Mets Problematic Tommy John History

The concern with Noah Syndergaard having Tommy John surgery isn’t just his being gone for the 2020 season and a significant portion of the 2021 season. The larger problem from a Mets perspective is this team has not had the best history with Tommy John surgeries and rehabilitation.

Jeremy Hefner

The Mets don’t have to look any further than their pitching coach Jeremy Hefner. Back in 2013, he was putting together a promising campaign when it was discovered he had a torn UCL. During his rehab from Tommy John, things were not going well, and it was discovered he would need to undergo a second surgery. He would only pitch one season in the minors after that before retiring.

Matt Harvey

Hefner was rehabbing at the same time as Matt Harvey. When it was discovered Hefner needed the second surgery, the Mets had eased the throttle off of Harvey who was pushing to pitch in 2014. In 2015, despite agreements on his innings limit, the Mets reneged and pushed him to pitch, and Harvey would throw more innings than anyone in the history of baseball after their Tommy John surgery.

In 2016, he was just not good with everyone trying to figure out what was  wrong with him. It took a while to discover he had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Despite noticeable muscle atrophy, the Mets pitched him in 2017 leading to a stress reaction. Really, that was all but it for him as a Met and possibly his career. The big unknown is how the Mets handling of him affected his shoulder and/or aggravated or caused the TOS.

Bobby Parnell

Harvey would not be the only Mets pitcher to return in 2015 from Tommy John. The other notable pitcher to return was Bobby Parnell. After discovering a torn UCL the day after the 2014 Opening Day, Parnell underwent the surgery. A year later, a Mets team hoping to stay in the pennant race activated him well before the end of the 18 month rehabilitation period. Parnell didn’t have his fastball, and his command was shot. By the middle of August, he had pitched to a 6.38 ERA before being put on the DL with arm fatigue. He’d only pitch 5.1 Major League innings after this season.

Zack Wheeler

While Parnell was someone whose injury was discovered a day into the 2014 season, Zack Wheeler‘s torn UCL was discovered on the eve of the 2015 season. Wheeler had surgery, and he was slated to return in the middle of the 2016 season to help the Mets return to the postseason. During his rehab, he’d have issues with his stitches, and he would suffer a flexor strain when he was finally able to step on a mound again.

He wasn’t able to step onto a Major League mound again until April 2017, and he would have to be shut down that season due to a stress reaction in his right arm. Really, Wheeler wasn’t right until the 2018 season, which was three years after the first surgery.

Steven Matz

A Mets pitcher having this level of difficulty in their Tommy John rehab is not anything new. In fact, that was exactly the case with Steven Matz when he was in the minor leagues. After being drafted in 2009, it was discovered he had a torn UCL, and he needed to have Tommy John surgery.

Matz really struggled with the rehabilitation, and there was a significant amount of scar tissue. At one point, they were concerned he was going to need a second Tommy John surgery. The advice was to just pitch through it. Matz would do just that finally making his professional debut in 2012. His Tommy John issues would not re-emerge until 2017 when he needed ulnar nerve transposition surgery.

Jacob deGrom

When Matz underwent the surgery, he joined reliever Erik Goeddel and ace Jacob deGrom in having the surgery. With respect to Goeddel, he had Tommy John when he was in high school well before he was a member of the Mets organization. However, with respect to deGrom, he had his surgery and rehab as a member of the Mets organization.

With deGrom, he had seemingly appeared to be the one Mets pitcher who had a normal Tommy John surgery and rehabilitation. Yes, there were difficult times when he told Frank Viola he wanted to quit, but that was part of the normally grueling rehabilitation process and return. Ultimately, deGrom would become a Rookie of the Year winner, and he would introduce himself to the world with an incredible All-Star Game appearance and a postseason for the ages.

As noted with Harvey and Wheeler, Mets pitchers were dropping like flies in 2016. In addition to Harvey and Wheeler, Matz went down with a massive bone spur. It was then discovered during a pennant race, deGrom needed the ulnar transposition surgery. As we have seen, the surgery went well, and after a pedestrian 2018 season (by his standards), he has returned to be the best pitcher in baseball.

Keep in mind, the Mets checkered Tommy John history isn’t just recent. Jason Isringhausen would have the first of his three Tommy John surgeries with the Mets. Looking back at Generation K, he, Paul Wilson, and Bill Pulsipher would all have arm issues leading to them never pitching in the same rotation.

Position Players

The Mets haven’t had Tommy John issues with pitchers only. T.J. Rivera underwent the surgery in 2017, and he attempted to return too soon struggling in 22 at-bats. The Mets would release him, and he would play in the Atlantic Leagues for the Long Island Ducks before landing a minor league deal with the Philadephia Phillies. We will see if he can return.

Last year, we saw the Mets botch the handling of Travis d’Arnaud. Even with the team playing well with a tandem of Wilson Ramos and Tomas Nido, the team rushed d’Arnaud back to the majors before one full year of rehabilitation. He would have one of the worst games you would ever see a catcher have leading to the Mets rage cutting him.

He would first land with the Dodgers and then the Rays. Notably, he didn’t start really playing well until July, which was roughly 15 months after the surgery, which is much closer to the recommended 18 months.

This is not an extensive history, but it is a good snapshot of the struggles the Mets have had dealing with Tommy John surgeries. Perhaps, it is of no coinidence much of this has coincided with the Wilpon taking over majority control of the Mets, and as Pedro Martinez and others have noted, Jeff Wilpon’s interference with medical decision making has been a real issue.

