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Their Elbows from Their Past

Had baseball been proceeding as planned, the Mets and Orioles would have been completing their Spring Training schedule with an exhibition game at the Naval Academy in Annapolis on Tuesday. We know baseball — and everything else — isn’t proceeding as planned these days, but the time frame we’ve likely lost track of is instructive. The tail end of Spring Training is still Spring Training, and, it can’t be stressed enough, almost no news that comes out of Spring Training is good news [1].

Tuesday brought Mets news, which at this point could have been good news only if it involved a vaccine somebody suddenly discovered while padlocking Clover Park, or SNY suspending the chess set commercial that runs every half-inning of their otherwise welcome Best of 2019 marathon. No, it wasn’t that kind of news. It was the kind of news you duck and cover from in a normal Spring Training. It’s hardly news in the scheme of current pandemic things, but since we’re Mets fans and this is a Mets blog…oh, you already know what we’re talking about. Noah Syndergaard was diagnosed with a torn UCL [2]; prescribed Tommy John surgery; and listed as out for the next year and change.

The entire sport and most of society is out for an indefinite period, so maybe the “THOR ON SHELF” bulletins — and inevitable “Whither Wacha?” sidebar — don’t quite resonate as they would in other Marches, but the flash gets your attention nonetheless. Thor was the only one of the legendary Five Aces of the 2010s to have not gone in for repair of a vital pitching element prior to 2020. Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom had Tommy John at the dawn on the decade, long before anybody outside of Stony Brook or DeLand was particularly cognizant of either of them. Matt Harvey was sitting on top of the world like Michael Jackson at the Beverly Palm Hotel until he felt something in his right arm in the late summer of 2013. A year-and-a-half later, just as Harvey was regaining his strength, Zack Wheeler’s rise was interrupted by the need for TJS. No wonder it took until April 2018 for the Five Aces to pitch in rotation (albeit for all of two entire turns).

Syndergaard was the lucky one until he wasn’t, which was apparently before the whole of this Spring Training got called off and the status of this regular season was thrown into limbo. Noah experienced that dreaded discomfort and it didn’t go away with rest, despite baseball going away altogether. It’s bad news at a bad time in the broad sense if an inactive time in the baseball sense. Still, the one thing you’ll notice about his aforementioned current and erstwhile Met colleagues is they all had the surgery, they each rehabbed an elbow, and they all got back to pitching. DeGrom and Matz became major leaguers; both started World Series games; one has two Cy Youngs. Harvey may not have quite been the Harvey of 2013 in 2015, but he was a pretty substantial version thereof en route to that same Fall Classic (thoracic outlet syndrome was another story). Wheeler’s timing was dreadful where his contribution to the Mets’ competitive peak was concerned, but he eventually returned, excelled and got paid.

It’s not our elbow, but we’re pretty proprietary of its enduring power and remaining potential, certainly through 2021. We wish Thor only the best for his and our mutual future, whenever they meaningfully reconverge. We’ll take it on faith that “an acutely torn” ulnar collateral ligament with “acute compression of the ulnar nerve” meets surgical guidelines of the moment [3] and that it’s essential he has it taken care of this week. Not at the expense of human life, we hope, but, you know, to get Noah Syndergaard [4] on a mound again when there are mounds to be gotten to.

That would be good news in any spring.