T.J. Rivera

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 57 Johan Santana

Mostly due to Nolan Ryan, there have been 12 no-hitters thrown by pitchers after they left the Mets. There have been 10 pitchers to throw no-hitters before coming to the Mets. Hideo Nomo is the one pitcher who threw a no-hitter before and after pitching for the Mets. Through it all, the swinging bunts, the bloop singles, the defensive misplays, everything, there has been just one man who has thrown a no-hitter in a Mets uniform.

Johan Santana.

If he did nothing else in his Mets career, this would have been enough to make Santana the best ever Mets pitcher to wear the number 57. However, his career would prove to be much more than this moment.

Santana originally came to the Mets after the collapse of the 2007 season. Omar Minaya waited out the field, and he eventually got the Twins to accept the trade, and then, he got the Mets to make Santana the highest paid pitcher in the game. It was all designed to prevent another 2007, and really handle the unfinished business from 2006.

It was actually a slow start for Santana in his first season with the Mets, which shouldn’t have been all the surprising as that is what he typically did with the Twins. However, in June, Santana turned it on, and he was phenomenal in a Cy Young worthy season. Somehow, he only finished third in Cy Young voting despite leading the league in ERA, GS, and IP.

However, as we know, with aces it is not just about the win-loss record. It is about stepping up when your team needs it most. That’s exactly what Santana did. Really, he was simply brilliant down the stretch. In the second half, he was 8-0 with a 2.17 ERA and a 1.096 WHIP. People may have wanted to give credit to the managerial switch or something else, but fact, is the biggest driver of the Mets turning it around was Santana being Santana.

That included him demanding the ball on the penultimate game of the season. With the Mets in a position where they could not afford to lose another game, Santana took the mound on three days rest and threw the last great game a Mets pitcher would have at Shea. He shut out the Marlins allowing just three hits while striking out nine. The fact he did this on an injured knee made this start all the more incredible.

That would prove to be the last time the Mets won at Shea, and it would be the last start Santana would make with the Mets being contenders.

Partially due to the injuries setting in, people tend to forget Santana was still a very good pitcher over the ensuing two years, which included his being named an All-Star in 2009. Over the first two years in Citi Field, Santana had a 131 ERA+. As noted, the injuries would mount with him needing surgery on his knee, elbow, and shoulder in successive seasons.

The last surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder cost him all of the 2011 season. Simply put, pitchers really don’t recover from that surgery. Santana somehow did even if it was for a short duration. In his first 11 starts, which includes the famed 134 pitch no-hitter, Santana was 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA and 1.029 WHIP. Essentially, Santana was back, but unfortunately, the wear and tear of pitching every fifth day proved to be too much. His entire career would last just 10 more starts.

Through all of it, Santana had established himself as one of the best starters in Mets history. He has the sixth best ERA+ with the 10th best K/BB. If you take out his 2012 season, he would rank higher in those and other categories, but then again, if you take out that season, you miss the only no-hitter in Mets history. For that no-hitter and all the great things he did in a Mets uniform, Santana is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 57.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns

13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran

16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry

19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky

25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza

32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey

34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw

46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
52. Yoenis Cespedes
53. Chad Bradford
54. T.J. Rivera
55. Orel Hershiser
56. Andres Torres

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 56 Andres Torres

In an ill-fated trade with the San Francisco Giants, the Mets had obtained Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez in exchange for Angel Pagan. In Torres, the Mets got not just the best player in team history to wear the number 56, but also an advocate for ADHD.

Torres had been diagnosed with ADHD, and he spoke at length about its impact on his life and his baseball career. he would go on to do interviews and a documentary about it. That was his significant off the field contributions. On the field, he had a very underappreciated season.

One reason for his season being underappreciated was Torres had dealt with early injuries, and at one point, he was mired in an 0-for-18 streak in the second half. Another reason why it was underappreciated was Pagan went to the Giants, and he had a very good year for a Giants team which won the World Series.

