The New York Mets have had a number of down seasons with 2018 being one of them. There were some bright spots this past season with Jacob deGrom emerging as the best pitcher in baseball being one of them. This is reminiscent of how many times we have seen different Mets players have great seasons in what has been an otherwise lost season for the franchise.
The last time we saw anything like deGrom’s season happen was R.A. Dickey‘s 2012 season. While the knuckleballer had been better than expected for a few years, no one could see him winning 20 games let alone beating out Clayton Kershaw, who was still in his prime, for the Cy Young Award.
While it was Dickey who won the Cy Young Award, it was Johan Santana who captured the hearts of Mets fans by pitching the first no-hitter in Mets history. Special mention needs to go here for Mike Baxter‘s catch.
In 2004, Mike Piazza passed a significant career milestone by hitting his 352nd career homer as a catcher. With the home run, he passed Carlton Fisk, and he all but cemented his Hall of Fame case by hitting the most home runs as a catcher.
Another Mets catcher who set a home run record was Todd Hundley. In 1996, his 41 homers would not just match a Mets single season record, but it would also pass Roy Campanella‘s single season record for most homers by a catcher. That season saw a number of feats including Bernard Gilkey setting the Mets single-season record for doubles and Lance Johnson setting the record for most triples in a season. Remarkably, all three of these Mets records stand to this day.
On the final game of the 1991 season, which was the Mets first losing season since 1983, David Cone tied the then National League record with 19 strikeouts in a game. It was a feat which had only been previously met by Mets legend Tom Seaver.
Speaking of that 1983 season, Darryl Strawberry would become the first and to this date only Mets position player to ever win the Rookie of the Year Award. The 1983 season was also notable because after the Midnight Massacre, Seaver would finally come home to the Mets.
Really, it was that 1983 season which was the beginning of something special with the Mets. In addition to Strawberry and Seaver, the Mets called-up rookie starter Ron Darling. Much like how he is joined in the SNY booth now by Keith Hernandez, he was teammates with Hernandez that season because the Mets would make a franchise altering trade to acquire the former MVP.
Really, when you look at 1983, you can see how even a bad year is the building block towards a team building a World Series winning club. Hopefully, that is what the 2018 season was for the Mets.
You can argue it was the case with deGrom emerging as the best pitcher in baseball, and Zack Wheeler matching him big start for big start in the second half. Brandon Nimmo had the second highest wRC+ among National League outfielders, and Michael Conforto returned to being Michael Conforto in the second half. More than that, Amed Rosario seemed to turn the corner while his new double play partner, Jeff McNeil, burst onto the scene.
In the end, when you look at losing seasons like 2018, you can see great things. More than that, you can see how great things will soon be in store for the Mets.
While it is not an official policy, the Mets organization will only retire the numbers of players who enter the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets cap. That is why the only Mets players who have their numbers retired are Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza. If the Baseball Hall of Fame honored Gary Carter‘s choice, he would have gone into the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap, and as a result, his number would have been retired as well.
That would have pleased many Mets fans who want to see his number be retired. More than Carter, Mets fans seem to want to see Keith Hernandez‘s and David Wright‘s numbers retired. With respect to those two, chances are neither enter the Hall of Fame, and just like Carter, chances are Hernandez is inducted into the Hall of Fame wearing a Cardinals cap.
Much of the Carter and Hernandez push is related to both players being key veterans on the 1986 World Series team. Oddly enough, the same case has not been made for Davey Johnson.
Back in 1984, Frank Cashen tabbed Johnson to be the Mets manager. He was entasked with leading a Mets team to not just win a World Series, but really to just win games. The Mets had not been over .500 since 1976, which was Seaver’s last full season with the Mets. Seaver was back in 1983 only for the Mets to lose him again.
The winning happened immediately. Behind Rookie of the Year Dwight Gooden, and a young core which included Darryl Strawberry, Wally Backman, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez, the 1984 Mets finished second place in the National League East with a 90-72 record. This began a string of eight straight seasons where the Mets would finish second or better in the division. Johnson would oversee six of those seasons.
