In September 2015, Scott Boras tried to intervene and limit Matt Harvey‘s innings in what could be perceived as an attempt to save the pitcher not just from the Mets, but also from himself. There would be a modified schedule and some skipped starts, but Harvey eventually took the shackles off because he wanted the ball.
Harvey always wanted the ball.
He wanted the ball in the NL East clincher against the Reds. Instead of the five innings he was supposed to pitch, he pitched into the seventh because, well, he wanted to get ready for the postseason, and the Mets were lucky he did.
Harvey won a pivotal Game 3 of the NLDS. With that series going five games, it was Harvey who got the ball in Game 1 of the NLCS. In front of a raucous Citi Field crowd, Harvey set the tone for that series. As he stepped off the mound with two outs in the eighth, he wasn’t tipping his cap. No, he was pumped up like all of Citi Field was because he knew what we all knew . . . this team was going to the World Series.
When telling the story of Matt Harvey, we will forever go back to Game 5. With the Mets team trying to rally back from a 3-1 series deficit, Harvey wanted the ball for the ninth. Terry Collins initially wanted Jeurys Familia, but he relented, and he gave Harvey the ball.
You’d be hard pressed to find a time in Citi Field history louder than when Harvey took the mound in that ninth. A blown lead and Game 5 loss later, you’d never find Citi Field more despondent.
Now, looking back, that Game 5 was the microcosm of Harvey’s Mets career.
He came in, and he gave us all hope the impossible could happen. He brought us all along for the ride. There was no one we wanted out there more than Harvey. And yet at the very end, despite all the hope and brilliance he brought, we were all left in disbelief, and yes, some in tears, over the how and why Harvey was still out there.
Mainly, Harvey was there because despite no matter what anyone said, Harvey wanted to be there, and he was not going to let anyone stop him.
And you know what? Back in 2013, no one could stop him.
In 26 starts, Harvey was 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, 0.931 WHIP, and a 9.6 K/9. His 2.01 FIP that year would not only lead the Majors, but it would be one of the 10 best over the past 100 years. His WHIP still remains a single season Mets record. It may have seemed premature to put him in the conversation with Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, but really, it made sense. Harvey was just that good.
He was the reason to watch a terrible Mets team, and on May 7th, he may have pitched the game of his life. If not for an Alex Rios infield single Ruben Tejada could not turn into an out, Harvey likely pitches a perfect game. Instead, he had to settle for a no decision despite allowing just one hit and 12 strikeouts in nine innings. Just file that away next time someone points out his win-loss record.
That game was the signature Harvey moment. He took the mound with a bloody nose. He was reaching near triple digits with this fastball. He was becoming a superstar. He was making Citi Field his playground.
When we look through the history of Citi Field one day, it will be Harvey who emerged as it’s first superstar. He was the one who brought the crowds. He started the first All Star Game at Citi Field. Arguably, he pitched the two best games ever pitched by a Met at that ballpark.
It would be that 2013 season Harvey broke. He tore his UCL, and he needed Tommy John surgery. Mets fans everywhere who were once so hopeful were crushed. There were many low moments in Mets history since the team moved to Citi Field, but that one is among the lowest.
But when he came back in 2015, hope returned. He may not have been 2013 great, but he was great. For all the criticism over his innings limits, he would throw more innings than any pitcher in baseball history in their first season back from Tommy John.
Looking back at that 2015 season, Harvey gave the Mets and their fans everything he had. He pitched great in the regular season, and he was even better in the postseason. Just like in 2013, he was trying to will the Mets back to prominence. He was taking an organization on his back and trying to win a World Series.
It broke him in 2013, and apparently, it broke him again in 2015.
Really, when he stepped off that mound in Game 5 of the World Series, Harvey was done as we knew him. In 2016, he’d be diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome requiring season ending surgery. Last year, Harvey was rushed back to the rotation before he was physically ready, and he suffered a stress reaction. This year, he was healthy, but lost.
Looking back, no one will ever know if Harvey listened to Boras if he’d still be The Dark Knight instead of a guy now looking for a job.