Little did people know at the time, but Torres would have a very good defensive year posting a 4 DRS in center. To put in perspective how good a year that was defensively, since the inception of DRS, only four other Mets have posted a better single-season DRS, a list which includes Gold Glovers Carlos Beltran and Juan Lagares, but surprisingly not Mike Cameron.

At the plate, Torres did not have a particularly strong season with an 88 wRC+. That said, he joined Jose Reyes as the only two Mets players to have multiple games in a season where they hit a homer and a triple. When all was said and done, Torres had amassed a 1.5 WAR which is higher than the other 1o players who wore the uniform with the New York Mets, which is why he’s the best Mets player to ever wear the number.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns

13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran

16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry

19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky

25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza

32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey

34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw

46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
52. Yoenis Cespedes
53. Chad Bradford
54. T.J. Rivera
55. Orel Hershiser

 

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 55 Orel Hershiser

Before the 1999 season, Orel Hershiser was reviled by Mets fans. His 1988 NLCS MVP performance is what stood between them and what Mets fans believed was a rightfully the Mets second World Series in three seasons. Instead, Hershiser earned a save in Game 4 while picking the win in a masterful Game 7 performance.

A decade later, the Mets made the somewhat controversial move to sign Hershiser during Spring Training. It turned out to be a great move for the franchise.

It didn’t look like it in the beginning as Hershiser got knocked around in April and May. To make matters worse, the Mets were unperforming leading to Steve Phillips firing three of Bobby Valentine‘s coaches on June 6th. At that point in the season, the Mets were a .500 team after getting it handed to them by the Yankees.

n June 7th, Hershiser got the ball, and he made the first step towards salvaging the Mets season. In that start, Hershiser picked up the win after allowing two earned over six innings. This was part of a terrific stretch where both the Mets and Hershiser turned their seasons around.

From May 21 – June 29, Hershiser was 7-1 with a 2.94 ERA. Over that time frame, the Mets went from firing coaches to 11 games over .500 and in the thick of the postseason races. That’s where the Mets were all season, and as luck would have it, the Mets found themselves tied with the Cincinnati Reds on the final day of the regular season, and the Mets handed the ball to Hershiser.

Hershiser allowed a run in the first before shutting down the Pirates over the next five innings. He would pick up a no decision in a game the Mets eventually won on a wild pitch scoring Melvin Mora in the bottom of the ninth. Despite pitching this big game, the Mets opted to put this battled tested veteran who had a number of huge postseason starts in the bullpen.

In that postseason, Hershiser would make only two appearances. The first was a scoreless inning locking up a Mets victory in Game 3 of the NLDS. The next was a huge relief appearance in Game 5 of the NLCS to help keep the Mets alive in the series.

Up until that Game 5, Hershiser’s big contribution in that series was pointing out to Eddie Coleman and Steve Somers just how much Chipper Jones hated being called by his given”Larry.” With that, Hershiser improbably gave birth to the Larry chants which would fill Shea Stadium for its final days.

In Game 5, the Mets were fighting off elimination. The early 2-0 lead went by the wayside with Masato Yoshii giving up two runs with no outs in the fourth. Hershiser entered the game in an almost impossible situation with runners on first and second with no outs.

He responded by striking out Andruw Jones and Eddie Perez back-to-back before getting Walt Weiss to ground out back to him. Hershiser then followed that up by shutting out the Braves for an additional 2.1 innings. It was those 3.1 scoreless innings which would keep the game and the Mets alive long enough for Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam single many innings later.

Surprisingly, Hershiser was not done in that series. Despite being a 40 year old starter, he found himself back on the mound two days later in Game 6. He pitched a scoreless seventh before the Mets took the lead in the top of the eighth on a Mora RBI single. In another universe, Hershiser would have gotten the win there, but the Mets would lose that game, and Hershiser’s one year tenure with the Mets was over.