The 1985 Mets won 98 games, which was then the second most wins the Mets had ever accumulated. They were that close to winning the division. Entering 1986, Johnson would declare the Mets were the team to beat, and his team would back him up. Their 108 wins is the third most ever by a National League team.
When you include the postseason, the 1986 have won more games than any other National League team over the past century.
Yes, this does speak to how great the 1986 Mets were, but it also speaks to Johnson’s managerial abilities. He was ahead of his time using data and statistics to inform his decisions. Yes, those 1980s Mets teams were talented, but it was Johnson who got everything out of those talented teams by optimizing his team’s lineups.
This is why Johnson would become the first ever National League manager to have 90+ wins in each of his first five seasons.
He’s also the only Mets manager with two 100 win seasons. He joins Gil Hodges as only one of two Mets managers to win a World Series, and he was the first Mets manager to go to two different postseasons.
Johnson is the Mets all-time leader in wins and winning percentage. He is second only to Terry Collins in games managed. He is second to Bobby Valentine in postseason wins, which is partially a function of Major League Baseball adding an additional postseason round when they added the Wild Card in 1994.
Despite all of these records and his impact on the franchise, Hodges and Casey Stengel remain the only two managers who have had their numbers retired by the Mets. Given how the standards to retire manager numbers (to the extent there is any) is far lower than for players, it is odd how nearly 30 years after Johnson managed his last game, he has not had his number retired.
His number not being retired may become more of an issue going forward as once again he is a candidate on the Today’s Game ballot for the Hall of Fame. With his having a better winning percentage than Hall of Famers like Bobby Cox (a manager who also has just one World Series to his credit), and his being only one of two managers in MLB history to lead four separate franchises to to the postseason, there is a real case to be made for Johnson’s induction.
If inducted, he is likely going to enter the Hall of Fame as a member of the Mets. If so, any and all excuses to not retire his number have gone by the wayside. Of course, that is unless you are not of the belief Johnson has not done enough to merit having his number retired anyway.
Given how his number has not been retired, it is certainly still up for debate whether it should or should not be retired by the Mets organization. Going forward, when debates happen,,when taking into account standards already set forth coupled with the impact on the organization, Davey Johnson should probably be first in line when it comes to having his number retired.
In the fourth inning of Game 2 of the ALDS Ron Darling said there was a “chink in the armor” referring to how Masahiro Tanaka was losing his control. Of course, this would lead the New York Daily News to say Darling “used a racial slur.”
This is completely dishonest reporting, and it is surprising a newspaper which trades in words, language, idioms, and common vernacular would stoop to such a level.
If you track the full etymology of the phrase, it is not a phrase with racial overtones, not is it used that way today.
As explained by various sites, including Writing Explained, the term was derived in the 15th century to explain a small opening in one’s armor. Since the 17th century, it has been used as an idiom to explain “refers to a weakness in one’s character or something that makes one vulnerable.”
For example, a pitcher losing control is a chink in their armor.
Now, if Darling used that to refer to Tanaka wearing his Yankees jersey? Well, obviously that would have been a racial slur. Clearly, he didn’t, and obviously, Darling would not even go there.
For those that forget, Darling is from Hawaii, is part Chinese, and has faced racial slurs all his life. No, this is not the rapper argument where they can use slurs other people can’t. No, it just serves to highlight how Darling might be sensitive to the issue and would not want to inflict upon someone the pain he has endured in his life.
Given how Darling has had to face real racial slurs in his life and the fact the term he used is not racist, calling Darling a racist here is callous and completely unwarranted. This is garbage “journalism” and it’s name smearing.
What the New York Daily News did to Darling is far worse than Darling using an appropriate term to describe an event. While Darling apologized, it is Darling himself who is owed the apology.
The smoke started when Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote an article naming four people “off the beaten path” who the Mets should consider to be their next General Manager. In compiling this list, Sherman included Ron Darling because “[h]e He is smart, hard-working, personable and passionate about the Mets.”
