Talking Baseball – The Mets Medical Staff


Moving on to the current Mets subject that is sweeping the nation…

Sandy Alderson says he has full confidence in the Mets medical staff and it isn’t their fault if a ballplayer trips over a base or is hit in the head by a bat.

The other side says it’s not the tripping or errant bat hit that is troubling them, but it’s the diagnosis and medical plan past the initial injury.

And even more say, like recent decisions made by Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, it’s a complete lack of respect by the players for the diagnosis and treatment put in place by the Mets.

What are your thoughts on this?

Reese Kaplan says –

Everyone seems to forget a baseball club is a business like any other.  Whatever works in business should also apply in the setting of a sports/entertainment enterprise.

Towards that end, I find it laughable that the club allows its employees to dictate how to handle injuries.  The recent situations with Noah Syndergaard, Steve Matz, Matt Harvey and others seem to indicate that the inmates are indeed running the asylum.  Furthermore, not only do you employ medical professionals paid to make these judgments, but you also have baseball people with years (some might say TOO MANY) who should know when watching a ballplayer whether or not he is healthy enough to take the field.

Players are under contract to the ballclub and as such are taking huge sums of money in exchange for providing their athletic services.  Along with the salary comes certain terms and conditions such as moral turpitude, performance enhancing drugs and gambling.  Why should the employer expect then to let players set their own rules?

The answer is not necessarily that the medical staff is unqualified, but the management team has lost the respect of the players it pays.  Jim Bouton in Ball Four talked about the pecking order and a superstar ballplayer theoretically outranks everyone up to and including the GM  Where are the Wilponzis in all of this mess?  They chose the management team and they are allowing the decision makers they entrust to run the franchise into the ground. 

Do you remember the end of the Omar Minaya reign with the Tony Bernazard implosions?  It's starting to feel that same way again.

Tom Brennan says –

They blew it medically on two key players, Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard.  Case closed.

Peter Hyatt says –

**Matt Harvey is considerably leaner right now.  Although we have talked about his conditioning and love of alcohol, it has finally reached the attention of Keith Hernandez.  Who is overseeing the condition programs?  Who is discouraging night life?  Who has not been inspiring better conditioning? Matt finally may have gotten the memo but we cannot know what the extra weight, alcohol, less sleep, etc, has impacted him.  As a top notch athlete, he was recently unprepared for a start date moved up.  Where is the accountability? 

What of Yoenis' penchant for not running, halting, not sliding, etc, and his leg injuries?  Recall before the season started, we talked about his possible injuries, his PR-inflated workout and the lack of leadership on this team. 

(And even more say, like recent decisions made by Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, it’s a complete lack of respect by the players for the diagnosis and treatment put in place by the Mets. What are your thoughts on this?)

Here, again, is the lack of leadership.  As an employee, if Noah did not want to take the MRI, he should have been scratched from the line up.

What brought him to this level of insubordination? 

This is a team that lacks strong moral leadership.  They have talent up and down, yet, when players are not held accountable, it impacts team and it impacts younger players. 

This team could end up being the newest version of "The Wrong Season."

Playing contracts over productivity is madness. 

Allowing kids to run the show is folly. 

There is a small window of opportunity for elite athletes to win.  Few make it while being undisciplined and the few that do, do not translate into a dynasty.

This team needs a new manager, GM, conditioning coach and pitching coach. 
Whether you make minimum MLB wage, or 20 million, you must be held to the same standards.  If my boss asked me to get to bed early and I was being paid millions, I would not need a reminder. 

What team does not plan for contingencies?

We may see Jay Bruce lead the Mets in home runs with Michael Conforto a close second.  Watch how this impacts Cespedes.  Not being "El Hombre" dramatically changes his body language into brooding.

I used to love Gary, Keith and Ron as a team.  Now, all three rarely appear together and Ron has begun to channel his inner-ESPN where all he can do is go from pedantic moral narcissism to faux medial records.  While talking to the audience, when he says, "this is for you folks", there is no Keith to smirk him back to earth.  I think Alderson' impact on our broadcasting is entirely too much.  Shilling for contracts versus honest commentary will lose fans just as batting .125 will.

 No accountability.  Will Collins excuse Reyes for the arrogant stroll?  He did not take Reyes out.  The reply is infuriating. This is why the team is the way it is.  No leadership, no accountability . There is no way to get back the April games lost with .125 and .150 average between Reyes and Grandy, while AAAA players would hit higher.  At least Keith Hernandez is fuming. 

Other than this, I don't really have much to say. 

Richard Herr says –

It's a little hard to tell what happened in many instances with the injuries. We don't know what the doctors saw on whatever imaging (X-ray, CAT Scan, MRI) was done on the player's injury. We don't know what the doctor told management.  We don't know what was told the player. We don't know how well the player complied with his instructions.  We're only conjecturing.

