Clubhouse Confidential: The Looper drama

There was no reason to be defensive, but for some reason, the Mets treated it like a crisis this week when Braden Looper announced he'd been pitching in pain for all of 2005.

Looper made the admission on Wednesday, when it became clear his season was over. He'd been diagnosed with an AC joint (shoulder) injury before spring training, and had been told that if he were to have surgery to correct it, he'd recover but miss all of the spring and as much as the first month of the season.

"That," Looper said, "was not an option."

And so Looper pitched, dealing with the discomfort of what he likened to jogging with a quarter-inch rock in your shoe. It wasn't debilitating, but it was nagging, and it hindered Looper from doing what he needs to do – as a ground ball pitcher, Looper needs to be particularly able to place his sinker in the lower quarter of the strike zone.

If you've wondered why so many of Looper's pitches this year took up residence above the belt and around the letters, the AC joint injury could be a good reason why.

"I tried to deal with it the best I could," Looper said. "As the season went on, it just became progressively worse and worse. I knew all year I was going to have to get it taken care of. It's at that point now."

Without another bonafide closer in the mix – in hindsight, perhaps the Mets might have used Roberto Hernandez, but who would have known he'd be lights out? – Looper gamely took on the assignment of closing games for the Mets, even though he knew he wasn't 100 percent.

And the Mets gave it to him, knowing he wasn't 100 percent, but believing he was their best option. Looper finished the year 4-7 with a 3.94 ERA, saving 28 of 36 opportunities; certainly not great, but perhaps a little more understandable knowing his situation.

That should be it; the spin from Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya should have been something like… 'We knew we were in a bind, but even knowing that Looper was hurt, he gave the team a better opportunity to win than if they'd gone it without him. He was a soldier and did what he was asked. We appreciated him for his heart.'

Except, that wasn't what came out of that Wednesday afternoon in Philadelphia. After Looper held court with reporters for nearly a half hour, noting he'd have an MRI Thursday and expected surgery Monday, Randolph attempted to dismiss it as a non-entity after the game, saying, "Discomfort? What do you mean, discomfort?"

"We have medical reports every day and Loop never said anything about not taking the ball," Randolph said. "We took care of him and made sure he was fine.

"It's fine. He was my closer and he said he was fine. I told him to take the ball and he went out and pitched. There's nothing wrong with him."

"There were never signs from him that he was really hurting," Minaya told reporters before the game. "That never got to my ears."

Why the cloak of secrecy? Or, as one veteran Met said, "How about giving the guy credit for going out there and pitching with a broken right arm for the entire year?" Baffling…


Get ready for what should be an interesting series finale at Shea Stadium, as the farewell tour for Mike Piazza is finally upon us. Aside from a widely reported video tribute to Piazza on Sunday, rumor is the Mets are planning other events of interest.

Fans got the weekend in gear on Thursday, chanting 'One More Year!' – that appears unlikely, an idea splashed with cold water by Fred Wilpon at the announcement of the new Mets' TV network on Thursday morning.

"The likelihood is that Mike can be served best in the American League," Wilpon said. "We've heard that. I guess he has to make that decision as well."


Mike Jacobs continues his late surge, homering and driving in three runs Thursday, and has moved into consideration for a first base job in 2006, somewhere he never would have been if the Mets had originally had their way.

Remember, the Mets tried to send Jacobs down to Triple-A after his Aug. 21 pinch-hit, three-run homer off Esteban Loaiza; he was put on the team bus to Arizona, pulled off, then put back on. The rest is history, and it's not a tale that could have taken place if Jacobs had been in a Triple-A Norfolk uniform on Aug. 22.

It's entirely possible the Mets will pursue a bigger name free agent over the winter. Regardless, Jacobs has opened eyes around the major leagues with a powerful – if a slight bit long – swing, and could be easily packaged as a trade chip if the Mets do opt to go with another player.


Fans of the handheld Sony PSP gaming device should be happy to know that the craze has leaked into the Mets clubhouse. Music and mustaches may not be allowed through the doors, but Madden '06 is, and several gangs of players kill untold hours punting, passing and running against each other.

Between the video games, the aimless games of tag (Ramon Castro ducking around corners dodging Cliff Floyd) and the hi-jinks (Doug Mientkiewicz covering Danny Graves in aerosol powder spray), the Mets' clubhouse always seem to be an interesting – if slightly juvenile – place to be.

That may be a credit to the looseness of this team; it'd be hard to imagine Bernie Williams and Aaron Small trash-talking out a simulated Colts-Packers matchup across town.

Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch appears each Friday with Clubhouse Confidential, an inside look at the New York Mets organization. Contact Bryan at

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