Clearly following up on Sherman’s idea, Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News asked some questions to Darling at a TBS event to promote their coverage for the 2018 postseason. In the article, Darling showed his interest through two key quotes:
I would be disingenuous if I didn’t say that if someone wants to sit down with me and talk about putting a team together I would absolutely take that meeting.
* * * * *
I know a lot of things would have to change with my family to take that task on, but everyone who loves the game wants a chance to put a team together, and I’m no different. I would prefer that to managing a team. The day-to-day stuff (involved in managing) would not be my favorite. But the behind the scenes stuff… I would be more qualified for those personal relationships away from the field.
With the intrigue created by two articles being published, Darling had to address the rumors during last night’s game, and he seemed strong in his intentions to continue with his broadcasting career. Specifically, Darling said, “I work for three different networks. I don’t have time to work as a general manager, nor do I have probably the skills to do it.”
With Darling giving differing accounts, it is difficult to ascertain what his true ambitions are. In both circumstances, it is quite possible he is giving the response he believes he thought he should provide. Taking the accounts together, they are not necessarily contradictory. After all, Darling could honestly have real interest int he General Manager job while also admitting to himself (and Mets fans watching the game) he ultimately does not have the requisite skill set to do the job.
What we do know is this has become an issue over the way the Mets are handling this search. Specifically, as noted in Mike Puma’s article in the New York Post, the Wilpons seem unable to determine exactly which style of general manager should led the organization. At some point, the Wilpons are going to have to reach some form of a consensus in what may prove to be an unexpected power struggle.
The question is whether the power struggle and battling ideology would ultimately lead to the Mets considering or hiring Darling.
Here’s what we do know. The Wilpons seem to like to surround themselves with people they know, like, and have previously had dealings. It is why when it came time to replace Jim Duquette, they lured Omar Minaya from Montreal. It’s also why they brought Omar Minaya back heading into this season. It’s why we see Terry Collins being given a real and not ceremonious role in the organization and his gaining more influence as the year has progressed.
This is the sort of environment where not only does a Darling get brought up as a possible candidate, but it is also the type of enviroment where he may get serious consideration.
If you play if out, you could see the narrative. Darling is a Yale graduate. As we have seen with John Lynch with San Francisco, former players and commentator can transition to the front office and be successful. As an aside, it doesn’t hurt Lynch was Kevin Burkhardt’s former partner on Fox. Having been around the team daily since 2006, Darling is well versed in the roster and its needs. He’s media savvy and respected by all.
Really, the narrative writes itself. The question is whether the Wilpons really go there. Right now, it’s likely they won’t, but sadly, at this point, we can’t rule it out.
With each start he makes, it becomes readily apparent if Jacob deGrom wins the Cy Young this season, he is going to do so with the lowest win total ever compiled by a starting pitcher. Looking at his stats, you really have no idea how he could be just 8-8. However, if you watched yesterday’s game, you know exactly why his record is that poor.
To no one’s surprise, deGrom began the game matching zeros with Madison Bumgarner in the first two innings. However, the Giants would break through in the third.
After Steven Duggar earned a leadoff walk, he would steal second. Devin Mesoraco would get out of his croutch slower than an old man reaching for a walker, and he would make a lollipop throw to second Travis d’Arnaud thought was bad. Duggar found himself on third after a Joe Panik groundout, and he would score when Mesoraco just missed a pitch, which would go back to the backstop.
Now, Home Plate Umpire Tony Randazzo was horrendous on the day, but despite Mesoraco’s complaints otherwise, Evan Longoria did not foul tip that ball. No, Mesoraco, who is showing himself to be a really poor catcher, flat out missed it. Mesoraco also failed to frame any number of pitches which would aid Randazzo in being a horrendous umpire.
The key call came in the fourth inning. With two outs and a runner on, deGrom threw an 0-2 pitch which led everyone in the ballpark to believe Nick Hundley just struck out looking:
Perhaps because he was frustrated, deGrom would walk Hundley, and then he would allow an RBI double to Bumgarner. At that point, it was 2-0 Giants, and with Bumgarner pitching, there was little to no hope the Mets would win this one.