Seeing the Tommy John problems the Mets have had, we get a better sense of why Seth Lugo was so unwilling to go through the process, and we see some of the dangers which may very well face Syndergaard as he attempts to return from the surgery before hitting free agency.

20 thoughts on “Mets Problematic Tommy John History”

  1. Oldbackstop says:

    So? Give us other context and teams. Act like a grownup analyst.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Other teams handling of TJ injuries, better or worse, doesn’t change how the Mets have handled it.

      Seeing what happened with other teams is just noise and has absolutely no bearing on the Mets history.

      1. Oldbackstop says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Mets rotation used to have deGrom, Wheeler, Harvey and Matz….all of whom went through TJ with the Mets and returned to above average pitchers.

        Any other team do that?

        Any team do three?


        So….maybe the Mets are the absolute BEST team at this….but you write this ridiculous article because you are too lazy to determine their relative success.


        1. metsdaddy says:

          The Mets are the best at the surgery because a lot of people have had it is the type of idiotic nonsense I’ve conf to expect from your trolling

      2. Oldbackstop says:

        Gee, major league pitchers with arm injuries. Great article. The Mets have bought four guys back.. four of their five rotation were homegrown TJ guys, and considered one of the top rotations in baseball.

        And you manage to cr@p on that.

        Wheeler also had a flexor pronator tendon repaired in his TJ surgery. Goeddel and Hefner? Gee, they never had major league careers? They may not have anyway.

        The usual troll of an article, an idiotic click baiter.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Yes, noting the Mets poor handling of Tommy John surgeries and rehab with facts about each player is clickbait.

          The same goes for every article written by everyone about anything.

          1. Oldbackstop says:

            You offer no proof as to whether their performance is poor, above average, below average, or anything. It is easily found.

            The four Mets SPs they nursed back are headed for long careers with nine figure contracts. How many franchises have done that? Does that sound like “poor handling of Tommy John cases?”

          2. metsdaddy says:

            The details as to the Mets poor Tommy John history are in the article. You’re welcome to ignore it and continue to shill for the organization in a true troll fashion if you wish.

  2. Oldbackstop says:

    So, what does 2009 have to do with Syndergaard? Eleven years ago? Are the same lousy doctors screwing up operations?

    Your wanderingb and weaving around grabbing sign posts like a drunk on his way home. Someone took a little longer? Someone had a follow on injury? Well no shtt, look at TJ cases as a whole. Look at other teams struggles… it happens. Have any other teams produced starters out of their TJ surgeries like deGrom, Wheeler, Matz, Harvey?

    More buffoonery. For all you know, the Mets could have the greatest TJ recovery record in MLB, and by a mile. You don’t know.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      This was explained, and yet, you pretend it wasn’t so you can troll.

      I’d also note as is usual you present nothing remotely close to substance.

      1. Oldbackstop says:

        How does the Mets TJ record compare to other franchises?

        1. metsdaddy says:

          You ever see the movie Clue?

          1. Oldbackstop says:

            Simple question….and remember your readers who recently called you a buffoon?

            You criticize the Mets TJ record. How could you possibly know if it was good, bad or average? How does the Mets TJ record compare to other franchises?

          2. metsdaddy says:

            As usual you have nothing here, so you continue to spew nonsense and insult.

  3. Oldbackstop says:

    Fine, I’ll take pity on you since your last five posts have been ignored even by the quarantined bored.

    Jeremy Hefner was not “putting together a promising campaign” when he was injured. He was 4-8 with an ERA in the mid 4s. Whether he even had a journeyman career possibility. TJ isn’t a magic wand to make a marginal player a star, and the Mets aren’t to be blamed when his career fades away as it may have anyway.

    You say Parnell was rushed back before the “18 month rehabilitation period.” Where does that come from? Everything I have ever seen is 12-18 months, and it is extremely individual by injury and the pitchers work ethic in rehab and how he got batters out and a bunch of other good reasons.

    Again, instead of throwing out this buffoonery every day, try one actual article. Tell us if the Mets are better or worse than other teams. Name another team that was delivered a TJ rehabbed group like deGrom, Matz, Harvey and Wheeler.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Wait, your big finishing point was to name another team who needed four pitchers to undergo at least one more surgery post TJ because of the complications and subsequent issues?

      Well, you got me there. I cannot name a team who had at least four pitchers have a subsequent TJ related surgery.

      You win

  4. Oldbackstop says:

    “”””Wait, your big finishing point was to name another team who needed four pitchers to undergo at least one more surgery post TJ because of the complications and subsequent issues?””””

    No. I see where you made a mistake. Read my question again:

    “”””Name another team that was delivered a TJ rehabbed group like deGrom, Matz, Harvey and Wheeler.””””

    See the difference in the questions? Those four guys have won a combined 125 games since their surgeries, with Harvery being low man at 29 wins.

    So if you are going to badmouth the Mets history with rehabbing TJ pitchers, I was asking for context:

    “”””Name another team that was delivered a TJ rehabbed group like deGrom, Matz, Harvey and Wheeler.””””

    See the difference?

    Is it possible the Mets have the BEST record in rehabbing pitchers to front end of the rotation status?

    1. metsdaddy says:

      No, it’s not possible the Mets having to have at minimum four pitcher have multiple surgeries means they have the best record rehabbing pitchers.

      1. Oldbackstop says:

        Your position is that the Mets are not to be lauded for sticking with their pitchers despite multiple issues and take them all the way through to top productivity again…..and instead should be blamed because some pitchers have had multiple injuries?

        You are going back more than a decade….who specifically are you blaming? Six pitching coaches ago?

        1. metsdaddy says:

          It’s like you didn’t read anything I wrote and instead moved to trolling

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