During that year, Hershiser had an eventful season which included him being the starting pitcher for the Mercury Mets and giving Mets fans their favorite jeer. He put together a good year, and he had some postseason glory for the Mets instead of against the Mets in what was a near Hall of Fame career. As he was an integral part of that 1999 team, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 55.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns

13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran

16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry

19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky

25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza

32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey

34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw

46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
52. Yoenis Cespedes
53. Chad Bradford
54. T.J. Rivera

 

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 54 T.J. Rivera

Baseball is a funny sport. You can have a player sitting there for years eligible for the Rule 5 draft with teams passing over him time and again. As that player sits in the minors, you now have 30 teams who have overlooked how much that player can contribute at the Major League level. Finally, when there are no other options left, that same player can push your team into the postseason.

While that may or may not seem farfetched, that is essentially the story of T.J. Rivera.

After the Mets won the pennant in 2015, the team didn’t take that next step forward as they intended. Part of the reason was the Washington Nationals signed Daniel Murphy, and the Mets had replaced him with Neil Walker. While Walker had played well early in the year, it all fell apart for him as he suffered a season ending back injury.

Really, the Mets were dropping like flies across the infield that season. That also included players like David Wright, Lucas Duda, and Wilmer Flores. As the Mets headed into September, they really didn’t have a second baseman, and they needed one to emerge.

Rivera had a cup of coffee due to these injuries earlier in the season, and he had played well. That included a four hit game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Still, he had been sent down, and he wasn’t given the initial or even the second or third crack at the job. Finally, on September 13th, he was inserted into the starting lineup, and Rivera responded by going 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI in the Mets 10 inning victory against the Nationals. That homer Rivera hit was a game winning homer in the top of the 10th inning.

From there, Rivera was the second baseman as the Mets rode the very hot hand. Over the final month of the season, Rivera hit .358/.378/.552 with two doubles, a triple, three homers, and 13 RBI. With that, Rivera would be in the starting lineup in the Wild Card Game.

To put things into perspective, entering the ninth inning, there were just seven hits total in that game as Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner were absolutely dominant. Through those first eight innings, Rivera was the only player with an extra base hit. The real shame in that game was no one could score Rivera after his lead-off double in the fifth.

While Rivera did not secure a starting spot on the Mets 2017 roster, he did secure a spot on the Opening Day roster. Due to a number of roster issues, he was shuttled back-and-forth between New York and Las Vegas a bit. That said, when he played, he hit. In his 73 games, he hit .290/.330/.430 with 13 doubles, a triple, five homers, and 27 RBI.

Unfortunately, he was done in late July with an elbow injury which would eventually need Tommy John surgery. When Rivera went on the DL then, it effectively ended his Mets career. Currently, he is fighting to get back to the Majors, which is currently being made difficult by the COVID19 shutdown.

Even though Rivera had a shorter than anticipated Mets career, he was a driving force to getting the Mets to the 2016 postseason. He proved to be a good hitter, and ultimately, that is why is the best of the five Mets to wear the number 54.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns

13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran

16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry

19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky

25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza

32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey

34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw

46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
52. Yoenis Cespedes
53. Chad Bradford

 

The Next Jacob deGrom Might’ve Just Seen His Baseball Career End

This past week, the New York Mets released 39 minor league players. They were far from the only team who took that action. Every MLB undertook the same process with the COVID19 shutdown, the ever increasingly likely cancellation of the minor league season, and the contraction of 42 minor league teams.

This led to a variety of reactions. Many were sad, and some were angry. There was also Andrew Church who eviscerated the Mets and Tim Tebow. Lost in that was the purge of minor league talent.

Make no mistake, every minor leaguer who was released was a talented baseball player. They had enough talent to get a contract to play professional baseball. The issue at the moment was teams like the Mets thought better to get rid of them so they wouldn’t have to pay them $400/week.

