 2011. If that is the case, my support for Beltran vanishes.

But based on what has currently been made public, it is hard to criticize Beltran for bypassing the troubled Mets’ medical staff and doing what he feels he needs to do to get back to full strength as soon as possible.

Especially when the Mets’ big complaint in Thursday’s conference call was that they wanted to seek a “third opinion.”

Some say the Mets’ medical staff is incompetent. Others blame lack of communication between the team and the medical staff, and between the team and the public when it comes to medical matters.

But what if the process is flawed because Met management only wants to hear good news when it comes to injuries? No need for the DL. No need for surgery. And if someone brings bad news, seek out a second opinion. And if necessary, a third opinion.

Considering how often the Mets have denied the necessity for surgery, only to have a player eventually go under the knife much later than he could have, it is better for Beltran to have the surgery on January 13 than to continue a debate that might only end up pushing Beltran’s return date further back.

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The Mets’ organization has done at least one thing right this offseason – signing Jason Bay. The need for power hitting turned out to be a lot greater than people knew.

And if Beltran had his surgery before the Bay signing was finished, Jason’s demands might have suddenly gone up and the Mets would had either lost him or been forced to give him more money and years. Or they might have thought twice about having another over-30 outfielder with a big contract.

At least when it came to signing Bay, the Mets did not hold out for a third opinion.