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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Mets went to Philadelphia to take on a wounded Phillies team who was aboslutely reeling. You knew after this series one of these two teams would still be standing, and the other will look like their past offseason was all for naught. Well, the Mets bullpen would make sure that would happen:
1. As noted by Michael Mayer, the last time a team blew five games where they led by at least two runs was the 2011 Mets. No, not the last time the Mets did it – the last time anyone did it. The closer that year was Francisco Rodriguez with Pedro Beato, Bobby Parnell, and Jason Isringhausen serving as setup men. Prior to this season, no one was saying “Come get us!”
2. We can talk about different parts of this Mets team getting exposed, but no one was more exposed than Brodie Van Wagenen. He mismanaged the “crisis” with Mickey Callaway and Jason Vargas. The media reported his involvement in game decisions like removing Jacob deGrom from a game. There were reports it was more than that as well.
4. This debacle is reminiscent of the 1993 Mets with Vince Coleman throwing fireworks at fans and Bret Saberhagen dousing reporters in bleach. What’s the common denominator between those two Mets teams? The Wilpons.
5. It was good for the Wilpons to take nine years to finally do the right thing by honoring Tom Seaver. Of course, they waited so long Seaver is now suffering from dementia so he cannot travel for these honors, and he may also not have the mental faculties to enjoy the honors being bestowed upon him.
6. The article by Wallace Matthews of Yahoo is completely ridiculous. Not only does he call Vargas the team’s most reliable starter, but he gets a chance to speak with Jeff Wilpon. With that access, he talks about the incident with Tim Healey instead of literally anything else. Honestly, if Jeff wants to talk about that, don’t bother. It’s a waste of time.
7. Jeff Wilpon’s silence on the state of this team and the continual inept way it is run from a number of facets should be met by fans with silence. We could call to organize a boycott or something, but in reality, the team being this soul crushingly bad is going to keep the fans away anyway. When that happens, Jeff’s silence will be met with silence.
8. Worse than that, Jay Bruce gets a key pinch hit home run and a walk off double, Robinson Cano has multiple 0-for-5’s, and Edwin Diaz blows a save. Right there, his biggest move completely busted. Actually, that’s not fair, it was a bust long before that.
9. So much for scapegoating Dave Eiland and Chuck Hernandez because the Mets bullpen imploded in the four game set. Worse yet, these were games the Mets absolutely should have won:
The Mets' peak win probabilities for these four games in Philadelphia:
MON: 68.2 percent
TUES: 86.1 percent
WED: 95 percent
THRS: 92.6 percent
They went 0-4.
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) June 27, 2019
10. What Dominic Smith has done this season has been nothing short of remarkable. This team needs to be smart and really look at him in left field for the rest of the year to determine if he can be a long term solution there. If nothing else, the Mets need as many cheap bats as they can get.
11. Amed Rosario has had a number of peaks and valleys, and recently, this has been a bit of a peak. Over his last 11 games, he is hitting .342/.366/.500 with four stolen bases in as many attempts. Ultimately, there still remains hope for him.
12. The Mets need to figure out what to do with Cano, and they need to figure it out sooner rather than later. Realistically speaking, he needs to be moved to a less demanding position like third base and get some days off. As each day passes, it’s clear he can’t play second everyday.
13. Moving Cano to third solves the problem there, and it allows the team to move Jeff McNeil back to second base. This should clear that spot for Smith and hopefully Brandon Nimmo if his injury proves to not be career altering.
14. Speaking of Nimmo, only the Mets could take a talented fan favorite player like him, have him get to an All Star level, and then do all they can to completely ruin him. It’s a not so fun pattern with this team.
15. Todd Frazier has done a lot to help this team and build his trade value. The problem is he’s still a rental who is not really getting you something in return. Really, if you want to make a difference at the deadline, you need to trade major pieces, but with the young talent so close, you can’t do that either.
16. Michael Conforto continues to show himself to be both a great and underappreciated player. He should be an All Star this season. If he isn’t, it’s because this team stinks, and the organization can’t be bothered to promote it’s most talented and perhaps best position player.
17. Chris Mazza getting called up at 29 years old is a feel good story. It’s a feel good story just like Tyler Pill and Drew Gagnon was before him. He should enjoy the moment, but we shouldn’t be expecting anything from him.