When you look at the players who were released, you really have to question whether the Mets would’ve released Jacob deGrom under similar circumstances. Don’t be so sure they wouldn’t have.

Going back a decade, deGrom was a ninth round draft pick out of Stetson University. While much has been made about his being a collegiate SS, truth be told deGrom had converted to a pitcher Junior year. That year, he pitched and played short. It was his pitching which caught the Mets attention.

Just because he caught the Mets attention, it doesn’t mean he was good right away.

As a 22 year old, deGrom was assigned to a Kingsport franchise which is in line to be contracted. Despite being over a full year older than the competition, he did not pitch well.

In the six starts deGrom made, he was 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA, 1.577 WHIP, and a 7.6 K/9. Batters hit .324/.360/.472 off of him. At the end of the year, he underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL.

At that time, there was nothing which could give you any indication he was about to become a pitcher who would have a dominant 2015 postseason in addition to consecutive Cy Youngs.

No, he looked like an older prospect for his level who couldn’t beat younger batters, and worse yet, he had a busted elbow. If you’re looking to not pay players, and you’re looking to cut down the amount of people in your system to prepare for a loss of affiliates, deGrom was going to be in real danger of getting released.

If that happened, deGrom doesn’t get the chance to get healthy, learn a change-up from Johan Santana, and start on a path towards being a potential Hall of Famer. No, in all likelihood, his career would’ve been over.

Now, it’s very possible none of the 39 players released by the Mets could’ve done what deGrom did. Most and maybe all don’t even make it to the majors. However, that’s not the point.

The point is unless you give prospects real time to learn and develop you’re never going to find the next deGrom. The same can be said for Mike Piazza, Jeff McNeil, of Seth Lugo. For that matter, the Mets miss the 2016 postseason without undrafted free agent T.J. Rivera.

In the end, MLB franchises opted to end the dreams of minor leaguers over $400/week. In the process, they’re going to potentially miss out on the next diamond in the rough, or even that key player who gets them to the postseason thereby making the franchise millions of dollars.

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 2 Mackey Sasser

In Mets history, there have been a number of people who have worn the number 2, and to some extent it is an almost cursed number in team history. Perhaps that is a function of Marvelous Marv Throneberry being one of the first people to ever wear the uniform.

Over time, we would see many wear the number and fall far short of expectations. It was the number of Jim Fregosi. It was also the number of Dilson Herrera and Gavin Cecchini. It was also the number of Justin Turner who had better days after leaving the Mets.

Seeing all the number is and what is represents, perhaps Mackey Sasser is the best Mets player to ever to wear the number.

Knowing Gary Carter‘s days being a top catcher were going to be limited, the Mets were proactive, and they addressed the future of the position by obtaining Sasser from the Pittsburgh Pirates on the eve of the 1988 season. That would make Sasser the back-up catcher for the Mets last division title of the century.

That 1988 season was the worst of Carter’s career, and the Mets needed their back-up catcher to contribute more than in year’s past. That season he was an above-average offensive catcher. In fact, he was better than that with his having the sixth best wRC+ among National League catchers with at least 90 PA.

That was the case for his two year tenure as Carter’s back-up. It was Sasser’s play which allowed the Mets to feel comfortable making the very difficult decision in releasing Carter at the end of the year to hand the reigns to Sasser. In 1990, Sasser would reward the Mets faith in him.

In 1990, Sasser would play a career high 100 games that season, and he would catch a career high 87 games. During that season, he would do what had been previously impossible by becoming the first Mets catcher to throw out Vince Coleman attempting to steal a base.

Up until that time, Coleman was a perfect 57/57 in stolen base attempts against his future team. Aside from the throwing highlight, Sasser proved his offense could withstand a heavier defensive workload with his being now the fifth best offensive catcher in baseball. Unfortunately, this season would be it for Sasser behind the plate.

