Year after year it seems that the Mets suffer more injuries than any other team in baseball. The lack of communication within the organization’s training staff and front office has been atrocious. The Mets either downplay an injury and the player ends up day-to-day, wasting their roster spot, or they misdiagnose the player only to see them aggravating the injury further. The question the organization and Mets fans alike have is, “Why does this keep happening to us?”
Players in recent years have been working out in the off-season, as they should, however they are focusing on bulking up their muscles. The off-season trainer, Mike Barwis, was hired in October of 2014. As a result several players have come out of Barwis facility stronger. Other Mets players have worked out on their own by doing dead lifts and heavy squatting. These players are all stronger – but not necessarily in better baseball shape.
Without proper lifting and stretching techniques, players can injure themselves more frequently.
People say that athletes can never do too much – they are wrong. Athletes, and specifically the Mets, are working themselves into injuries. Heavy weight lifting has made baseball players unbalanced. A majority of players weight train, however some are over-training which can damage their performance while increasing the potential for injury.
Injuries have occurred to Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz, all of whom weight train. Headlines this off season said, “Noah Syndergaard added 17 pounds of muscle this offseason, now he’s stronger than ever,” as if his stuff wasn’t electric enough in the first place. Instead of working on pitching instead of throwing harder, he decided to reach for the stars, only to end up on the 60-day disabled list.
Yoenis Cespedes trained over the off-season, working on his lower half by doing squats and dead lifts. Those are explosive workouts that require substantial recovery time and if performed during the season can decrease quickness out of the batters box due to leg soreness. As a result of doing those exercises with massive weights (including 900 pound bear squats), he has had hamstring and quad issues. You’d think after playing only 132 games in 2016 he would have worked on his flexibility in order to stay on the field.
Prior to this MLB-wide obsession with heavy weight lifting, star pitchers such as Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez never lifted anything that was excessively heavy. They might have done light weight lifting, but they never strained their muscles to these extremes.
“The only weight lifting I ever did was these light hand weights which a college teammate of mine from USC, Jerry Merz, introduced me to.” Tom Seaver told Bill Madden of the New York Daily News last month. “I did ‘em almost my whole career. Never increased the weight. They were good for my back muscles, forearms and balance.”
The 1967 Rookie of the Year, three-time Cy Young winner, two-time Cy Young runner-up, 12-time All Star, and 1969 MVP runner-up averaged 230.0 innings pitched per season in his impressive 20-year career, ending up with 4783.0 innings. He had some choice words for weight-lifting pitchers after hearing of Syndergaard’s injury.
“What’s with these guys and this obsession today with velocity?” he continued. “How about just pitch! Learn how to pitch! Because eventually that velocity will be harder and harder to maintain on a consistent basis. Let me tell you a story about velocity. Late in my career, with the White Sox, I didn’t throw as hard as I did with the Mets, but I knew how to pitch and I was still winning games. I did win 300, you know (chuckles). So this one game, I come back to the dugout after the first inning and Dave Duncan, our pitching coach, comes up to me and says: ‘You ain’t got s–t today.’ I said to him, ‘I know that’ and then I pointed to the other dugout, and added, ‘but they don’t know that!’”
Why aren’t Mets pitchers taking advice from the old-timers who thrived in their careers? Men who routinely pitched 250 innings every season? It starts with the training staff whose job it is to prepare them for the season. The training staff must see something beneficial to them weight lifting and while it has helped players get into better shape for spring training, it’s not keeping them on the field for 162 games. Something needs to change.
The Mets athletic training staff is another reason why this team is plagued with injuries. Ray Ramirez, the Mets trainer, has been an employee of the team since 1983 and the head trainer since 2004. It almost seems impossible for a team to have so many injuries happen to them, but the Mets seem to out-do themselves every single season.
In 2009, a season full of potential just like this years came crashing down when Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, J.J. Putz, John Maine, and Johan Santana all went down with season ending injuries. When is someone going to be held accountable for the injuries?
During the Mets broadcast last night, Ron Darling expressed his frustration that every Mets fan shares: “Get them in a room with some of the old trainers – people who took care of baseball players and how to keep them healthy and try to tap into their knowledge on how you train baseball players- not weight lifters, not six-pack wearers – Baseball players…. They’re doing a disservice to their million dollar athletes that they’re paying. It’s a joke to watch this happen each and every night.”
Maybe it’s bad luck, but it’s been one injury after another and no changes have been made. Remember when the Washington Nationals had that injury plagued year in 2015 and we went on to win the NL East? Do you know what they did that off-season? They fired their training staff and hired new ones. Key players on the Nationals had missed a total of 3,813 games due to injuries from 2010-2015 which ranked 12th in the Majors during that span. Their new training staff is ranked one of the best with very few injuries to players.
If the Mets want to turn around the foundation that they set for their players, it starts with the training staff. Change has been long overdue. Mets fans are sick and tired of Ray Ramirez walking onto the field every other day because someone new gets hurt. It’s time to make a change and bring people into the organization that can keep players on the field.