With the weather, the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves only played one game of the weekend series. With the Mets winning, they swept all the games they did play:
1. You just can’t beat the Mets at Citi Field. So far, they’re 15-5, and that’s even with a Triple-A roster.
4. Lugo presents an interesting dilemma for the Mets as they robbed Peter to pay Paul by opening up roster spots. Lugo coming off the 60 day IL means someone has to come off the 40 man roster.
5. In past years, the Mets really didn’t have enough players for an everyday lineup, and now, we’re worrying about the backups to the backups. Things really are different.
6. Walker picked right up where he left off, which is to say, he was very good.
7. Mets were cautious with both Walker and Jacob deGrom in their returns from the IL. Again, it’s nice to see things are different around here.
8. One of the biggest changes we see are rain outs. Steve Cohen is making the calls sooner preventing fans from having to unnecessarily make the trek.
9. A side point here is we’ve seen Mets players get injured and seasons get turned sideways with players playing in poor conditions as the Wilpons push to get another gate.
11. Seeing McCann at first, and seeing his bat come alive again, you do wonder if he can play third. After all, it is a shift Todd Zeile (permanently) and Gary Carter (as a sub) have successfully made.
12. Seeing how McCann has played of late, there’s nothing wrong with the McCann/Nido platoon. In fact, it’s a good plan to get the most out of them and the starters.
13. Its a very small sample size, but Billy McKinney looks really good. He could well be someone who more than adequately fills in that 4th/5th OF role.
14. It’ll be something people overlook when they talk about how disappointing Dominic Smith has been, and he has, but he’s been playing hurt at a time when the Mets needed him.
15. Maybe it’s due to overwork, regression to the mean, or something else, but Miguel Castro is starting to look like the enigma he was with the Baltimore Orioles again.
17. On Lindor, this team is winning with pitching and defense, and he’s on the forefront of that. It’s something to remember when the Mets are healthy and debating putting in the full can’t field lineup.
18. By every objective measure, Jonathan Villar has been a below average player, but man, he finds a way to make an impact on a game.
19. The fact Kevin Pillar is going to be one of the first players back is a minor miracle given the injury he suffered and a testament to how tough he is.
20. The May games are over, and the Mets are in first place. They have the largest division lead while they’re getting healthy. Let’s hope this is enough to stave off the usual June swoon.
After sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks, the New York Mets swept the Baltimore Orioles to complete a perfect 5-0 homestand:
1. What’s the over/under on game winning RBI Patrick Mazeika gets before finally collecting his first Major League hit?
2. Mazeika is the first player with two walk-off RBI in his first four games, and it’s been well over a century before someone had multiple walk-offs before a hit.
3. Mazeika is why Old Timer’s Days are great. Some random player who most of baseball history will overlook gets to come back to a huge ovation and be treated like a legend.
4. That sentiment may apply perfectly to Mike Baxter.
5. Players and plays like this are a testament that you need contributions from up and down your roster. The Mets are getting that and then some right now.
6. Certainly, it helps the Mets experienced those injuries during a soft spot in their schedule. Then again, in years past when they didn’t have players like Kevin Pillar on the bench, they would fall completely apart anyway.
7. One annoying GKR trait is when a player like Pillar makes a good defensive play, they’ll mock defensive metrics.
8. We can talk about a number of reasons why the Mets are doing well, but defense is front and center. This has gone from a dreadful defensive team to a top 12 team.
9. When you’re playing good defense, your pitching can shine, and you only need four runs per game. When the Mets hit that mark, they’re 15-2.
10. If Jeff McNeil really only had cramps, and this front office has actually been upfront about injuries, the Mets dodged a huge bullet.
11. Albert Almora‘s collision with the wall is one of the scariest you’ll see. And yes, he did catch that ball.
12. It’s amazing after all the years of Jeff Wilpon laying waste to careers like Pedro Martinez, Ryan Church, Jason Bay, and many more with his playing doctor, people like Buster Olney only now take issue with the Mets handling injuries with Jacob deGrom landing on the IL.
13. We’re truly living in bizarre times when deGrom is on the IL, and Matt Harvey is pitching at Citi Field.
14. Harvey deserved each and every one of those standing ovations, and it was wonderful to hear how much it meant to him. Certainly, he meant the world to us.
