System Failure: Mets Are Their Own Worst Enemy On Injuries

I’m not one to bitch and moan about player injuries because let’s face it, all teams have to endure them, it’s just the way it is. I’m sure the Washington Nationals weren’t drowning in their own tears when they lost Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg for large chunks of this season. Instead they overcame any adversity and continued inching closer to their 100+ win season.

Watching Michael Conforto crumble to the ground after he dislocated his shoulder on Thursday was painful for any true Met fan to take in. Seeing Conforto’s big huge smile after every home run made this miserable season so much more tolerable for those of us that continue to watch every game. Conforto was our home grown hero, our pride and joy, and our hope for a future MVP season – the first in franchise history.

What happened to Conforto was a punch in the gut to be sure, but unlike some of the other injuries the Mets have had this season, you can’t blame them for this one. Sometimes shit just happens.

That said, we can hold the team’s feet to the fire when it comes to injuries to Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and most recently Steven Matz.

Some like to argue that the Mets are just unlucky and snake bitten, but that’s just a panacea for a level of incompetence that has been the real culprit in 2017 and why the Mets are veering toward a 100 loss season.

Time and time again, beginning as far back as Spring Training, the Mets training and medical staff have exhibited an unresponsiveness and attentiveness to player injuries that have often turned minor injuries into catastrophic ones. The frequency of misdiagnosed injuries and overall ineptness has tarnished the team’s brand and made them a running joke on social media.

The worst part of it is that nobody in the front office seems to care or are willing to do anything about it. Perhaps it’s a reflection of an unaccountable ownership group that has so often contributed to the malaise and bad karma that seems to have a choke hold on the entire organization. It certainly doesn’t bode well for the immediate future where injuries are concerned and unless drastic changes are implemented don’t expect our luck to change or for things to get any better.

Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have had more man-games lost to the disabled list than the New York Mets, and the Dodgers also topped the charts last season. But that hasn’t stopped them from what will be two consecutive trips to the post season. Meanwhile in Flushing it’s Apocalypse Now. Why?

So many of the Mets injuries could have been avoided this season if they weren’t so botched and bungled by our medical staff in conjunction with a healthy dose of extreme incompetence by GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins.

Noah Syndergaard is arguably the most valuable asset in the organization, a franchise type player that was quickly becoming one of the top starting pitchers in the game. Syndergaard’s case is one that cuts straight to the heart of the matter, it’s a cautionary tale about how organizations should never handle their best young players.

After complaining about pain and soreness in his arm, Mets doctors quickly attributed it to a case of tendinitis and they decided to have Syndergaard skip a start. Before making his next start five days later, the Mets ordered a precautionary MRI to make sure Noah’s arm looked okay.

However, Syndergaard adamantly refused to take the MRI, telling the team he felt great. Rather than telling Syndergaard that he would not pitch unless he took the MRI, Alderson took a ho-hum approach and allowed his prized right-hander to make the start. Syndergaard never made it out of the first inning and left the game with a torn lat muscle – this after blazing a bevy of high-nineties fastballs to show he was okay. he wasn’t.

In a press conference the next day, Sandy Alderson took the blame for the nightmare that ensued by allowing Syndergaard to go out on the mound, and soon after Syndergaard himself publicly apologized for putting himself ahead of the team and insisting he didn’t need the MRI. It was in that same press conference that Alderson told reporters that the Mets were now going to study and analyze their training protocols and how they handle injuries. No word yet on what’s changed  – if anything.

Hey, there’s no evidence either way that the lat injury was connected to the biceps pain, but the decision to pitch Syndergaard without the MRI was still inexcusable.

But even before that fateful day, there was a much more telling sign when Syndergaard showed up to Mets camp in February looking like a NFL tight end instead of a lanky major league pitcher. He boasted an increase in muscle mass and a potentially more lethal fastball with an even higher velocity. Please note that Syndergaard was already the hardest throwing pitcher in the major leagues in 2016.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today spoke to Hall of Famer John Smoltz after Syndergaard landed on the DL. “When you hear about a guy getting bigger, stronger and throwing harder,’’ Smoltz said, “you can’t help but think why?’’

“I think somebody has got to be brave enough in an organization to say, ‘The heck with this, we’re going to change this.”

SNY analyst Ron Darling pulled no punches in one broadcast and blamed the Mets organization for encouraging all the bulking up and weightlifting by bringing in a guy like Mike Barwis who may be an expert on training weightlifters, boxers and football players, but is clueless when it comes to baseball players who must maintain a much more flexible physique.

“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,” Darling said.

Syndergaard was not the only player who derailed his 2017 season by becoming a Barwis Methods gym rat. After signing a four year, $110 million dollar contract with the Mets last November, Yoenis Cespedes was expected to lead the Mets to their third straight postseason. But after months of training and bulking up under the watchful eye of Barwis, Cespedes endured an injury fraught season that struck a deafening blow to year one of his new contract.  He has now changed his tune and is committed to a whole new workout regimen this offseason.

“My plan is to change my workout program,’’ Cespedes told The NY Post. “I want to become more flexible, more athletic, have less bulk. I want to do less weight lifting. I’m going to do some different things, I want to do yoga, more stretching. I want to be lighter. I want to come back around 210, lose about 15 pounds.’’

I could go on and on with the overt ineptness that is always on full display with the New York Mets. For weeks, Steven Matz kept complaining about soreness in his elbow during Spring Training, but the Mets kept insisting he was fine and it was all in his head leaving Matz to seek out a second opinion and then spending three months on the DL.

Matt Harvey pitched nearly a month with no feeling in his fingers until it became too much to handle and only then did an MRI reveal he needed thoracic outlet surgery.

Zack Wheeler complained about his arm not feeling right, but made two more starts before landing on the DL with an arm injury and then being shutdown for the season two weeks later.

This isn’t just bad luck, it’s widespread incompetency.

And perhaps the worst part of all – at least from a fan’s perspective – is how management always tries to cover up the severity of a player’s injury by sugar-coating and downplaying it. It’s become extremely difficult to give the Mets the benefit of the doubt because they are so often guilty of not being open and honest about injuries. It’s frustrating, but more than that it’s a mockery and an embarrassment.

Look, I’m no injury expert and I don’t have a medical degree… But anyone can see the degree of dysfunction that encompasses the whole of this Mets organization as it pertains to training protocols and how they handle injuries from their inception to their ultimate worst-case diagnosis. Unfortunately all we can do as fans is hope that things can somehow change or that the Wilpons finally sell the team and take their bad karma with them.

About Joe D 7946 Articles
I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73, '00 and '15, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.