18. Chris Flexen looks like a real weapon in the bullpen. Brooks Pounders may become that as well. The optimistic Mets fans could look at them joining Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman in front of Diaz, who really cannot be this bad next year, to become a formidable bullpen. As Mets fans, we should know better than to hope.
19. Callaway does sound ridiculous when he says the Mets are so close, but he’s not wrong. This team continues to fight and play hard. If they had even a capable bullpen, they’d be in a much better position. If fact, this is the only team in baseball with more blown saves (20) than saves (18). If you just take back half of those blown saves, the Mets are 47-35, which puts them a game out of first place.
20. Short of honoring the 1969 Mets this weekend, and maybe sometime late in the season to see if Pete Alonso breaks some home run records, there is zero reason to go see the Mets at Citi Field other than your love of the Mets and baseball. The latter is why the Wilpons have us and will never sell the team.
In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history. While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”
If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.
During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).
This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players. This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).
As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse. Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers. Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson. The list goes on and on..
That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built. Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months. Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.
The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.
Evaluating Own Talent
Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players. Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.
The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner. However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.
The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere. Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox. They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick. Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.
The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go. It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright. None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended. There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.
The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors. Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams. The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.
At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered. This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.
Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.
The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.
The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer. Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes. We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.
Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.
This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.
Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful. Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR. In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.
For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals. Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract. Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.
It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.
Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues. This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons. It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.
Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front. They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals. Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell.
Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey. Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps. It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.
Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.
Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent. If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.
Heading into the trade deadline, there were rumors the Mets were willing to eat salary in order to maximize the return for a player. There were also the rumors the Mets would be willing to trade with the Yankees.
Ultimately, both rumors proved to be false.
When it came to Lucas Duda, the return from the Tampa Bay Rays was arguably weak. In exchange for a top 10 first baseman, the Mets got a relief prospect. Sure, Drew Smith could ultimately be a good reliever, but he’s still a reliever in the Vic Black/Bobby Parnell mold – big arm, hard time putting batters away.
The argument in response will be there was a weak market for 1B/DH players, and Duda had an e luring deal. Lost in the argument was the Mets failed to create a real bidding war.
As Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports reported, the Mets didn’t make Duda available to the Yankees. As an unnamed Yankees official stated, “he Mets just wouldn’t trade him to us.”
To those who were skeptical of the report, please turn your attention to the Jay Bruce trade.
In exchange for a player on pace for a 40 HR, 100 RBI season, the Mets received Ryder Ryan from the Cleveland Indians. Ryan is a former 30th round pick who is a converted reliever. In the deal, the Indians took on all of Bruce’s salary.
For those Mets fans thinking Bruce should’ve netted more, you might be right.
According to Marc Carig of Newsday, the Yankees were interested in Bruce, and according to his sources, the Yankees were offering two prospects many teams inquired about at the trade deadline. According to Carig, “Yankees would have covered only a portion of salary, but Yankees offered better players it seems.”
If true, this is complete and utter nonsense. The Yankees possess a deep farm system with players who could have helped the Mets in the long run.
Who cares if Duda or Bruce helped the Yankees win a World Series? They weren’t helping the Mets win one this year. In fact, the only way these players would’ve helped the Mets win a World Series was to get an important piece in return who could have been a significant part of a winner. At the moment, it’s hard to make that argument for Smith or Ryan.
In reality, a Mets team who has been unwilling to spend commensurate with their market size and window of contention, once again took the cheap route. They dumped two players on smaller market teams and got underwhelming returns.
Their actions proved they were unwilling to ear salary for a better return, and they were unwilling to help the Yankees win. It was petty, small-minded, and it was bad business.
It doesn’t matter if this came from Sandy Alderson or Jeff Wilpon. What matters is it happened, and the Mets are arguably worse off for it. In the end, I really hope Smith and Ryan was worth it. Chances are they won’t be.
UPDATE: It gets better. Not only did the Mets care more about money than the prospect return, but they also cared about those four meaningless games against the Yankees
#Mets preferred savings to prospects NYY offered. Also were not eager to finance trade for NYY, whom they face four times from Aug. 14-17.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 10, 2017
Now, one thing I have been upfront about is that I am partial to Lucas Duda. For me, seeing Duda go from the Mets organization was more than just seeing a good player leave, it does close a small chapter of my life. Unlike most writers, I want to be upfront about my biases because everyone writes with some bias. If you understand that, you’re better able to assess the evaluation.