Overall, this was an off-day for deGrom as he needed 108 pitches to get through six innings, and he would have a season high four walks. Of course, these struggles are indicative of just how great deGrom has been all season. In fact, a struggling deGrom limited the Giants to two runs (one earned) on four hits while he striking out 10.
The Mets would not even threaten Bumgarner until the fourth. There were two and two out, and McNeil hit a hard liner, but it was right at Panik.
It seemed as if the Mets may finally break through and get deGrom off the hook in the seventh. Todd Frazier led off the inning with a homer making him the first ever Met to homer off Bumgarner at Citi Field. Jose Bautista would get hit by a pitch, and McNeil would single. The rally would sputter as Kevin Plawecki, who had come on for an injured Mesoarco in the sixth, hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
That brought up Conforto. He battled back from 1-2 to draw a full count in a nine pitch at-bat. On the ninth pitch, Bumgarner beat Conforto inside with a well placed fastball to end the rally. Given how Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling were harping on the false narrative Bumgarner ruined Conforto’s 2016 season, we should see more of the same for any poor play Conforto makes the rest of the year.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Mets had a chance to rally back from 3-1 against Tony Watson, who they had already gotten to in the series. The only problem was Tony Randazzo wasn’t going to have any of it.
It appeared Wilmer Flores drew a four pitch walk to start the ninth. Instead, Randazzo called an obvious ball a strike. Flores then went the other way as he has been doing so well lately only to line it directly at Panik. Like with deGrom earlier in the game, Flores had some choice remarks for Randazzo, who, again, was terrible.
The game would come down to McNeil, who both Randazzo and the third base umpire ruled did not check his swing leading the Mets and perhaps more importantly deGrom to a loss. Looking at this game, you really see just how much deGrom has working against him as he tries to win games. Ultimately, if he does not win the Cy Young, there should be a line of people offering apologies. On that line, we should see Mesoraco and Randazzo.
Game Notes: Dominic Smith sat against Bumgarner the day after hitting a home run. The Mets are now 19-41 in games Mesoraco has played.
Watching the game tonight, it is really difficult to assess how well Zack Wheeler performed. On the one hand, he was executing his pitches as well as he ever has, and yet he earned the loss against a bad Marlins team.
Actually, there is a debate how much he “earned” that loss. Really, there was just one hiccup for him, and that was in the second inning when the Marlins scored all three of their runs.
The first run was on Wheeler, who allowed three straight hard hit balls by Brian Anderson (double), Derek Dietrich, and Miguel Rojas. After that, it’s hard to pin anything else on him. Caleb Smith popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt, which Jose Reyes fielded on hop, looked at every single base, and then threw the ball in the dirt thereby loading the bases.
That three run lead was brutal because as Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling kept opining, Smith was dealing for the Marlins. That is a plausible explanation considering Smith entered the game striking out 12 batters per nine. However, it needs to be noted the Mets bats are really awful against left-handed batters. Tonight, was no exception as Smith allowed one run on three hits over 6.2 innings.
The one run he allowed was in the bottom of the second, and it started with a Jose Bautista double. Speaking of Bautista, he was signed just before the game, and he was put in the starting lineup ahead of Jay Bruce, and he played left field. After the predictable Reyes out, Bautista moved to third, and he scored on a Tomas Nido sacrifice fly.
The Mets really wouldn’t get another rally started until the eighth. Adrian Gonzalez led off the inning with a double, and later than inning Brandon Nimmo earned a one out walk. The rally would falter there as Cabrera would hit into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.
While disappointing, that rally was too little too late anyway. In the top of the inning, Derek Dietrich hit a two run homer off AJ Ramos to expand the Marlins lead to 5-1. That would be the final score on a deeply disappointing day.
Game Notes: Reyes made two errors in the game, and he now has three hits and two errors on the month. Devin Mesoraco did not start after getting hit on the elbow with an errant swing last night. He did pinch hit in the seventh and flew out.