15. Dominic Smith has started hitting again, and not a moment too soon with that clutch game tying RBI.
16. Contrary to previously held beliefs, Michael Conforto is indeed clutch.
17. Taijuan Walker continues to pitch great, and he’s probably been the best free agent starter. That said, he embarrasses the game of baseball when he doesn’t even try at the plate.
18. Marcus Stroman continues to be phenomenal both on the mound and as a fielder. As we’ve seen, he’s an even better teammate.
19. With deGrom, Stroman, and Walker, the Mets have three of the top seven in ERA.
20. The sting of Jarred Kelenic getting called up and the sheer stupidity of all things Brodie Van Wagenen will dull if the Mets keep playing like this.
When the New York Mets obtain a star, some have some trepidation. There are bad memories associated with the 1992 Mets as well as with future Hall of Famers like Roberto Alomar and All-Stars like Carlos Baerga.
Yes, those names were specifically chosen. They were not just chosen because they were great players before joining the Mets. They were also great Cleveland Indians players traded to the Mets.
What does that have to do with Francisco Lindor? In reality, absolutely nothing.
Alomar was 34 when the Mets obtained him. Baerga was hitting .267/.302/.396 with the Indians when the Mets obtained him.
No one asked if Trout should get the $426.5 million he received. There wasn’t a question about Betts’ $365 million extension. Yet, somehow, we see fans and articles question whether Lindor should receive an extension at all.
Really, it’s nonsense hand-wringing. It’s assuming everything goes wrong for the Mets. It’s remembering only the bad while conveniently forgetting Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza, and even Johan Santana.
The Mets traded for those stars and gave them extensions. Hernandez led to the best stretch in Mets history and the team’s second World Series.
Piazza set records for homers as a catcher, led the Mets to consecutive postseasons for the first time in their history, the homer after 9/11, and he became the second player to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
Santana had the last great moment in Shea Stadium history, and to date, he’s thrown the only no-hitter in Mets history.
Do the Mets want to sort through this class and have the Los Angeles Dodgers run up the bidding like they did with Trevor Bauer, or the way the Toronto Blue Jays did with George Springer. That’s nothing to say of the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox who are resetting under the luxury tax to position themselves to attack free agency next year.
That’s whenever free agency does begin. Remember, the CBA expires at the end of the season, which very well may lead to a strike or lockout. In those circumstances, it makes it all the more difficult to navigate your way through the offseason.
Regardless, all of that distracts from the main point. Francisco Lindor is a top three player in the sport and future Hall of Famer who is in his prime. Instead of inventing reasons to try to justify not extending him, we should all just demand the Mets extend him.
When it comes to the Mets, there have been several bad to disastrous free agent signings. In fact, up until recently, there was a real debate over which signing was the worst.
Players like Bobby Bonilla and Kazuo Matsui never quite fulfilled his promise. Roger Cedeno was nowhere near the player he was in 1999 when he returned to Queens. Jason Bay didn’t hit for power before the concussions happened.
As bad as those were, there was Vince Coleman, who was an unmitigated disaster. Aside from his numbers falling off a cliff, he threw firecrackers at fans, injured Dwight Gooden with a golf club, and he was accused of sexual assault (charges never filed).
Looking at it, Coleman was probably the worst of the group. When you consider the long standing animosity Mets fans had towards him prior to the signing and his off the field problems, he may still have claim to that title.
However, when it comes to on the field performance, Jed Lowrie is definitively the worst ever Mets signing. We just need to look at video from the Mets summer camp yesterday to confirm that.
Jed Lowrie is participating in base running drills with his brace on. His speed is definitely not game-ready. pic.twitter.com/PyVmUqT9J4
— Deesha (@DeeshaThosar) July 5, 2020
Rewinding back to Spring Training last year, Lowrie was initially described as having left knee soreness. Time and again, the Mets downplayed the injury, and to date, they have yet to really reveal what the injury actually is.
They didn’t reveal it when he had multiple rehab assignments shut down. They didn’t reveal it when he was 0-for-7 as a pinch hitter in September. They didn’t reveal it when he came to Spring Training this year not really ready to play. Even months later, they’re still not revealing it. Worse yet, they’re downplaying it.
