On Wednesday, Robert Gsellman was awful and his fastball lacked its normal velocity. The Mets lost again, and when everyone woke up on Thursday, Noah Syndergaard couldn’t lift his arm above his head. His start was taken by Matt Harvey, who was noticeably uncomfortable on the mound. After his velocity was down and his command was off, he told reporters that he didn’t know he was pitching until a few hours before the game, and that he had worked out hard the previous day in anticipation of a day off. In that same game, Yoenis Cespedes limped off the field and into a hospital for an MRI.
We haven’t even got to the part where Steven Matz hasn’t pitched yet this season.
This is why you shouldn’t say or tweet “Meet the Mess!” when the Mets lose by five runs. Save it for a day, week, or season like this. One minute the Mets were in the World Series, then we turned around to tip the valet, and now there are scorpions everywhere.
The Mets are in last place, and everything is broken. This being the internet, which is an extension of the real world, there has to be someone to blame. Can we blame somebody? Let’s blame somebody.
The training staff
I’m of two minds. The first one is logical and reasonable. The Mets have been bitten by the injury bug early and often, yes, because that’s the chair that is pulled out from under baseball teams when the music stops. It doesn’t have to mean anything. They might be weird when it comes to playing short-handed instead of putting hurt players on the DL. It always seems like there’s a predictable progression with the Mets that begins with “John Pitch has a little elbow tenderness, but he’s not expected to miss a start,” and ends with “The ashes of John Pitch’s elbow were shot into space on Saturday, in a ceremony attended by Pitch, who is just a head on a wagon now, and his family.”
But it’s not like they found their medical director at Hollywood Upstairs Medical College and hired him because he would work for under-the-table cash. He’s wildly respected. If you want proof, here you go:
The latest pitcher to suffer major UCL damage is Yu Darvish. The Texas Rangers ace meets today with Dr. David Altchek, the Mets’ team physician and an expert in TJ surgery. Although no decision had been made at the time this post was published, the chatter leading up to today suggests that Darvish might soon become the next ace to go under the knife.
When the Rangers’ future was at stake, when Yu Darvish’s career was on the line, they consulted the Mets’ medical director. Presumably, this world-class surgeon doesn’t help the Mets find physicians on Craigslist, and that he’s directing a competent medical staff. Everyone involved with the Mets’ health might be supremely qualified and good at what they do.
However, the other, darker side of those two minds knows that if you give 100 baseball fans this sentence and ask them to fill in the blank ...
The ______ will be without their best pitcher for a while, as what was initially described as “mild elbow discomfort” has become a much more serious problem.
... at least half of them would fill in the Mets. If that’s a coincidence, it sure is an unfortunate one.
The logic mind is probably safer, here. Blaming the medical staff is like blaming the hitting coach for every slump. Maybe you’re right, but you can be damned sure you’re not in possession of all the evidence. Or anything more than a smidgen of the evidence, really.
The financial mess of the Wilpons
Because this offseason was Yoenis Cespedes and a barrel of wishes. While it was nice to see the organization commit to the popular, needed slugger, they still aren’t spending like a classic New York team should.
Consider the Dodgers last year. They had 15 different starting pitchers because of an injury carousel, but they weathered the storm because they had depth backing up depth backing up depth. Some of that depth was homegrown. Some of it was store-bought, though, and it was a good thing they had it.
The Mets can’t do that. They should be able to, but we’re years past the point where this should be a surprise. This is what the organization’s fate will be indefinitely, and you almost forget when they commit to a Cespedes. When they need some of that depth in the lineup or rotation, though, you sure remember.
Really, what they should do is have their best young pitcher teach two other young pitchers his secrets, and then those two young pitchers can teach four young pitchers their secrets, and so on. Then they’ll have an armada of talented, inexpensive pitchers, and it won’t matter who gets hurt. If someone could get this plan to the Wilpons, that’d be a huge help to the organization.
Still, why would the Mets have needed to spend on depth? They had a gaggle of starting pitchers before the season started. Pitchers who could make the rotations of 20 teams around baseball were going to start in the minors. This isn’t a money thing. This is more about how ...
Baseball is a sociopath
Bingo. More than just an anthropomorphic description to remind you that bad things happen to teams every year, though, this one might be baked into the modern sport. Noah Syndergaard is a Norse god, and the Mets didn’t send scouts to watch him when he was in the Blue Jays’ system, they sent archeologists to study the cave paintings about him. He’s such an incredible rarity in the baseball world, a 6’6 alp of fastballs and sliders that go waaaaay faster than hitters should have to deal with.
And that’s the problem, maybe? Not just for Syndergaard, but for pitchers around baseball. They’re bigger, stronger, throwing harder than ever before, with the training getting more specialized and intense. Pitchers who already threw hard can throw harder using This One Weird Trick, and then they can throw harder than that because they’ve been biometrically enhanced and studied and poked and prodded.
This is the leading theory for the increase in Tommy John surgeries. Pitchers throw harder. They’re stronger, but that comes at a cost. So when you get a super-rotation like the Mets (or the Indians last year), it’s almost more of a “when they run into injuries” instead of an “if.” It’s always been like that, but it’s exponentially more so in the modern game.
Or to get technical: It is what it is. A team with seven guys who all throw 95 with a wipeout breaking ball is a team that knows they might be down to two of them without warning.
And there really isn’t anyone to blame.
There are things the Mets could have done differently, I’m sure, and the most recent Harvey situation was borked on a couple different levels. But I don’t think blame is what needs to go around. Just hugs and crossed fingers. The Mets are a mess, and they’re a mess in a way that’s extraordinary hard to watch.