Heading into the game, there was much said about how Dave Eiland challenged or disrespected Noah Syndergaard in his saying Thor hasn’t accomplished much at the Major League level. During the broadcast, it was discussed, and Ron Darling said as a player, he would have taken it the wrong way.
Whatever the case, Syndergaard seemed motivated by it in the first inning as he struck out the side while needing just 15 pitches. You got all the more excited seeing Syndergaard knocking home Devin Mesoraco from first after he had drawn a leadoff walk against Jaime Garcia giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. For a moment, it seemed as if things would go rolling on from there, and we would see the Syndergaard we saw prior to the lat injury.
Instead, we saw the Syndergaard we have seen all this season.
In the third, he allowed a one out single to old friend Curtis Granderson, who was playing his first game against the Mets since being traded to the Dodgers for Jacob Rhame last year. After Josh Donaldson popped out, that should have been the end of any prospect of danger.
Instead, we got to see some of Granderson’s knowledge from his playing time with the Mets. He would put himself in scoring position stealing a base, and he would hold at third on a Justin Smoak single. It wound up being a terrible throw from Juan Lagares, but he charged the ball hard, and Granderson, being perhaps well aware of Lagares’ arm, held on third. It didn’t matter because after Syndergaard plunked Teoscar Hernandez with a pitch, Yangervis Solarte hit a two RBI single.
On the single, it is quite arguable any other second baseman but Asdrubal Cabrera gets to that ball, but he didn’t leading the the Blue Jays taking the 2-1 lead.
Seeing how the Mets have played of late, this was a real danger sign. Fortunately, the Mets offense would finally break out.
Beginning with a Jay Bruce double, the Mets would quickly load the bases for Syndergaard, who tied the score with a sacrifice fly. Amed Rosario then nearly hit one out with the ball hitting the top of the fence and bouncing in instead of out. In any event, it was a two RBI double giving the Mets a 4-2 lead.
It should be noted Jose Reyes, who started because with the left-handed pitcher on the mound, Wilmer Flores started at first and Adrian Gonzalez sat, somehow did not score from first. Really, he did not score from first on a ball which was nearly a homer to one of the deeper parts of the park. At best, this was shades of Timo Perez. At worst, this is a player who no longer belongs in the majors.
Lagares would make sure both Reyes and Rosario both scored as he slashed a two RBI single to center, and even with Donaldson cutting it off, he would get to second ahead of the throw.
.@Mets challenge call that Juan Lagares is out at 2B in the 4th; call overturned, runner is safe.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) May 16, 2018
A Cabrera double after that, and the Mets not only had a five run inning, but they would also have a 6-2 lead. In the fifth, the Mets would add the runs needed to make this the laugher the Mets desperately needed.
Gonzalez, Rosario, and Brandon Nimmo would hit consecutive singles first scoring Mesoraco and later scoring Gonzalez. After that Lagares hit an infield single to third allowing Rosario to score.
When Gonzalez pinch hit for Syndergaard that inning, it was the end of Syndergaard’s night, but really, he was going to be pulled after the fifth anyway.
As noted earlier, Syndergaard labored through the third, and he would do the same in the fifth needing a Hernandez double play to get out of the inning. Overall, Syndergaard needed 103 pitches to get through five. He walked an uncharacteristically high two batters. While he’s been effective, he has not yet been Syndergaard this year.
Finally, in the eighth, the Mets would put a capper on this game. Lagares hit a leadoff triple, and he scored on a Luis Guillorme RBI single, his first RBI. After a force out, Mesoarco hit his second homer as a member of the Mets expanding the Mets lead to 12-2.
All-in-all, a pretty good night for the Mets. Mesoraco could not make an out going 2-2 with three walks, four runs, a homer, and two RBI. Lagares was just as good going 4-5 with two runs, a triple, and three RBI. Really, in a game like this, you are going to see everyone contribute somehow, and that’s what the Mets did. The only hope now is the team left some hits in those bats.
Game Notes: The Blue Jays have never beaten the Mets in Flushing going 0-12.