The real shame is how Harvey went out. The same guy who heard the loudest ovations from the fans, the same one who heard Mets fans serenade Stephen Strasburg with “Harvey’s Better!” chants, was booed off the mound the last time he ever pitched on what had once been his mound.
There are some who will find behavioral excuses why Harvey faulted, and maybe they do exist. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a pitcher who was at the top of his game in November only to completely lose it by the next April. Most pitchers get a transition period to figure things out. Harvey’s cruel fate was he had more injuries followed by his getting about a month and a half before being given an ultimatum.
In what once seemed impossible, Harvey was designated for assignment. Sure, Mets fans always expected him to leave one day, but we all thought it would be Harvey who spurned the cheap Wilpon family, not the Wilpons kicking him out the door despite the team still owing him around $4 million.
Much has been made of the Mets crop of starting pitchers, the group who brought them to the 2015 World Series. Make no mistake, Harvey was the best out of the group. Better than Jacob deGrom. Better than Noah Syndergaard.
Really, he was better than anyone not named Seaver or Gooden, and if things had broken right, Harvey could have been a Hall of Famer. He was that good when he was healthy, but he wasn’t healthy making him this generation’s version of Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, or Jon Matlack.
Harvey being designated for assignment wasn’t a shock. With every struggle on the mound, and yes, some personal issues that emerged, he was getting closer and closer to this point. It doesn’t mean this doesn’t hurt the Mets fan, the ones who got to experience in the joy of seeing the real Harvey pitch, any less.
There will come a day down the line where all will be forgiven, and we can all just look back and appreciate all Harvey did for the Mets. We can take a step back and marvel how he potentially sacrificed his entire career to win that one World Series. Really, he has never been thanked or appreciated enough for that.
Now, he is looking for a new team and a new fan base. Hopefully, Harvey rediscovers some of that magic he once had, and hopefully, he gets those cheers again. He’s certainly earned them.
And when he does return to Citi Field, whether it be this year or the next, let’s hope he gets that true standing ovation he deserved, the one he might’ve received on Thursday had we all known it was going to be his last game in a Mets uniform.
No matter what happens, Mets fans everywhere should wish him the best of luck. There was a time we showered him with all the love we had, and he returned the favor by giving us everything he had. Everything. Here’s hoping he gets everything he is looking for in his next stop.
I know no matter what he does, I’m rooting of him. More than that I appreciate Harvey for all he did as a Met. Really, best of luck to you, Matt Harvey.
The Mets are 9-1, and they are now off to the best start in franchise history. However, right now, when it comes to the Mets, this isn’t even the biggest news of the season:
Saturday, April 7th at Washington – Steven Matz
Sunday, April 8th at Washington – Matt Harvey
Monday, April 9th at Miami – Noah Syndergaard
Tuesday, April 10th at Miami – Jacob deGrom
Wednesday, April 11th at Miami – Zack Wheeler
Sometime after 7:10 P.M., after the bottom of the first has ended, the dream will finally be realized. The Five Aces will have finally taken one turn through the rotation. What’s funny about it is the dream was thought to be dead.
In 2015, before Syndergaard and Matz were called up to the majors, Wheeler needed Tommy John surgery. As a result, this meant the dream, which was still in its infancy, would have to wait a year.
Heading into 2016, the Mets re-signed Bartolo Colon to help allow Wheeler to take his time in his rehab. He would have a number of setbacks, and he would never pitch in 2016. That year also saw deGrom, Harvey, and Matz befall season ending injuries themselves.
In 2017, the Mets were once again poised to have them all in the same rotation. However, Matz would need to begin the season on the disabled list. Syndergaard didn’t have an MRI and tore his lat. Harvey and Wheeler would find their way onto the disabled list with stress reactions after they had probably been rushed into the rotation before they were ready.
The progress in 2017 was they at least all made a start in the same season. That was something Generation K never did. In 1995, we saw Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher in the same rotation. Like with Wheeler, it was discovered Pulsipher needed Tommy John during the ensuing Spring Training. As a result, this meant it was just Isringhausen and Paul Wilson in the rotation.