Here's what I don't have to conjecture on. I saw the video of Yoenis Cespedes taking batting practice the day before he was re-inserted into the line-up and pulled his hammie. He took a swing, then recoiled in pain. This was not a player who should have been playing. The coach who threw the batting practice pitch to him saw it. The SNY camera saw it. It's hard to imagine that management, the front office and Terry, didn't see the SNY footage.

Cespedes was management's fault. Management is obviously making mistakes about medical decisions.

They've got to fix it.

David Rubin says –

Great question, Mack- and one that is infuriating this fanbase for sooooooooo long, it's beyond shocking that it's STILL not fixed!!!!!

There have been more challenges in the start of the 2017 Mets season then some teams might go through in an ENTIRE season.

There have been numerous injuries, many recurrences, over a period of 14 years and 2 General Manager terms.

There is a manager who will cost the team, when all is said and done, somewhere between 10-12 losses due to poor game management and bullpen usage. And that's probably a very conservative estimate.

There is an offense that lives by, and therefore dies by, the home run - which brings up the issues of not having enough men on base to create runs and also results in high rates of strike-outs (symptomatic throughout baseball at an alarming rate.)
There is advance scouting that predicts, very accurately, where a hitter will drive the ball according to which pitch he is thrown and at what speed- yet there have been no adjustments made by hitters throughout the line-up.

There is a team that has the oldest average aged every-day lineup in the National League (do NOT say that 10 times fast!)

There is undue pressure put on athletes that play in the biggest of markets- it's tangible, it's true, and whether you want to deny it or embrace it, it's not going away. This pressure can either make a player the toast of a town (Derek Jeter) or an early-career scapegoat (Matt Harvey).

There has been a huge uptick in velocity over the past 25 years in pitchers that is both incredibly exciting and incredibly alarming. Rick Reuschel and Mickey Lolich and Wilbur Wood would never win a "best physique" contest, but all three would give you innings, solid innings, think 7-9 solid innings, 35-40 times per season, 125-160 pitches per game, every 4 days, day-in, day-out.

There has been a decline in the use of "small-ball" whether due to the devaluation of the stolen base by Sabremetricians, or the evolution of lead-off hitters or the lack of proper fundamentals being taught all the way down to the little league level.
There has been one ownership group of this team for far too long, and they were given more than a "pass" by former commissioner, Bud Selig, when he roasted (and deservingly so) former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and banished him from the game (while simultaneously finally making him into the billionaire he longed to be in the process.)

There has been a second team in New York since 1962, and to start the season this National League team has had a chance to grab hold of the city and ride the support all the way to the World Series- and yet again, their older brother in the Bronx has come out of nowhere to grab not only the headlines but also the thought of contending for a World Series. AND THEREIN LIES THE RUB!!

The Yankees were told all off-season that they didn't have enough starting pitching, that what they had was too old (Sabathia) or too broken (Tanaka), and of course, all eyes (and good thoughts) were aimed squarely at the gunslingers from Ole CitiField! And yet...

What is ailing this team is two-fold, one long-term, one short-term (one can only hope).

Long-term, this team has been cursed with the worst medical staff, from information to diagnosis, from conditioning to maintenance, from first aid to serious treatment, for as long as we can remember. As I said in a prior article at the start of the week, it began under Omar Minaya's watch- NOT the problem, but the RECOGNITION that there was a problem. Ryan Church has a concussion? Put him on a plane. THAT, I believe, was the tipping point for the public either recognizing, or finally putting words to the recognition, that something deep, something endemic to their system, is wrong, really wrong, when it comes to injury management.

Look- I have run restaurants for over 30 years, sometimes more than 250 at a time, and I know that if I have a problem with a recipe, a supplier, a landlord, managers, etc, it behooves me to get it taken care of ASAP because we have a finite amount of tangible assets, a finite amount of capital and a finite amount of time. In business, failure to manage areas like this will result in the death of a business, no matter HOW great the product. And yet, the Mets continue to run the worst medical system in baseball and have only been held accountable by the inevitable article, the coverage of yet another injury, and then the story disappears. I've written about it for years- at Mets Trades, at Shea Nation, here at Mack's Mets; in all that time, nothing has changed, except NOW, when we have a true chance at greatness, things that should only be happening to an organization run by the Keystone Cops (or the government) are happening, with the repeat button permanently jammed!!! What shocks me more, even, then the fact that nothing has truly been done to fix the process (new trainer, new doctors, new exercise regimes, new coaches, new coordinators) - and I am NOT accepting what is currently in place as fixes given that nothing Barwiss or the NY Hospital for Special Surgery or their trainer (since 2004) has done has helped moved this process into the 21st century. When you cannot even believe the press releases sent out by the team concerning injuries, there's already a HUGE problem facing the organization, its' players and its fanbase. There seemingly is not ONE SINGLE PART OF THE METS PHYSICAL TRAINING/ MEDICAL DEPARTMENT THAT APPEARS TO BE TRUSTWORTHY OR MAJOR LEAGUE QUALITY FROM TOP TO BOTTOM!!!! Noah Thor Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes are by FAR the most salable assets on the team from a merchandising position, and when they don't play, their jersey and t-shirt sales don't go up in number. When players come to the team with great expectations and the team cannot even keep them on the field, it's impossible to begin that true love affair, that  trust-zone, between player and fan that must exist for the team to be able to draw more fans when so-and-so pitches. Without fielding a top quality roster, each and every day, although tickets might already be long-gone, the after-market sellers, the parking lot attendants, the hot dog sellers, the merchandise hawkers, they aren't moving product, parking cars, selling jerseys - and that means that the Wilpons, already faced with losing more than $50 million from their current payroll this off-season are going to go back into cost-cutting mode and very well might wind up with a payroll next year that struggles to reach back up to the $100 million mark. And there will be NO way that Sandy will be able to spin not spending the money again, after having to do it for the past 6+ years!!!! And, furthermore, why would a free agent want to come to this organization when the players don't even have enough respect for management and their medical team to go through what's being asked of them, from paying additional $$ when having to travel to engage with Barwiss or, more importantly, having their star pitcher saying "NO" to management when asked to take an MRI. THIS type of disrespect can NOT be swept under the rug...and yet...