Watching the World Series last night, there was certainly a lot to unpack. With the game time temperature being over 100 degrees, it was easily the hottest temperature for a World Series game. What ensued from there was a very played, very enjoyable, and very interesting game.
Chris Taylor hit the first pitch from Dallas Keuchel for a home run. This was the first time that has happened in a World Series since Alcides Escobar hit an inside the park home run off Matt Harvey on a ball that Yoenis Cespedes still hasn’t bothered to chase after.
Staying on the Mets related front, Curtis Granderson was removed from the World Series roster, but Chase Utley was kept on it. Of course, this means we will have to keep an eye on Carlos Correa‘s legs should Utley make it on base. Considering he’s gone 0 for his last 21 postseason at-bats, it does not seem like Houston will have a problem on that front.
There was also seeing Justin Turner hitting the game winning home run in the sixth inning was enough for the Dodgers to pull out the 3-1 victory. This was just another reminder that the Mets had no need for the man who just tied Hall of Famer Duke Snider of “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke” fame for the most RBI in Dodgers postseason history.
That was enough because we got an old fashioned pitchers duel between Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw. After an Alex Bregman fourth inning homer, many questioned whether we would see the return of the Kershaw who struggled in the postseason. It didn’t happen. Instead, Kershaw was Kershaw allowing just three hits over seven innings while striking out 11 Astros.
It was a great and rare 2 hour and 28 minute baseball game; not just World Series game, but baseball game. It truly was a joy to watch except for the encroachment of the commercial breaks.
On three separate occasions during the telecast, Joe Buck broke from the action for a quick commercial break. One was for Wendys and the other two were from T-Mobile. Now, this didn’t happen while a ball was in play, but rather in between plays. That’s typically the time for John Smoltz or whoever the color commentator is to give a quick quip or analysis. At times, that’s when the sideline reporter is given the opportunity to provide insight or a sentimental story on a player:
— Mets Daddy (@MetsDaddy2013) October 25, 2017
How did MLB allow this to happen? We didn’t see this at all during the games broadcast on FS1 this postseason. We don’t see Fox do it to their other sports, especially not football. In baseball’s biggest showcase, they’ve allowed Fox to broadcast intrusive commercials during game action.
What makes this all the more egregious is there are longer commercial breaks for nationally televised games. Fox has an extra window to get in commercials. There are plenty of other areas to get adverstising dollars. Certainly, every Mets fan is aware of the Cholula hot sauce gun readings during Mets games. If you’ve listened to a game on the radio, you’ve heard Howie mention it’s the 15th batter of the game necessitating we do a quick GEICO mention.
The point there is while it was an intrusion, it didn’t take away from the game action. It was handled by the announcer who could then quickly throw it back to the game. You didn’t have that with the odd split screen, you know, in case you actually wanted to watch the game.
Believe it or not, this was a bad omen. It could very well be the beginning of much more instrusive commercials during not just nationally televised games, but also regionally televised games. Once teams get the sense this is either permissible, or that fans have become apathetic to it, it’s going to happen. And that’s a very bad thing, especially for Mets fans who tune into games partially to hear Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling.
In the end, the lasting image of the 2017 World Series may not be a Turner homer or Kershaw finally being Kershaw in the biggest stage of all. Likely, it’s going to be a T-Mobile commercial.
Rafael Montero pitched much better than the score indicated with him getting dinked and dunked for the three runs he did allow. Yoenis Cespedes is hitting for power once again with him hitting a double and a homer in the game. Amed Rosario completed a nifty unassisted double play on a liner up the middle. Kevin Plawecki threw out a base stealer. Gavin Cecchini reached twice and scored a run. In the end none of this happens because this happened to Michael Conforto:
The worst four seconds of my life pic.twitter.com/ihqVrPqkem
— Good Fundies (@goodfundies) August 24, 2017
Early returns are Conforto suffered a dislocated shoulder on the play leading Ron Darling to talk about his own history with shoulder dislocations letting us all know they tend to be chronic. It’s a good thing too because watching it happen certainly wasn’t depressing enough.