In 1997, Isringhausen was the only one to pitch for the Mets with Wilson pitching in the minors with shoulder problems and Pulsipher experiencing depression and complications from Tommy John. Pulsipher would be the only one to pitch for the Mets in 1998 with Isringhausen hurt and Wilson hurt and in the minors.
In 1998, Pulipsher was the first to go. He was traded to the Brewers for Mike Kinkade. In 1999, it was Isringhausen’s turn to go as the Mets thought it better to use him to obtain Billy Taylor rather than use him in the bullpen.
Pulsipher came back to the organization in 2000, and he lost the Spring Training competition for the fifth starter spot to Glendon Rusch. Both he and Wilson would get traded that season as the Mets sought reinforcements in Lenny Harris, Bubba Trammell, and Rick White to help them win a World Series.
The odd thing about seeing Generation K all being traded away for supporting pieces was they were supposed to be the leading drive towards a World Series. Overall, they’d never appear in the same rotation, and they would pitch for the Mets in the postseason.
Seeing Generation K’s struggles makes what is happening tonight all the more remarkable. Not only are we finally seeing these five pitchers in the same rotation, but we have already seen them have the success we once expected from Generation K. In fact, they’ve been much more successful.
In many ways, seeing Wheeler start tonight is going to slay many demons for the entire Mets organization.
From the start the Mets have had and the seemingly magic tough Mickey Callaway has had, there is a lot more in store for the Mets. That said, short of David Wright taking the field again, it is going to be hard to envision a more powerful moment that will happen this (regular) season.
With Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz starting the year in Triple-A, and the Mets discovering Zack Wheeler tore his UCL on the eve of Spring Training, we knew the Five Aces weren’t going to pitch in the same rotation in 2015. After winning the pennant that year, the Mets set their sights on 2016 to be the year the team not only won the World Series, but also as the year their plan would all come to fruition.
That was until Wheeler had a number of set-backs costing him the entire 2016 season. But it was more than just Wheeler. Matt Harvey would have a lost season culminating with a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome diagnosis. Jacob deGrom needed ulnar nerve transplantation surgery. Matz had one of his typically injury plagued seasons with him needing season ending surgery to remove what was described as a massive bone spur from his pitching elbow.
That made 2017 the year . . . until it wasn’t. Despite many believing neither Harvey nor Wheeler were ready to begin the season in the rotation, they ultimately did due to injuries. However, that did not mean the Five Aces would not begin the year in the same rotation as Matz once again had elbow issues.
After Matz, it was Syndergaard with a torn lat. Then Harvey and Wheeler would each go down with stress reactions to their pitching arms. While not confirmed, this may have been the result of them team pushing them too hard to start the season. Ultimately, after 13 starts, the Mets discovered what was wrong with Matz; he had the same nerve injury deGrom had the previous season.
This offseason was the offseason the Mets front office became more realistic. The team signed Todd Frazier to play third base all but admitted David Wright would not be able to play this season, and the team signed Jason Vargas. With Vargas lined up to the the third or fourth starter, the Mets were effectively announcing the Five Aces dream was finally dead.
Except, ironically, it isn’t. And I say ironically because it is an injury that has allowed the dream to be revived.
With Vargas needing surgery to remove a fractured hamate bone, the Mets need to replace him for at least two turns through the rotation. This means that Wheeler, who was a candidate to move to the bullpen, or Matz, who was considered to start the year in Extended Spring Training, will likely both find themselves in the same rotation with Syndergaard, deGrom, and Harvey.
Finally, it is all coming to plan even if those plans are two to three years late.
After seeing how each pitchers pitches in their starts, and with Vargas’ timetable not being completely set in stone, who knows what will happen. Maybe this will last for two turns, the first half, or the full season. With the Mets and their handling of injuries, you never know. The only thing we do know is against all odds, the Five Aces will pitch in the same rotation.
That’s no small feat given all of their respective obstacles. This is a great thing for Mets fans to see as well because we have been waiting years to see this. And for slightly older Mets fans, this is cathartic because we never did get to see Generation K (Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, and Bill Pulsipher) ever pitch in the same rotation.