Now before addressing this specific trade, Duda was arguably worth a second round pick or the equivalent due to the changes in the qualifying offer system. Ultimately, when assessing the Mets trade of Duda for Drew Smith, the question is whether the Mets accomplished that in this deal.
The answer? Maybe.
On the one hand, only earlier this year his trade value was just a fourth outfielder in Mikie Mahtook. However, judging his value on that alone is silly. It’s very possible the Tigers made a bad trade. It’s also possible Smith got better as the year progressed. With Smith, it seems both might be true.
Based on various scouting reports, Smith is a reliever who throws it in the high 90s and he can reach 99 MPH. He combines that with a good but inconsistent curveball. Both pitches have been dominant for him this year with him going 1-2 with a 1.60 ERA, 0.911 WHIP, and an 8.0 K/9 across three levels of the minors and in two different organizations. Smith certainly gets the most out of these pitches because he locates both of these pitches well.
Looking at the stats and his stuff, there is a lot to like. He has been getting good results. One thing that stands out with him is he has allowed just five extra base hits in 45.0 innings pitched. Four of those extra base hits were doubles, and the lone home run he has allowed was to now fellow Mets prospect Peter Alonso. Remarkably, that homer is the only one he has allowed in his career.
On the downside is there’s not a lot of strikeouts. For someone with his stuff, you’d expect a lot more. More troubling is the fact he has yet to strike anyone above Single-A. It should be noted he’s pitched 4.2 innings above Single-A. One of the reasons why his strikeouts are low could be his fastball is a straight fastball.
Ultimately, Smith is an interesting relief prospect, but in some ways, he’s also a project. Given Duda’s production, the Mets probably should have done better than this. Arguably, they should have also received another lower level prospect in return to mitigate some of the boom/bust potential in Smith.
However, this analysis does ignore the down market for sluggers like Duda, and the fact Sandy Alderson probably waited too long to trade him. It also ignores this is a pitcher with high upside. If he hits his ceiling, and he’s in an organization where he very well could, you’re probably calling this trade a win for the Mets.
Another factor is this trade does make room for Dominic Smith to play sooner rather than later. This will allow Smith to get his feet wet this year and make the necessary adjustments heading into the 2018 season to help him be a much better player.
Overall, the Mets likely sold low on Duda. In the end, we’re probably not going to care much if Smith becomes the 10 time All Star Duda said he wants him to become. We’ll care even less if Smith becomes a dominant late inning reliever. As of today, anything is possible
On the dawn of the World Baseball Classic, Mets starter Noah Syndergaard made some waves when he stated, “I’m a Met. Ain’t nobody made it to the Hall of Fame or the World Series playing in the WBC.” (Abby Mastrocco, nj.com).
Judging from attendance at Spring Training, Syndergaard’s belief is not something that is universally shared in the Mets clubhouse. Jose Reyes is one of the few major league players that have appeared in all four WBCs. He is joined on the Dominican Republic team by Mets relievers Hansel Robles and Jeurys Familia.
Fernando Salas threw his first pitch this Spring for Mexico. Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini have been stars for Italy. Seth Lugo and T.J. Rivera, two players arguably fighting over the last spots on the Opening Day roster, are playing with Mets back-up catcher Rene Rivera for an undefeated Puerto Rico team. Ty Kelly is both fighting for a potential roster spot and for a spot in the semifinal for Israel.
Point is, while Syndergaard doesn’t believe in the importance of the WBC, many of his teammates do. That includes team captain David Wright, who said, “Everybody has their right to their own opinion, and obviously Noah doesn’t think too highly of it. But I do. So I’m not sure if it’s just a different mentality, and I’m not sure if there’s a right or a wrong. But getting a chance to represent your country, and put that jersey on, and hear the chants of ‘U-S-A, U-S-A’ — that’s one of the highlights of my career. (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com).
It should be noted Wright wasn’t calling out Syndergaard like the time he and Bobby Parnell threw Syndergaard’s lunch in the garbage. He wasn’t singling out Syndergaard either noting other great players like Clayton Kershaw have opted not to play in the WBC without having to face the same scrutiny Syndergaard has. Rather, Wright was merely trying to speak to what the WBC has meant to him.