The fact is, this is an aged roster and Sandy knew that signing older players and relying upon them to all perform as expected, let alone remain on the field for a long season, was literally the proverbial "accident waiting to happen." And it did- and being that the Mets are not equipped to handle injuries, a two-fold problem, the assembling of the roster itself was therefore a risky proposition, at best. Add to this the fact that Terry overworks a bullpen like no other, and the prognosticators who forecasted doom for this team were correct way earlier than even THEY expected.
There's no doubt in my mind that Cepsedes is not merely on the 10-day disabled list; in fact, I am betting that we don't see him back in uniform until early-to-mid June at this point. This is a man who not only embraced the team and his new long-term contract, but someone who worked inordinately hard this off-season on his conditioning, with Barwiss once again taking charge.

Basically, things are a mess - from top to bottom right now - and the challenging medical issues are one of the biggest inflammatory points in the recent history of the organization.

This team was built around deep starting pitching that should keep the team in every game until Familia or Reed can shut the door while the offense hits homers all the live long day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And yet- THE STARTING PITCHING IS FAILING TO HOLD UP THEIR SIDE OF THE BARGAIN. THREE GAMES - THREE.....MEASLY......GAMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And injuries are playing a HUGE part in this!!!!! Noah is now gone for three months or more. Harvey is still trying to deal with the after-effects of MAJOR surgery and needs months to get his "touch" back. Wheeler hasn't returned to form as expected, and shows glimpses of greatness but only for 4 or 5 innings. deGrom strikes out the WORLD then has huge pitch-counts by the 5th inning (EXCEPT for his 2nd start, where good ole Terry took him out after about 77 pitches, which started this whole downward spiral going!!!!!) Lugo is still MIA, as is Matz, both due to medical issues (yup, THAT again!) Gsellman has mostly looked like a garbage-time 6th starter on a non-contending team, and Montero has had more chances than Steve Howe at this point, and he'll get one more this week as he takes Thor's start in the rotation. So while the injuries, the medical staff, heck, the way ankles are taped ALL need looking into, until such time as the starting pitchers give this team some length in their starts and hold the opponents to 3 runs or less, we can moan and groan about anything you want to and it won't matter because this team will be going NOWHERE FAST!!!


Anonymous said...

Where there is smoke, there usually is fire. Even though it is early May, this season may get away from the Mets if they stay stuck in neutral for another six weeks.

Personally, I would thank TC for his efforts and relieve him of his duties along with the entire coaching staff. A fresh start is needed in the dugout and in the clubhouse (I would love to see the next coaching staff include Frank Viola as the pitching coach).

Sandy is a more complex topic, but it will likely be addressed after the season is over and a fresh start here may also be warranted.


Richard Herr said...

The trouble is if you let go of the General Manager and his staff, and the manager and his staff. think of who is left in charge.

Thomas Brennan said...

Captain America?

David Rubin said...

Well, we have an (injured) Captain America and an (injured) Thor, so what we need apparently is IRON MEN!!! (sorry!!!) And Sandy really isn't the problem because he has to put a brave face on as he dances to the public to a tune the Wilpons play...

Thomas Brennan said...

Cal Ripken is willing to make a comeback.

Kidding aside, Cespedes said he'd like to make the Hall of Fame...that would take some consecutive gargantuan years...especially given his late career start...so he HAS to figure out a way not to miss huge amounts of time.

He should have asked to go to the 10 day DL when he first got hurt - it might not be a Cuban axiom, but in my house I often heard that a Stitch in Time Saves Nine.

Hopefully Thor and Cespedes learned a big leson here - because potential greatness and actual greatness are two different things - the latter requires high levels of durability.

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