We’ll now see it with the Five Aces. Let the fun begin.
When you go through Mets history, there are certain dark moments of Mets history which continue to haunt Mets fans.
The 1992 Mets were dubbed The Worst Team Money Could Buy. The Mets first real foray into free agency would see the team add Eddie Murray, Willie Randolph, Dick Schofield, Bill Pecota, Bret Saberhahen, and the prize of the offseason free agent class Bobby Bonilla. Under the guise of 1990 American League Manager of the Year Jeff Torborg, the Mets would go 70-92.
There would not be hope again until Generation K – Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, and Bill Pulsipher. With Isringhausen bursting out of the gate in 1995 going 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA in his first 14 starts, Mets fans anticipation was at a fever pitch.
The funny thing is due to a myriad of injuries to all three pitchers, the trio dubbed Generation K would never appear in the same rotation. Over time, they would be surpassed and traded away for spare parts. To put it in perspective, the best player the Mets would get in exchange for the trio would be Rick White.
Fast forward 20 years and Mets fans have dreamed about this generations crop of pitchers winning their first World Series since 1986. While not as clever as Generation K, they had their own nickname – The Five Aces. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.
They were going to scoff at the 1971 Orioles pitching staff and their measly 20 wins apiece.
Those 1990s Braves teams were going to laughed at for producing just three Hall of Fame pitchers.
Instead, what we got was Matt and Jake and All Five Pitchers Ache. Essentially, it all came off the Wheeler.
Each and every single one of them would go down with injury. Most of them went down with two or more. As a result, much like Generation K, these five pitchers have never appeared in the same rotation. Worse yet, in some sick cosmic twist of fate, last year would be the first year all five would start a game in the same season, and the end result was the worst ERA in team history.
Finally, this year was supposed to be the year. Everyone was shut down at a some point last year to help them get ready for this year. The team brought in Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and a whole new medical staff. It was all set up for them.
And then, the team signed Jason Vargas.
Yes, given their respective health issues, the Vargas signing made a lot of sense. However, with him getting a two ear deal, it may just kill the dream because so long as Vargas has a rotation spot, we will not see the Five Aces pitch together in the same starting rotation. With Harvey’s impending free agency, this was the last chance, and it is going by the wayside.
Maybe it is for the best because as we saw in 2015, so long as we have three completely healthy, this team can go to the World Series. That more than the Five Aces pitch in the same rotation is the goal. Still, not seeing it happen once leaves you a bit melancholy.
At the end of this run for the Five Aces, we are ultimately going to be left with Vargas and Montero Where Did Our Five Aces Go?
The one thing we never got to see with Generation K was Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson in the same rotation. In fact, we have never seen them all in the same pitching staff. That never happened because of all the injuries they suffered. Then we saw Isringhausen and Wilson traded in successive years to help the Mets chances of winning a World Series instead of them pitching the Mets to the World Series.
Whatever you want to call the group of Mets young starters (most seemed to like the Five Aces), they never appeared in the same rotation. The closest we got was seeing Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in the same rotation in 2015. Coincidentally, that was also the year the Mets went to the World Series on the strength of their pitching.
The reason Zack Wheeler was not a part of that group that went to the postseason was because he suffered an injury in Spring Training. In fact, Wheeler would be gone for two years rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. For a moment, it seemed as fait accompli the group would never pitch in the same rotation because Wheeler was almost traded to the Brewers with Wilmer Flores for Carlos Gomez. In fact, if not for Gomez’s hip, the dream would have died there.
Still to this day, we have never seen the five in the same rotation. However, we have seen them all pitch in the same season in the rotation. It may not seem like much, but it’s something. It’s also a step closer to seeing them all in the same rotation. It may finally happen next year.
Matz should be ready for Opening Day after the surgery to repair his ulnar nerve. This was the same surgery deGrom had last season, and he was able to last the entire season injury free. Both Harvey and Syndergaard were able to return and pitch before the season was over. Like in 2015 and 2016, the only question is Wheeler.