New manager Luis Rojas was put in the position today that Mickey Callaway failed far too often. He had to offer an out-and-out lie and make it sound believable. According to what Rojas said, Lowrie is a “full go.”
Later in the day, we saw the video running and realized there’s no way that’s true. Lowrie is not a full go, and to a certain extent the Mets talking about Lowrie ramping up to try to play without a brace is a strawman. All told, brace or no brace, this is simply a player who can’t get on the field.
The more you see the aborted rehab attempts, the lack of explanations for the injury, the mixed messages, and Lowrie’s inability to do anything but swing the bat, the more you’re reminded of David Wright. Before his send off, Wright would make similar attempts to get back, but ultimately his body wouldn’t let him. It seems the same with Lowrie.
Maybe Lowrie is different , but that’s anyone’s guess. Really, that’s all we have. That’s partially because the Mets revealed no news, and it’s because Lowrie didn’t either.
Asked what is exactly wrong with his leg, Lowrie said he doesn't want to create a distraction.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) July 5, 2020
Maybe telling everyone why his knee, left side, or whatever else the Mets want to call it would be more of a distraction than it is already. Maybe it won’t. Whatever the case, when you strip it all down, the Mets gave a two year $20 million deal to a guy who just can’t play.
The Mets didn’t need Lowrie when they signed him. They already had Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, and Jeff McNeil. What they needed was arms in the bullpen, but they already allocated their budget towards an infielder who would wind up doing no more than a few pinch hitting attempts (without a hit). You could say the Mets not having those extra arms in the pen is what cost them the postseason last year.
Ultimately, Lowrie is getting $20 million from the Mets, and he can’t get on the field. The money allocated towards him could’ve addressed other deficiencies on the roster and helped pushed the Mets into the postseason. Brodie Van Wagenen signed his former client, who was too injured to even start one game, and with that Van Wagenen quite possibly made the single worst free agent signing in Mets history.
It was officially one year ago today reports surfaced of Jed Lowrie‘s knee injury. When it first occurred, we assumed this was probably nothing more than one of those early aches some players feel during Spring Training. As is usually the case, the Mets really had no idea of the severity of the injury, how to properly manage or diagnose it, or how to get the player back on the field.
Jed Lowrie is sore behind his left knee, Mickey Callaway said.
The Mets are being cautious, focusing on making sure he’s ready for opening day.
They’re not sure how serious it is.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) February 20, 2019
By and large, this injury kept Lowrie from playing in the field, and it limited him to just eight pinch hitting appearances in 2019. In those appearances, he had no hits, drew one walk, and struck out four times.
Fast forward to this year, and Lowrie is wearing a leg brace to help him participate in Spring Training. At the moment, no one knows if Lowrie will be able to effectively play with the brace, if he can only play with a brace, or for that matter when or if he will be able to ever play.
What makes this signing all the more troubling is Lowrie’s agent was Brodie Van Wagenen. If there was any GM in baseball who was well aware of the health issues of Lowrie, it would be his agent. Looking back, instead of the enthusiasm for the signing, perhaps there should have been more inquiry why a player coming off an All-Star season and had an 8.8 WAR over the previous two seasons could do not better than signing with the Mets to split time with Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, and Amed Rosario.
The Mets have completely and utterly wasted $20 million on a player who cannot play due to knee injuries. What makes this ironic is the Mets purportedly non-tendered Wilmer Flores partially due to knee injuries which never really existed.
While it was initially reported Flores had arthritis, subsequent reports indicated that was a misdiagnosis. In fact, Flores had tendonitis. Instead of paying him less than $5 million, or working out a team friendly extension he might’ve been inclined to sign, Flores would go to Arizona.
While he had his usual health issues, Flores had a productive season with the Diamondbacks. While continuing to improve against right-handed pitching, he had a 120 wRC+, which was the best of his career. He mostly held his own at second with a -2 DRS and a 1 OAA. That’s right, according to OAA, Flores was a positive defender. Overall, he was worth a 0.8 WAR in 89 games.