Just to let you know how bizarre a season it has been for Mets fans, Mets fans were actually relieved this was just a dislocation. They were understandably anticipating an amputation. You could just envision the scene in the clubhouse with the Mets covering Conforto with leeches and getting him drunk on whiskey before giving him a bit to chomp on before Ray Ramirez came over with the saw.
Likely, this was Conforto’s last game of the season meaning he’s not getting to 30 homers this season. We also don’t get to see him finish off what was a brilliant season for him. We can only hope the Mets don’t mess this one up like they have with Matt Harvey time and again.
Overall, the Mets lost this game 3-2, but who cares? The real loss here was Conforto.
Game Notes: With a doubleheader on Sunday, the Mets are hoping Seth Lugo can start in the second game. If his bullpen does not go well tomorrow, the Mets will call Marcos Molina up from Double-A. If he does get called-up, he will join Chris Flexen in getting called straight up from Binghamton to start a game for the Mets.
Back in 2005, Pedro Martinez was having a Cy Young caliber season that was about to be cut short due to a toe injury. From Rick Peterson to Willie Randolph to the training staff, they all agreed with the Mets out of the race, Pedro should shut it down for the rest of the year. However, there was one person that didn’t agree – Jeff Wilpon.
As Pedro would later tell in his the eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon approached him telling him to pitch to help the Mets sell-out a September 22nd game against Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins. Pedro protested leading to an argument where Pedro even offered to give back the rest of his contract. Ultimately, he pitched because, as Wilpon told him, “While I’m the boss here, you’re going to have to do what I say.” (Tyler Kepner, New York Times).
While we can never be sure of the root cause of the injury, this moment resonates as Pedro would suffer a torn rotator cuff making him unavailable for the 2006 postseason. That was one of many what-ifs that happened that year.
Fast forward a decade.
Last year, Steven Matz had what was described as a massive bone spur the team knew needed to be removed surgically. Rather than have the surgery right away, Matz was pumped full of cortisone shots, told to scrap the slider, and pitched until he could no longer pitch. The odd thing is Matz initially didn’t want to go this route.
As Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported, “[Matz] was seriously considering surgery, and maybe even leaning that way, before a meeting with the Mets brass.” Sound familiar?
During Spring Training this year, Matz had arm issues, which he self-described as a strained flexor tendon. The team disagreed with an unnamed Mets official with knowledge of Matz’s medical care telling Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record, “Our [doctors] found nothing wrong.”
The answer was once again to pitch through the pain and to abandon the slider. Matz continued to pitch despite his elbow reportedly swelling to the size of a grapefruit.
One thing that is quite notable is a passage from Marc Carig’s Newsday column on the topic, “Matz insisted on powering through, perhaps in defiance of a reputation he’s gained for often being injured. And the Mets proceeded as if he were dealing with inflammation.” More damning was this statement, “One source described a belief by some in the organization that Matz was simply learning to get over the ‘mental hurdle’ of pitching through pain.”
Certainly, this wasn’t the first time we’ve heard people discuss Matz needing to learn the difference between pitching through pain and pitching hurt. Ron Darling has made the point a number of times during games. His manager Terry Collins previously said Matz needed to learn how to pitch through his issues. (Anthony Rieber, Newsday).
Seeing these comments, we should not be surprised the Mets were completely blind-sided by Matz’s recent ulnar nerve injury and need for surgery. It is even less surprising considering the team and team doctors dealt with the same issue with Jacob deGrom.
Seeing this happen time and again, we all look to point the finger at someone. Over the past decade, we have see a change at General Manager, manager, and pitching coach. The Mets have been affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery, which is one of the top hospitals in the country. Many will point to Ray Ramirez, but he is actually well-regarded in his field. No, the issue is the Mets organizational culture.
In 2005, they forced Pedro to pitch. In 2010, they were livid Carlos Beltran had knee surgery, which turned out to be a necessary and possibly career saving procedure. Now, they have both pressured Matz to pitch and are surprised by his suffering as a result. Really, the only thing that isn’t surprising is the Mets culture not changing over the past decade. How can it with Jeff Wilpon still calling the shots?