The beginning of the end came on July 8, 1990. In that game against the Atlanta Braves, Sasser was already 2-for-3 at the plate raising his season stats to .336/.381/.455. In the game, Jim Presley ran over Sasser at the plate. Sasser would get the out (he was quite adept at the tag), but he would depart the game with a badly sprained ankle.

From there, Mackey Sasser Disease, the cousin of Steve Blass Disease was born. Sasser would soon begin having issues throwing the ball back to the catcher. This effectively ended his career even with the Mets keeping him around a few more years as a backup and utility player.

That would not be the end of Sasser’s impact upon baseball or the Mets. As it turns out, Sasser wanted answers to why he had the yips. He would seek them out, and as he said to Anthony McCarron then of the New York Daily News, he got that help from Dr. David Grand.

With that help, he was able to successfully be able to throw the ball again, and he would not have issues doing things like throwing batting practice. That would partially help him have a coaching career. In that coaching career, he would again help the New York Mets.

During his coaching career, Sasser would find himself coaching a young infielder named T.J. Rivera at Troy University. When Rivera was undrafted, Sasser called to the Mets and recommended the team sign him. This would eventually lead to Rivera becoming the team’s everyday second baseman in September 2016 and helping that Mets team claim the top Wild Card spot.

More than that, Sasser has made himself available to help those players who have had potentially career altering yips the way he once did. That included calling up Mike Pelfrey when the young right-hander was experiencing issues with balks.

Overall, Sasser not only helped the Mets as a player, but he did what he could do to help the organization after his playing career was over. As we saw, he did hit part to help save Pelfrey’s career, and he helped launch Rivera’s. Even with Turner having his moments and Juan Uribe becoming an instant Mets folk hero, it is difficult to argue any Mets player who wore the number 2 having a bigger impact on the franchise than he.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Sasser was the second best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 2.

Previous

1. Mookie Wilson

Mets Problematic Tommy John History

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

Jeremy Hefner

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

Matt Harvey

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

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

Bobby Parnell

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

Zack Wheeler

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

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

Steven Matz

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

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

Jacob deGrom

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

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

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

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

Position Players

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

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

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

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

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

This Is Minor Leaugers Time To Unionize

There are several barriers to unionizing minor leauge players. First and foremost, with how little they are paid, there is really no mechanism for the union dues to set up a union infrastructure. Players are too far spread out, and there are language barriers. There is also the fear of retribution from owners. That could come in the form of release of a player or a player not getting called up in favor of a player who is not looking to set up a union.

With salary, benefits, and perks being exponentially better, minor leaguers desperately need that Major League call-up, and they can ill afford to do anything to interfere with that.

That is the case during normal times, but this is far from normal times. From a purely baseball perspective, Major League Baseball is talking about shutting down a significant number of minor league teams. That means fewer jobs for minor leaugers. That could mean baseball will miss out on the next Mike Piazza or even the next T.J. Rivera.

Even with the low wages and poor working conditions created by minor league baseball, it at least creates an opportunity for players to one day develop into Major League Baseball players. Without that opportunity, there is no chance whatsoever for these players to become Major Leaguers.

More pressing than the closure of minor leauge teams is COVID19. Due to COVID19, the baseball season is going to be delayed, and no one can be quite sure when games are going to be played. That is especially problematic for minor leaguers as no one knows when or if these players are going to be paid beyond April 8.

This is a fine gesture to start, and you can understand why baseball is taking a half-measure when we’re not quite sure when or if baseball will be played again. To a certain extent, this is kicking the rock down the road until baseball needs to act again. The problem is baseball could decide they’re not giving minor leaguers any more than the roughly $1,200 per player, and minor leaguers have no ability to bargain for more relief pay.

Keep in mind, if you were assigned to a short season affiliate, you were not going to get paid until this summer anyway. That is something which will not be lost on Major League Baseball. Not in the least. However, this time, those minor leaugers are not able to get outside jobs until the summer, and there is no Spring Training facility to stay at in the interim.