In the end, the Mets are a step closer to having all five of their proverbial aces in the rotation. At a minimum, they are a step closer to seeing them all on the same pitching staff. If it does happen, one of the open wounds Mets fans have suffered will close a bit. Howeve,r that wound will not fully heal until we see this group pitch the Mets to a World Series title.
Want to know how things went for the Mets today? Their best pitcher was Kevin Plawecki who allowed four runs on three homers in two . . . TWO! . . . innings pitched.
How the Mets got there is almost too exhausting to detail. Suffice it to say, it all started with Noah Syndergaard. After refusing an MRI for biceps complaints, the Mets sent him to the mound on Sunday. To be fair, Syndergaard probably thought MRI meant Mets related injury.
Every Mets fan knew what would happen. We knew he’s get injured. We’ve been expecting it since Generation K went up in flames with the injuries suffered by Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson. And it happened. After 1.1 innings where he allowed five hits, five runs, two walks (first two of the season) while striking out two, he was gone with a “lat injury.” It’s in quotes because it’s clear no one knows what’s going on with Syndergaard.
From there, it’s difficult to decipher what happened.
Even with the Syndergaard injury, the Mets were only down 6-5 heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Everyone was pitching in (pun intended). The resurgent Jose Reyes, moved to second in the lineup due to players getting the day off, got it all started with a first inning one out triple. Jay Bruce was 3-4 with a homer and two RBI. Rene Rivera had a homer of his own. Even Sean Gilmartin got in on the action with an RBI double.
Gilmartin, that’s where the trouble started. Initially, he kept the Nationals at bay when he came on after the Syndergaard injury. But, he melted down in the fourth allowing four earned. Gilmartin, like the rest of the Mets was victimized by Anthony Rendon, who hit two homers off of him.
Fernando Salas started the fifth, and he eventually put the game completely out of reach allowing three runs. When he left, it was 13-5. The Nationals still had 10 runs left in them.
Six of them came off Josh Smoker, who melted down in his second inning of work. He didn’t record one out while facing five batters that inning. He and the whole team left Terry Collins little choice. He had to go to a position player to pitch the final two innings.
It was hard to tell if Plawecki was throwing a knuckleball or a batting practice fastball. The answer was a knuckleball, but the Nationals were teeing off of him and all Mets pitchers like it was batting practice. Whether it was the knuckleball or the fact that Plawecki was the least important player on the roster, it was an inspired choice by Collins.
What wasn’t inspired was how the Mets finished this series. After rallying back from losing six in a row, 10 of 11, and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets beat Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in back-to-back games. It was an announcement the Mets weren’t done. It was enough to give a Nationals team, who just lost Adam Eaton for the season, doubt they were the better team.
Twenty-three runs later, in a game started by Syndergaard, that doubt should be erased. Trea Turner was the only Nationals starter without a multi-hit game, and he still hit a double and scored a run.
More than that, Rendon was 6-6 with five runs, a double, three homers, and 10 RBI. The Mets as a team had five runs on nine hits.
Game Recap: Reyes had another error, but this one was at shortstop as the Mets gave Asdrubal Cabrera the day off. Neil Walker had another poor game at the plate and is now hitting .195. Same goes for Curtis Granderson who is now hitting .128.
Well, it has finally happened. With Pitchers and Catchers reporting, the Mets dream rotation all has major league experience, and they are all healthy at the same time. For a fan base that never got to see Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, and Bill Pulsipher all pitch together in the same rotation, this is no small event.
In fact, this is a momentous occasion where some demons can be slain, and yet, there is some debate over whether we will see each and every single one of these pitchers pitch in the same rotation:
Matt Harvey is coming off surgery to alleviate the symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). This surgery does not have the same history as Tommy John, so while there is always reason to believe in Harvey due to his drive and determination, there is some doubt as to how TOS will affect him in the future.
Jacob deGrom is coming off surgery to re-position his ulnar nerve. As far as pitcher elbow surgeries, this is as easy as it gets. And yet, whenever a pitcher gets elbow surgery, especially when that pitcher has once had Tommy John surgery, it gives you pause.