It certainly was one of the highlights of Wright’s career. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Wright sent USA to the semifinals with a walk-off hit against Puerto Rico. In the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Wright would loom even larger. He hit the decisive grand slam against Italy that helped propel the United States back to the semifinals. In the 2013 tournament, Wright hit .438/.526/.750 with two doubles, a grand slam, and 10 RBI. Wright was named as the third baseman to the All WBC Team. If not for his intercoastal injury before the semifinals, who knows if USA wins the WBC that year?
Among USA players in WBC history, Wright is second all-time in games played, third in hits, second in doubles, and first in RBI. He is a ,333/.400/.458 hitter in WBC history. He had two huge go-ahead late inning hits that propelled the USA into the semifinals. It is why Wright was dubbed Captain American. Overall, you cannot discuss the greatness of Wright’s career without mentioning the WBC.
It is an event that has mattered to Wright as much as any moment in his career. As Wright said, “Up to this point if you say, ‘Hey, what’s the most fun you’ve had on a baseball field?’ I’d say the World Series. But I would say in the conversation of cool things that I’ve gotten to do on a baseball field, the World Baseball Classic is toward the top of that list for sure.”
Overall, during Spring Training and the WBC, Wright has been noticeably absent. As his health issues continue to linger and keep him off the field, the 2013 WBC and 2015 World Series seem farther and farther away. However, those moments should not serve as the epilogue to a great career for a great Met. Rather, they should serve as highlights.
Deep down, each and every Mets fan must hope Wright has another chapter left in him. It may not happen in the WBC. It may happen in the World Series. And it may just happen this year.
With this Mets team once again built on pitching, the fear continues to be that one of these pitchers will suffer an injury. An even bigger fear is that injury will require Tommy John surgery. This usually means a pitcher is gone for over a year, and as we have seen with Jeremy Hefner and Bobby Parnell, it is not an easy road back, nor is it a guarantee the pitcher will return to form. That is why the route Seth Maness has chosen is so important to the Mets and all of baseball. It creates the possibility that a player can return in-season rather than missing over a year.
Can you name the Mets currently on the 40 man roster who have undergone Tommy John surgery? Good luck!
Back in 2013, Mets fans were shocked and depressed when Matt Harvey missed the remainder of the regular season with a torn UCL. Initially, it seemed Harvey did not want the surgery, but eventually he agreed to have the surgery. Fortunately for Harvey, he went through the rehabilitation process with no setbacks, and he became an important part of a 2015 rotation that went all the way to the World Series.
While rehabilitating, he worked alongside former Mets starter Jeremy Hefner. In 2012 and 2013, Hefner had performed better than expected with the Mets, and he finally seemed to carve out some type of a role in the organization. The team even tendered him a contract while he was rehabbing from his own Tommy John surgery. However, disaster struck, and Hefner would need another Tommy John surgery. He would miss all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The Mets would non-tender him, and he would have to agree to a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, with another arm injury, he has since retired.
These are just two of the countless stories we have seen with the Mets when it comes to Tommy John surgery. Recently, we have heard terrific stories about how Jacob deGrom learned how to throw the change-up from Johan Santana while deGrom was rehabiliting from his own Tommy John surgery. It was a great story, and it was something that forever changed the trajectory of deGrom’s career. There have been other Mets who have had their career trajectories change due to the surgery.
At one point in his career, Bobby Parnell was deemed the closer of the future. In 2013, he seemed to take over the role when he recorded 22 saves. In 2014, he would be named the Opening Day closer. It lasted all of one inning as Parnell was shut down and had Tommy John surgery. He tried to come back in 2015, but he did not have the same velocity, and he did not have his command. The Mets showed no interest in re-signing him leading to Parnell signing a minor league deal with the Tigers. After six major league appearances that saw him post a 6.75 ERA, Parnell was released in August.
Of course, the biggest name with the Mets to have issues post-Tommy John surgery was Zack Wheeler. Right before the 2015 season was set to begin, Wheeler was diagnosed with a torn UCL. He would have the surgery, and he would have a number of set-backs. He was initially slated to be a part of the Mets starting rotation around the 2016 All Star break. Instead, he would have a number of setbacks, and eventually, the Mets would shut him down for the season. In total, he threw one inning for St. Lucie in a rehab appearance. Now, the Mets are discussing whether they should move him to the bullpen for at least the start of the season.