Lost in that was Flores’ clutch gene. The same player who is the Mets all-time leader in game winning RBI came up huge down the stretch for the Diamondbacks. From August to the end of the season, he hit .368/.410/.623. His 166 wRC+ over this stretch ranked as the fifth best in the majors.
While this was not enough for Flores’ option to be picked up by the Diamondbacks, he was signed by the San Francisco Giants to a two year $6.25 million deal. In total, that’s $10 million over three years for Flores. Put another way, that’s what Lowrie made in 2019 alone for his eight pinch hitting attempts.
Going forward, the Mets attempts to get another team to take on Lowrie’s contract so they could make another move failed. Meanwhile, Flores is 28 years old and in the prime of his career. Seeing the continued improvements he has made against right-handed pitching and OAA rating his defense much better, Flores could out-play his contract.
In the end, the Mets had a player in Flores who was popular, had a right-handed bat which complimented their heavy left-handed hitting lineup, was comfortable and effective on the bench, and could backup at all four infield positions. Rather than keep him around, Van Wagenen opted to sign his former client who cannot play to a $20 million deal.
By now, Mets fans are well aware playing in New York is just different, and there are some players who struggle with the experience. There are countless examples, and it is really difficult to ascertain who will struggle, and who will succeed.
Bobby Bonilla was kid from the Bronx who grew up a Mets fan. When he hit free agency, he wanted to be a Met, and it proved to be the worst thing that ever happened to him.
While he did have good years, he wasn’t the player we expected. It led to booing and probably worse. Things were so bad he had to wear earplugs.
Jason Bay handled Boston extraordinarily well, but he couldn’t quite handle New York. However, to be fair, there would prove to be extenuating circumstances like the outfield walls and concussions.
What’s really interesting is even being a Yankee previously isn’t an indicator of immediate success. For example, Curtis Granderson needed an adjustment year before taking off in 2015.
That adjustment year is something we’ve seen on multiple occasions. The most classic example is Carlos Beltran who went from complete and utter bust to Hall of Famer.
What is interesting with respect to these and other players who have struggled with the environment is they are not always upfront about how difficult it is to play and adjust to playing in New York.
To an extent, that makes Edwin Diaz unique.
In an interview with Nathalie Alonso of MLB.com, Diaz admitted to his struggles, and he also spoke about how he hopes Beltran can help him adjust. Certainly, it would make a lot of sense considering they have had very similar experiences.
What really stands out is he’s admitted to needing help learning how to handle the city and the need to prepare himself mentally.
While Diaz did not address the booing, it certainly had to be a factor. It’s hard to believe it wasn’t.
Considering his performance and the fans frustrations, you can understand their booing. In fact, you could say it was merited. However, now, we know it was the worst possible thing fans could’ve done.
On Opening Day, the fans need to give Diaz a standing ovation. We need to show our support of him and ease some of his anxiety. When he struggles, the fans need to refrain from booing him. Rather, the fans need to understand him.
He’s admitted to a struggle. That doesn’t make him mentally weak. In fact, it makes him strong. Anyone who admits a struggle and admits for help is strong. That said, he does need help.
It’s incumbent on fans to help the extent they can. Don’t boo him. Support him. Give him peace of mind. This is what fans need to do to help Diaz perform to the best of his ability, which at the end of the day, is all the fans want.
A reinvigorated Diaz returning to his 2018 form is something this Mets team desperately needs to succeed. Let’s do all we can to make sure that happens.
The Mets had a two game set against the Twins as they continued their nine game road trip where they hoped to possibly bring themselves back into the Wild Card race:
1. Amed Rosario is playing the best baseball of his MLB career. Not only has he been red hot in July, but he has also played to a 2 DRS at short since the All Star Break. It’s a small sample size for sure, but it’s all a very encouraging sign.
2. Another good sign from the middle infield is Robinson Cano hitting again. His July numbers are reminiscent of the Cano of old, and like we saw on Tuesday, even when he’s not hitting, he can still drive in a run with an out.
3. Michael Conforto seems to have shaken off the effects of his concussion earlier in the year. In addition to his hitting like Conforto again, he made a terrific play in center field to rob Nelson Cruz of an extra base hit.