Steven Matz has pitched in the majors for parts of two seasons, and he was injury prone in both of those seasons. Last season, it was a surgery to remove what was categorized as a massive bone spur. Now that it is gone, he should be free and clear to resume being the pitcher we think he can be. Still, he is one more injury away from us questioning if he, like Travis d’Arnaud, will ever be healthy.
Zack Wheeler has not taken the mound in over two seasons due to his Tommy John and his difficulties and setbacks during the rehabilitation process. Fortunately, he seems ready to go, but he is at this point, we have no idea.
Noah Syndergaard has largely come through two seasons unscathed, and he has emerged as the staff ace. And yet, with his being a pitcher, moreover his being a Mets pitcher, you hold your breath. While you get excited about him adding muscle and his talk about wanting to throw harder, it should also give you some nervousness.
And yet despite all of these concerns and red flags, this is a great day. The dream that was set in motion with the Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey trades is close to coming to fruition. And with these five pitchers going to the mound, it is going to be extremely difficult for the opposition to out-pitch this quintet. It is going to be even harder to beat the Mets when they take the mound.
At some point during the season, we will see all five of these pitchers in the rotation, and if we don’t that might be good news. The reason? Well, it could be because either Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo won a job in the rotation, and they pitched well enough the Mets are loathe to move them out of the rotation.
If the Mets truly have seven pitchers capable of being in THIS starting rotation, the Mets should be primed for a great 2017 season.
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
The year was 1996. The Mets were supposed to open the season with a trio of pitchers dubbed Generation K. Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, and Bill Pulsipher were all supposed to usher in the next era of great Mets pitching. They were supposed to win multiple Cy Youngs and World Series titles.
It never happened.
Pulsipher was the first to arrive on the scene. In his first year in AA, a 20 year old Pulsipher pitched 201.0 innings. The prior year he only pitched 139.2 innings. The following year, 1995, Pulsipher would pitch in AAA and get called up to the majors. He threw 218.1 innings. Pulsipher wouldn’t pitch in 1996 as he had a torn ligament in his pitching elbow.
In Pulsipher’s rookie year, he made 17 starts. He never reached that plateau again. His last major league appearance came in 2005 when he was 31 years old. When Pulsipher made those five appearances, it was the first time he pitched in the big leagues since 2001. Pulsipher finished his career going 13-19 with a 5.15 ERA in 46 starts and 60 relief appearances.
Unlike Pulsipher, Wilson burst on the scene in 1996. He was the first overall pick in the 1994 draft after dominating at Florida State. In 1995, Wilson pitched his first season of professional ball, and he pitched well in his 186.2 innings. So well in fact, that the Mets called him up to the majors. He went 5-12 with a 5.38 ERA in 26 starts. His season would end as he needed arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder.
Wilson would never pitch for the Mets again. He would be part of a trade on 2000 for a fourth outfielder in Bubba Trammel and a bullpen arm in Rick White. He finished his career going 40-58 with a 4.86 ERA in 153 starts and 17 relief appearances.
Without a doubt, Isringhausen had the best career of the Generation K pitchers, and he had to go to the bullpen to do it.
Isringhausen burst on the scene in 1995. In 14 starts with the Mets, he went 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA. Even though he only pitched in half a season, he was so impressive that he finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. While he may not have been the most heralded pitcher of Generation K, he had the most success out of all of them when he was first called up. However, that success would not last as like the other two pitchers, Isringhausen’s arm was a ticking timebomb.
In 1994, the year before Isringhausen pitched in the majors, he threw 193.1 innings. The year before? He threw only 90.1 innings. In his career, Isringhausen would need shoulder surgery and three Tommy John surgeries. This doesn’t even include surgery for a broken wrist because he lost a fight with a water cooler.
Isringhausen would eventually make two All Star teams due to his work as a closer. He would record 300 saves. The last seven were with the Mets in 2011 when he came back on a minor league deal. At that point, he served as a mentor to a young bullpen. It was a nice bookend towards the end of his career. The former young hothead with arm troubles became a veteran leader.
These three heralded young pitchers were ruined by the Mets organization. They were needlessly pushed beyond their limits in the minors and majors. As a result, they had a series of shoulder and elbow injuries. The heralded trio would never appear in the same rotation.