For far too long, the MLBPA, the entity who should be arguing on their behalf, has failed them as they continue to negotiate away minor league salaries and conditions for additional perks for players. To a certain extent, given the high stakes nature of CBA negotiations, you understand it. On the other hand, they’re failing people they know need help the most.

Of course, it shouldn’t come down to the MLBPA. This is where the owners or governments need to step in to ensure a living wage, but there is far too much lobbying and political donations to ever allow that to happen.

In the end, this means minor leaguers must band together somehow to unionize and get a seat at the bargaining table. They need to do this to get a living wage. They need to do this to ensure the draft is not canceled. They need to do this to ensure teams are not contracted. Mostly, they need to do this to make sure they know where their next paycheck is coming.

Unionizing was going to take extraordinary efforts even in ordinary times. At times like these, those efforts will now need to be Herculean. It may not be possible, but it is something they all have to do, and in the end, they are going to need all the help they can get. To that end, you can only hope Tony Clark either attempts to incorporate them all into the union, or some Major Leaguer steps up and says enough is enough.

Short of that, there are going to be minor leaguers with the threat of no pay past April 8, and there may be many minor leaugers out of jobs this time next year due to contraction.

Appalachian League Collateral Damage Bad For Baseball

According to Baseball America, Major League Baseball is considering eliminating 25 percent of Minor League baseball for a number of reasons including the need to pay players a living wage. Part of that is the elimination of stateside short season minor league baseball.

For the Mets, that means no Kingsport Mets or Brooklyn Cyclones. With respect to the Cyclones, there are kinks which could be worked out allowing the Mets to keep them as an affiliate in some fashion.

But Kingsport, they’d be as good as gone.

Instead, they could be a part of a “Dream League.” That would be a league of now unaffiliated teams who catch undrafted college players. That’s a fairly steep drop in cache for affiliates like Kingsport.

For example, in 2018 Kingsport had significant prospects like Jarred Kelenic, Ronny Mauricio, Simeon Woods Richardson, and Mark Vientos. This year, Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty played for Kingsport. That’s a reason to not just go to the ballpark but to also follow the team.

Then again, just having a team in Kingsport, TN is reason to follow the team.

The Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves are nearly five hours away. The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are over six hours away. Those are the closest options meaning if you want to see a baseball game live your best bet is the Kingsport Mets.

The question is whether Kingsport can continue operations without an affiliation with the Mets and having a roster of players like T.J. Rivera at the point in Rivera’s career where he was a complete nobody with little to no chance of making it to the majors.

Remember, Kingsport needs a new park. While the Mets would help now, that won’t happen if Kingsport is not part of their system two or three years from now.

Where does that leave Kingsport? Well, it likely leaves them on the brink. They need a new ballpark, and with them needing to help pay player salaries in the new “Dream League,” you wonder just how much longer they can continue operations.

If they’re gone, the State of Tennessee has one fewer professional baseball team. The City of Kingsport loses baseball period. That’s a missed opportunity to grow the game in what is mostly football country.

Really, when you look at things, Baseball is the only league without a Major League team in that state. To that end, you’d wonder why baseball would not want to try to find a way to keep fans engaged in that region as much as they possibly can to grow the game.

In the end, this is about punishing players for not being able to afford living off wages below the poverty line. In doing that, Major League Baseball is going to cut its nose off to spite its face.

Simply Amazin’ Podcast (Noah’s Arc) Appearance

This past week I appeared on the Simply Amazin’ podcast to discuss a number of issues facing the Mets right now.

During the podcast I mentioned Anthony Kay, Ali Sanchez, Vince Coleman, Mackey Sasser, T.J. Rivera, Noah Syndergaard, David Peterson, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, Ryley Gilliam, Steve Villines, Andres Gimenez, Juan Centeno, and others.

Please click the link and listen.