4. People calling Conforto overrated or a bust absolutely know nothing about baseball. It should be noted before his concussion, Conforto was hitting ..271/.406/.521 and in the 39 games after leading into the break he hit .217/.309/.420. We should be highlighting with Jason Bay and Ryan Church the Mets have a putrid history of dealing with players with concussions and not how a player struggles after suffering one.
5. Steven Matz‘s final line looked much better than how he pitched. He was hit hard by the Twins, and he was really lucky to allow just two earned over four. Still, it’s a positive step from where he was a month ago, so the hope is he can build off of it. Note, the use of the word hope and not expect.
6. Like Matz, Edwin Diaz has been hit really hard of late, and he is escaping trouble. While he converted that save on Tuesday, that was far too much of a high wire act, and it’s questionable how long the Mets can hang with these 20+ pitch innings and his walking the tightrope.
7. Even with Diaz allowing lasers, the bullpen has been MUCH better of late. After a 7.53 bullpen ERA in June, the team has a 3.78 July bullpen ERA which is tied for 10th best in the majors. This is partially the result of the Mets leaning on Seth Lugo perhaps more than they should and the return of Justin Wilson from the IL.
8. It looks like Ricky Bones helped fixed Jeurys Familia. He had two big and important appearances. We also saw him throwing that 99 MPH sinker again. Maybe this was all just mechanical with him, and that may or may not have been attributable to the shoulder issues. In any event, Familia finally looks like he is back on track.
9. We only get small snapshots of teams in Interleague Play, especially in two game sets, but it’s surprising to see this Twins team being atop the AL Central. Is this the result of the AL depth being that bad, or was this just a bad series? In any event, you take a two game sweep against a good team.
10. That six run inning against the Twins was huge. It took what could have been a tightrope walk with a bullpen leaned on heavily a bit of late, and it allowed the Mets to go to Chris Mazza to eat up two innings. That is a huge development which cannot be undersold.
11. While Dominic Smith hit the go-ahead pinch hit three run homer, it was Pete Alonso‘s 474 foot blast anyone could talk about. Certainly, that’s all Steve Gelbs wanted to talk about with Smith in the postgame. That and his striking out against a position player. To that end, why does everyone find Gelbs so charming? I don’t get it.
12. Gary Discarcina not sending Rosario to go try to get that inside-the-park homer was no fun at all.
13. It is really surprising the Mets would catch Wilson Ramos in a day game after a night game given his injury history and the fact the Mets were about to get on a flight to go to San Francisco after the game. You have to wonder how much the wear and tear here will linger.
14. Mets need to watch their usage of Lugo. As the pressure has ratcheted up a bit, they keep going to the whip there. When they did that with Robert Gsellman earlier in the year, they lost him. Really, at some point, the Mets need to learn this lesson before they lose a key piece.
15. Right now, you should feel good about the Mets. Whether we should feel good a week from now will depend on how they play.
16. With a 0.2 WAR, Wilmer Font was the best performing player Brodie Van Wagenen obtained via trade, and he was designated for assignment and traded to the Blue Jays for cash considerations. This is both hilarious and a fine example of how completely inept Van Wagenen has been as the Mets General Manager.
17. Mets fans seem to want to defend the team on designating Travis d’Arnaud for assignment much like how they defend the team’s decisions on Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Hansel Robles, Collin McHugh, and others. Really, at what point do fans stop defending the team and just start asking why the Jeff Wilpon led team continues to make poor assessments and decisions like these?
18. Zack Wheeler getting hurt pretty much means the Mets need to hold onto him and offer him a qualifying offer because it’s doubtful the Mets are going to get a return commensurate with the comp pick they would receive if Wheeler rejected the offer and signed elsewhere.
19. People need to stop making luxury tax threshold excuses for the Mets for their building a team in 2020. Remember, that includes $15 million of David Wright‘s contract which is covered by insurance and has been settled by the Mets. Another $29.5 million is from Yoenis Cespedes‘ who has part of his contract covered by insurance. Finally, $12 million of Jacob deGrom‘s $25 million is deferred. The Mets can and should go over the luxury tax threshold next year if they really want to compete.