It’s been four years since Isringhausen has retired, and now people want to interview him when we talk about how prospects should be handled. Here’s what he revealed about how those Mets handled prospects:
Jason Isringhausen: In the minors if we didn't pitch 9 innings, we got a talking to. We didn't watch pitch counts as much as we do today
— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) March 3, 2016
Twenty years later, the Mets have a new trio, who for some reason don’t have a great nickname like Generation K. While Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey have had Tommy John surgery, the Mets handle their young aces much better now. They took better care of their pitchers during the rehabilitation process. Last year, we saw deGrom and Harvey team up with Noah Syndergaard to pitch the Mets into the World Series.
This was supposed to happen 20 years ago. It’s happening now. So next time, the Mets are too patient with a player, or a player or his agent voice concerns over a pitcher’s workload, remember Mets fans were robbed of seeing three aces in one staff due to over usage of the young pitchers.
I’m sure innings limits, six man rotations, and skipped starts will be a story line at some point in 2016. When it does, embrace it because the Mets not using that forward thinking might’ve cost at least one World Series title. Young pitchers are fragile, and they need to he handled as such. If you don’t, the workload could lead to injuries and/or ruined careers. Next thing you know, the window to win a World Series is slammed shut.
I’m not willing to see another chance go by the wayside due to some meaningless starts again.
I know where I was three years ago. I was sitting in front of the TV in my basement watching Matt Harvey make his major league debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was important to watch that game because it was the first glimmer of hope Mets fans since the collapses closing out Shea.
It’s been a whirlwind since then. He started by striking out Gerardo Parra (yes, that Gerardo Parra) in a record setting 11 K, 5.1 inning shutout win. He would finish 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts. He showed us glimpses of his potential.
In 2013, he started out like gangbusters. From the outset, he was the NL Player of the Week and April’s Player of the Month. He was in ESPN’s “The Body” issue. He almost had a perfect game (my second SNY appearance):
Then things started to turn sour. The Mets let him pitch through forearm tightness (paging Dr. Warthen). After he was shut down, he fought seemingly everyone on getting the surgery (because the Mets should control anyone’s medical decisions). Now all of a sudden his Rangers fandom was a problem (because hanging around and learning from Lundqvist is a bad thing). He had the gaul to want to be around his teammates during his rehab. He had the audacity to seek to pitch one inning in 2014.
There were other missteps, some true and some overblown. Overblown: him paying respects to Derek Jeter. He wasn’t allowed to travel with the team. He goes and watches Derek Jeter’s home game (as inconspicuously as he could), and he gets blasted. By the way, we want our players to love and respect the game, and when Harvey does it, he’s vilified. The real ones were the social media gaffes.
Finally, 2015 mercifully arrived. He has been a very good starting pitcher, but not quite Matt Harvey yet. For his part, Harvey thinks he’s back. Let’s hope he is because I can’t stand the inane backlash from his travel arrangements to his being curteous after playing a round of golf. I can’t stand it.
You know what I see when I see Matt Harvey? I see a fierce competitor. I see a good teammate. I see someone who has handled fame and pressure well. He’s always at his locker answering questions, win or lose. I see a player whose nightlife activities include Ranger games. You don’t hear about all night drinking or drugs with him. After the 80’s, we should appreciate that.
On top of the lessons of the ’80’s Mets, we should remember the lessons of Generation K. The Mets were supposed to have three aces in Isringhausen, Pulsipher, and Wilson. That blew up rather quickly. We need to revere these pitchers while we have them (and while they are healthy).
For those of you who have read this blog before, my favorite player was Darryl Strawberry. My brother’s favorite player was Dwight Gooden. Trust me, that lead to some awkward conversations down the road with my Dad; conversations I frankly don’t want to ever have.
I hope my son grows to root for Harvey because: 1) he has so many positive traits to celebrate (competitiveness, accountability, he’s not a quitter); and 2) it means he will be effective with the Mets for a long time. I’m celebrating this day because it’s the anniversary of when the Mets started turning things around. I hope you are as well.