Last week, the Mets were laughably soft on closer Francisco Rodriguez, after he was arrested and charged with punching his girlfriend's father -- in the family room at Citi Field.
The day after the incident, manager Jerry Manuel even said he would have no problem at all using Rodriguez.
Well, now that Rodriguez needs surgery on his right thumb, as a result of an injury apparently suffered in the altercation, the Mets are looking into voiding Rodriguez's contract, according to a report by Jon Heyman of SI.com.
The turnaround is no surprise for a team that always reacts to public criticism (and the Mets got plenty of public heat for their handling of the K-Rod mess last week). The much bigger questions are whether the Mets will do more than publicly "look into it," and whether they could even get away with such a move (the players' union would without doubt fight such an attempt).
Rodriguez has about $18 million remaining on his contract, which is guaranteed through next season and includes an option for 2012.
The simpler move for the Mets -- if they indeed plan to come down harder on Rodriguez -- would be an attempt to put him back on the restricted list for the rest of this season, which would cost Rodriguez (and save the team) approximately $3 million.
Teams normally can't suspend players who are injured on the field, or in accidents off the field. And arbitrators have ruled that even injuries resulting from frustration on the field (like Philadelphia's Ryan Madson breaking his toe kicking a chair earlier this year) are not subject to no-pay suspensions.
The Rodriguez situation could be different. It's still uncertain whether the Mets could get away with withholding his pay. Last week, after negotiations with the union and the commissioner's office, the Mets initially placed K-Rod on the restricted list (in effect, suspending him without pay) for just two days.
That suspension, the supportive words from K-Rod's teammates and the mild criticism from Mets management left the impression that the Mets had no interest -- or at least no strength of conviction -- to come down hard on their closer.
Now that the incident has led to a season-ending injury, the Mets get another chance to show what they really believe. And another chance to make Rodriguez's actions even more costly.