20. Now that this series is over, the Mets play 20 straight games against teams with a losing record. After that, they have three against the Phillies, who currently hold the second Wild Card spot. If you have hopes the Mets can make a run, there it is.
The Mets went to Atlanta with an opportunity to make a statement, and they did. It was just the wrong one:
1. The Mets needed to address their bullpen, defense, and depth. Brodie Van Wagenen completely failed in his efforts.
2. The bullpen has been the biggest culprit this year. What makes it all the more depressing is Anthony Swarzak has been better this year than Edwin Diaz. It gets better when you realize Swarzak is now a Brave pitching well against his former team.
3. The Mets followed a season with the second worst defense in the National League with the worst this year. There’s being a horrible shifting team, and there is also having players like J.D. Davis way out of position in left field.
4. On the topic of Davis, Gary Disarcina‘s send of him was inexplicably bad. It was the latest in bad decisions he’s made there. When you combine that with how horribly the infield has been shifted and his inability to help Amed Rosario improve defensively, you realize he’s been a bad coach for two years now. Really bad.
5. The defense killed Zack Wheeler‘s and Steven Matz‘s starts, but that was not the only reason. Both pitchers needed to be better in their starts. They needed to pick up their defense. They didn’t, and they unraveled and lost. Their failures are as much on them as the defense.
6. For Wheeler, this follows his career splits. His Junes are always terrible. He then rebounds to have a great second half. The problem for the Mets is his following this pattern is taking them out of contention, and it’s also not letting him build up trade value for when they have to sell him a month from now.
8. You get a sense of how bad things are when Mickey Callaway felt compelled to use Robert Gsellman to handle the ninth after deGrom’s start. Essentially, Callaway said he didn’t want one of his other relievers tacking on runs to his starter and ruining the good feeling that start would’ve had on his ace and the club.
9. It’s funny. That seemed like the perfect opportunity to use Stephen Nogosek to break him in easily. That said, as fans we’re never privy to the internal dynamics of a clubhouse and wanting to build up your players.
10. Nogosek and Daniel Zamora showed they are not answers to what has been ailing the bullpen. Instead, this was the team shifting deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s something to keep in mind when they previously passed on Craig Kimbrel and still have yet to sign Cody Allen.
11. That said, Chris Flexen showed us something. When he entered that game, the Braves had a real chance to put it out of reach. He stepped up and pitched two scoreless innings. In what was a lost series, he emerged as a potential bright spot.
12. Michael Conforto has been great lately with a 10 game hitting streak and a hit in 15 of the 17 games this month. In addition to his good defense in right field, he is easily the most underappreciated player on this roster.
13. After a bad May, Pete Alonso has picked it back up in June. He’s been a monster at the plate. It will be very interesting to see how this continues to play out this season.
14. Why isn’t Jeff McNeil playing in center? Juan Lagares hasn’t been good. Neither has Carlos Gomez. Really, McNeil can’t be worse and making him the everyday center fielder would allow the team to get Dominic Smith into the lineup everyday. Sure, Smith in left won’t help the defense, but he’s a better option than Davis out there.
15. For all the talk about Adeiny Hechavarria needing to play over Rosario, if you look, he’s hitting like Hechavarria again with him hitting .176/.222/.176 over the last two weeks and a .241/.276/.434 batting line overall. If you’re going to go down like this as a team, shouldn’t you be looking at Luis Guillorme in this role?
16. Both Brandon Nimmo and Justin Wilson have been shut down after the team’s repeated efforts to try to get them to play through their injuries. You really have to question how the Mets continue making this mistake with their players. It takes an extra level of a complete lack of self awareness and examination to repeatedly make the same mistake.
17. While this is a very down time for the Mets and being a Mets fan, just remember this team still has a young core, and they have been better than anyone could’ve hoped. While the hope for 2019 is fading fast (if not completely gone), there is real hope for 2020.
18. We could talk about the division being unofficially being out of reach and the Mets needing to focus on the Wild Card, but that’s only fooling ourselves. It’s time to sell. That said, if the Mets sweep the Cubs, I’ll probably talk myself into this team being a competitor. With Walker Lockett starting things off for the Mets, the chances of that happening are remote.
