Brandon Nimmo And His Neck Given The Mets “Treatment”
In his eponymous autobiography Pedro, Pedro Martinez detailed how Jeff Wilpon pressured him to pitch despite knowing Pedro was injured. It did not matter team doctors advised Pedro not to pitch or Willie Randolph told Pedro he was done for the year. Jeff Wilpon demanded he pitch, and pitch Pedro did.
As we would discover, this was not an isolated incident. Not by a long shot. The details to which Jeff Wilpon micromanaged injury and medical decisions was highlighted by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN:
Multiple sources said the lack of a single medical point person allows for greater involvement by COO Jeff Wilpon in areas where he’s lacking in professional expertise. They describe Wilpon as a micromanager who creates an environment in which the Mets simply whipsaw from one crisis to the next and are too often governed by how their decisions will be publicly perceived.
“Jeff gets in the middle of everything that’s going on, and he ends up doing more damage,” said a person who has been involved in the Mets’ internal operation. “He meddles. I can’t come up with a more appropriate term.”
Crasnick was far from the only reporter to indicated Jeff Wilpon was this meddlesome in medical decisions. In an interview with Michael Mayer of MMO, former Mets executive Nick Francona agreed with the assessment the Wilpons are meddlesome to the point they “have to have their finger in every pie.”
Certainly, there is an issue with how the Mets handle injuries and injured players. On Bleacher Report, Bob Klapish detailed the issues with how the Mets handle injured players, and as seen with Crasnick’s article, it is traced back to Jeff Wilpon’s involvement:
Paraphrasing one industry executive, it’s almost as if ownership—read: Jeff Wilpon—punishes players who get hurt, banishing them 1,000 miles away from New York. Some players can be trusted on their own. Others see the relatively sparse facilities in Florida, which are designed for low-level minor leaguers during the summer, and defiantly turn the empty time into a de facto vacation.
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What to do with players on the injured list—where to send them, how to treat them—has been a point of contention within the Mets front office for several years. Ultimately, Wilpon has used his veto power to prevent an overhaul.
Maybe it is due to Jeff Wilpon, and maybe it isn’t, but we see a continued pattern with how the Mets both report and handle injuries.
The team pressured Carlos Beltran to forego knee surgery. Both Ryan Church and Jason Bay went on long flights after concussions. It was initially reported David Wright had a hamstring injury before we discovered the real issue was spinal stenosis. Matt Harvey was pressured to pitch well beyond the innings limits purported set and agreed upon prior to the 2015 season. Yoenis Cespedes was activated for just two games, and the team at first publicly denied he needed season ending double heel surgery. There are countless other examples.
We see this pattern re-emerging with Brandon Nimmo.
During Spring Training, Nimmo was described as having a right shoulder issue. It was apparently not sufficient enough of an issue for him to miss Opening Day. A few weeks into the season (April 16), Nimmo would be removed from the game against the Phillies. What was first described as a right shoulder issue would quickly be re-characterized as a “stiff neck.”
Nimmo would miss just two games before returning to the lineup. For a month, there would be no real mention of issues related to Nimmo’s neck. In fact, the only thing we would hear about is an oblique related issue. Still, despite his having a shoulder/neck issue, getting hit on the hand, and dealing with an oblique issue, Nimmo would not land on the disabled list until May 22.
At that time, Nimmo was hitting .200/.344/.323. It is important to remember this was a year after Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League trailing just National League MVP Christian Yelich in wRC+. At 26, he was supposed to take off and build off of last year. Instead, he was dealing with some nagging injuries and a “stiff neck.”
It is important to note here Nimmo said the neck injury which landed him on the injured list was the same injury he had been dealing with since April.
Finally, after dealing with injuries in the area of the body since February and more specifically since April 16, Nimmo was sent for an MRI. The results of the MRI showed Nimmo had a bulging disc in his neck.
On June 6, Nimmo began a rehab assignment. In his first game, he was 2-for-4 with a triple. In the ensuing four games, he was 0-for-10. He was given the June 13 game off, and then he was scratched from the lineup the following day.
As detailed by the NY Post‘s Zach Braziller, the Mets had claimed Nimmo was dealing with neck inflammation until Nimmo revealed it was a bulging disc. Moreover, Mickey Callaway admitted Nimmo was playing rehab games despite the fact his neck issue had never gone away.
Now, Nimmo is going to see Dr. Robert Watkins in California. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Dr. Watkins is the same specialist who treated Wright for his spinal stenosis. The Los Angeles Daily News has called him one of the top 50 powerful sports figures in Los Angeles. This is partially due to his treatment of Peyton Manning. On a baseball front, he also treated Don Mattingly in addition to Wright.
What is interesting to note in the article lauding him is the statement, “The microdiscectomy surgery he performs on most of his sports clients provides relief for herniated discs.” At this point, we have no real way of knowing how this applies to Nimmo.
Part of the reason why is the Mets went from soreness to inflammation to bulging disc. They had Nimmo play until he could no longer play, and he was sent on a rehab assignment despite the injury not having fully healed.
To be fair, there are factors here which could absolve the Mets. Doctors could have said Nimmo could play so long as he felf comfortable playing. Certainly, Nimmo could have not told the team the full extent of his injuries, or maybe, Nimmo did feel as if he could play through it all. It would not be the first or last time any of these types of things have happened.
While we shouldn’t discount that, we cannot discount the reports regarding Jeff Wilpon’s meddling into medical decisions. We should not discount how Wright goes from a leg injury to career ending spinal stenosis or how the team was initially set against Beltran or Cespedes receiving the surgeries they required.
More than that, there was Pedro. Certainly, if an eight time All Star, three time Cy Young Award winner, and a future Hall of Famer felt pressured to go against medical and managerial advice because Jeff Wilpon demanded he play, you wonder how a 26 year old like Nimmo would hypothetically feel if he was ever put in the same situation.
Overall, we do not know exactly what transpired with Nimmo. We do not know what he said to the team or his doctors, what his doctors communicated to him and the team, or what the team instructed him to do. All we do know is Nimmo’s injury and handling thereof have fit a pattern which has existed with the Mets for over a decade now. We have seen this ruin some careers and alter others. Hopefully, we will not see the same fate befall Nimmo as has befallen other Mets.