Hefner, Parnell, and Wheeler show exactly why the experiment Seth Maness is undergoing is so important to the game of baseball.
For the past four seasons, Maness has been an effective reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals. Because of his own torn UCL, Maness would make his last appearance on August 13th, and it was assumed he would be headed for Tommy John surgery like so many other people have with the same injury. He didn’t.
Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Dispatch reports Maness underwent a surgery called “primary repair” which is ” a repair and buttressing of the existing ligament at the bone, not Tommy John’s reconstruction of the ligament.” Like Tommy John once was, Maness is now a trailblazer that may have the name of a surgery attached to him. The physician that performed the surgery, Dr. George Paletta, spoke about the procedure saying:
In select cases of UCL tears, with this technique, they have the real potential to not miss the next year. This is potentially a huge stride forward in three ways. First, early results show a high success rate. Second, a return to play is cut by 40 percent. That’s a huge factor. We are able to accelerate the return-to-throwing (rehab) program for the athletes. With this technique at the end of 2016 we have a pitcher who is ready to pitch in games by opening day.
And the third way, as a consequence of this, in the right setting, one would feel more confident moving to surgery early on.
Believe it or not, Maness is a week away from being able to take the mound after a little more than seven months after the surgery. It is expected the free agent reliever will be ready to pitch on Opening Day. Once he takes the mound, there is going to be a lot of interest in his performance.
Dr. Jeffrey Dugas, another surgeon who performs this surgery and the managing partner at the Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, AL noted there is now a lot of interest in how Maness performs post-surgery:
People are watching this and it’s an interesting thing for all of us. There is a lot that we need to learn from Seth, a lot that we need to learn from all of the guys (who have had it). We need the data. There are still so many hurdles to go over, but we’re excited to watch what is going to happen because of what is possible. We’re going to follow him very closely.
Therein lies the rub. We had gotten to the point with Tommy John surgery where it had felt almost routine; where we looked at pitchers like Masahiro Tanaka and wondered why he just didn’t get the surgery. The “primary repair” or Seth Maness Surgery is far from that point. However, if Maness has a strong 2017 season, and a couple of more pitcher follow his path, and have similar success stories, the treatment fo UCLs may have been revolutionized.
There may no longer see the Harveys of the world miss more than a season. We may also see an alternative route for the Hefners, Parnells, and Wheelers of the world. Ultimately, when there is at least a chance pitchers will miss less time and have an alternative surgery that may work better for them, it is a time for cautious optimism.
And with that, a middle reliever who induces a number of groundballs could have one of the most important seasons in major league history.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured.
Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:
I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level.
The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them.
One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common? They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery.
Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point.
Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck? Could this all have been avoided? Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury.
In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Rick Aguilera, Randy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career.
In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational? Is it bad luck? Is it preparation? For his part, Harvey wonders what if:
I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen.
That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation? Is it good genes? Is it just good luck? Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it.
It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously. There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him.
Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com
Last year, the seminal moment of the Spring was David Wright and Bobby Parnell throwing out Noah Syndergaard’s lunch. This year it was Dominic Smith‘s turn to learn a lesson.
This past weekend, Smith got a hold of one, and he thought it was out. He didn’t flip the bat or admire and pose after hitting it. No, he broke right into his homerun trot. He wasn’t hustling out of the box. When the ball hit the wall, Smith wound up with a single instead of a double.
A ten year veteran might get away with it. Not a AA player. It’s why Terry Collins approached him about the moment. For his part, Smith seemed to get it vowing he would never did it again. He said, “there’s no place for me not to hustle out of the box like that. It’s a learning experience.”
Look, this isn’t about taking fun out of the game. He wasn’t chastised for celebrating a homerun. The manager talked to him about a lack of hustle. It was fair for Collins to do so. Smith is a 20 year old kid with a lot of promise. It’s up to Collins in the little time they have together to help point out to Smith what we needs to do to take the next step.
Hustling out of the box is a fair and legitimate concern. It was never an issue for Smith before, and it probably won’t be in the future. However, Collins took advantage of an opportunity to talk to him. Smith will be a better player for it, which is saying something.
Hopefully, this moment will be Thor’s moment. It will be what we will be talking about one day during his rise to greatness.