19. The worst place in baseball to be is inbetween being a competitor and a bad team. The Mets were in that position in 2002, and they made a horrendous trade with the Rockies trading Jason Bay as part of a package for Steve Reed. A few years later, we’d see it happen with the Scott Kazmir/Victor Zambrano trade. With Brodie Van Wagenen’s hubris, another awful deal like this is a real danger.
20. If Brodie Van Wagenen did nothing this offseason but keep what was here, the Mets would still be a fourth place team, but instead they would’ve been one with payroll flexibility and a farm system on the cusp of being the best in the game.
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.
* * * * * *
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.
On August 16, 2009, David Wright stepped up to the plate against Matt Cain, and he would get hit on the helmet knocking him unconscious. As a result of the hit by pitch, Wright would sustain a concussion. Up until that point in the season, Wright was hitting .324/.414/.467. He would miss 15 games, and in the 29 games after he returned, he would wear a ridiculously large helmet and hit .239/.289/.367.
For years, there would be questions about whether Wright could ever be the same player after getting hit by that pitch. Some would surmise he was gun shy on inside pitches. There were other theories as well. However, what is not oft discussed is whether the Mets were sufficiently cautious in bringing him back from his concussion.
That’s not a discussion people had with respect to Ryan Church,. In real time, people thought the Mets handling of him and his concussion went well beyond negligence. In fact, they showed ignorance and stupidity.
On May 20, 2008, Church slid into second base in an attempt to break up a double play. On the slide, Yunel Escobar‘s knee hit him in the helmet with such force it rendered Church unconscious. It was his second concussion in little more than three months. After missing just one game, he would board a plane and fly with the team to Colorado. It would be a couple of weeks before he hit the disabled list.
Prior to the concussion, Church as a revelation for the Mets. Over his first 43 games, he was hitting .311/.379/.534. After the concussion, he hit .241/.313/.342. He wasn’t much better in 2009, and to add insult to injury Mets manager Jerry Manuel questioned his toughness and went so far to cite how Wright came back from his concussion.
Of course, Manuel was such a terrible manager he was never aware of how Wright struggled after his concussion.
Effectively speaking, this concussion and the Mets handling of it ended Church’s career. He was never quite the same player again, and after the 2010 season, he was out of baseball. The same was likely the case for another Mets outfielder.
On July 23, 2010, Jason Bay ran head first into a wall at Dodger Stadium, and he suffered a concussion on the play. He’d fly back with the team from Los Angeles to New York.
While we remember Bay’s tenure with the Mets as a complete disappointment, at that point in the season he was an above average hitter with a 1.5 WAR on track for a near 3.0 WAR season. Despite the concussion, Bay would actually play two more games before being shut down for the rest of the year. To be fair Bay was not the hitter the Mets expected him to be. Although, no one was in the days of the Great Wall of Flushing.
As bad as Bay was in 2010, he kept getting worse in the ensuing years. He’d retire at the age of 34 after his $66 million contract expired.
If we are being honest, we do not know what impact concussions had on any of these players. With each player, there were extenuating circumstances. We have also seen concussions are not a death sentence for anyone’s career.
For example, Wright had a great 2010 season, and he would have great years leading up to his career ending spinal stenosis. Mike Piazza was concussed by a Roger Clemens fastball on July 8, 2000. He would return five days later, and he would hit .294/.380/.518 (which was a big drop-off for him) in a season where he would led the Mets to the World Series. He would also show no ill effects going forward with a great 2001 season. Ultimately, it was the wear and tear from catching and age, not the head injury, which led to the end of Piazza’s career.
No player is alike, and we have seen seemingly recovered athletes struggle from their returns from concussions. When handled poorly, you have the potential to ruin careers. We saw that with Church, and we have seen it with athletes in other sports as well.
This is the dilemma facing the Mets right now. So far, they have done everything right with Michael Conforto. They have apparently learned from their lessons from their gross mishandling of concussions in the past. That said, there is the natural pull from the team to rush him back from this injury.
With Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, and Robinson Cano on the IL, the team desperately needs him in the lineup. That said, they need a healthy and ready to play Conforto. When that time will be is anyone’s best guess. The key here for the Mets and especially for Conforto and his career is they guess right.