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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Something's Broken

Hey! We took two out of three from the Nats!


Oh yeah, that. OK.

Before we plunge in, a few things:

1. Pitchers break. No one knows exactly why they break, or how to stop them from breaking. It’s a problem that costs their industry millions and millions of dollars a year. If you want to get acquainted with baseball people’s best guesses about why and read a terrific story besides, go out and get Jeff Passan’s superb The Arm. But even it only discovers suspicions and areas for further inquiry, not smoking guns.

2. There’s a survivor’s bias among pitchers, and that bias makes their expertise highly suspect. Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, to name just two, didn’t emerge from their long careers with intact ligaments (only more or less intact in Ryan’s case) because they had perfect mechanics, exemplary work habits, or were warriors whose epics preceded The Age of Wuss. No, the principal reason they survived is they won the genetic lottery at conception. The difference between Tom Seaver and Tim Leary, or Tim Leary and Les Rohr, is much smaller than we let ourselves believe, because we don’t like to think we’re watching 130-odd rounds of Russian roulette a night. If I want to know about elbow injuries I’ll ask a doctor, not a retired pitcher.

3. Young men are macho about pain and the possible reasons for it, and young men with the superhuman drive to succeed as professional athletes are really macho about pain and the possible reasons for it. This is stupid for anyone and particularly stupid for anyone who’s part of a team, but it was an issue when our forebears were making cave paintings, so good luck changing that one.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Noah Syndergaard. I’m going to fly in the face of 21st century digital discourse and wait for more information and an analysis of that information by someone who knows more about the subject than I do. When Noah grimaced in pain I turned away from the TV in despair, thinking that the awful moment I’d long expected to arrive finally had. That was followed by a bit of desperate bargaining with the universe: He’s grabbing under his arm. That wasn’t the shake of the elbow we’ve seen before that means Aw Fuck. That’s something else. It’s something else, right?

Maybe it is. “It’s my lat,” Syndergaard seemed to be saying out there, which would be comforting except the lat bone’s connected to the shoulder bone and the shoulder bone’s connected to the biceps bone and the biceps bone’s connected to the UCL bone and the UCL bone is connected to the sit-in-the-dark-in-despair-till-mid-2018 bone.

But I’m starting to do what I said I wouldn’t do. Let’s wait and see what an actual doctor says.

Here’s what I do know, however: everyone is assuming the worst for reasons beyond the biceps problem and Noah being a flamethrower with a UCL.

They’re also assuming the worst because these are the Mets we’re talking about.

And that’s prejudicial conduct this club thoroughly deserves.

This has been true for years — injuries are misdiagnosed, downplayed, handled haphazardly and allowed to blossom into full-blown disasters. It’s been true across multiple managerial reigns and front-office tenures, and accompanied by talk — though never for attribution — that the problem isn’t the much-reviled training staff or the brass but the owners.

I think that’s important when we try to understand why players go rogue, seeking second opinions, ducking doctors or balking at counsel. They’ve been told by their teammates that the men who sign the checks aren’t trustworthy. Sometimes that manifests itself as not believing good news; sometimes it shows up as refusing to risk bad news. Ultimately it’s the same mistrust.

And those players don’t need to be told, because they’ve seen it for themselves. We don’t have to go back to Ryan Church to see that — we just have to look at last week.

When Syndergaard couldn’t go because of a biceps issue, Matt Harvey was sent to the mound instead. No big deal, we were told — Harvey’s ready and willing. Except it turned out Harvey had lifted weights heavily the day before, and been told about his new assignment three hours before taking the mound.

Matt Harvey is coming off a surgery that’s riskier than reknitting a UCL. The Mets know this, and yet did something bizarrely reckless with his health. I can’t tell you how much I hate typing this next sentence, but here it is: If I were Scott Boras I would be furious with them, and rightly so.

Or take Yoenis Cespedes. Last Wednesday, after sitting out for five days, Cespedes was taking batting practice when he grabbed at his leg in obvious pain. That’s not a rumor — it was on video. He played that night and again Thursday — at least until he pulled a hamstring in the fourth inning and was lost for who knows how long.

How many members of the organization saw or were told about what happened in batting practice? And yet Cespedes was put in the lineup. How many members of the organization are aware of the uncertainty of recovery from thoracic outlet surgery? And yet Harvey was sent out to pitch with minimal communication and indifference to his health.

Again, this happened not in some less-enlightened age that good people all regret. It happened last week.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Noah. My profound hope is that it’s a relatively small thing, and an unlucky coincidence. Those things do happen. But whatever’s wrong, I don’t trust the Mets to deal with it effectively or responsibly, and I don’t think Noah Syndergaard or his teammates do either. That’s a problem that’s bigger than an injury to any individual player — even if he’s the brightest of stars.

52 comments to Something’s Broken

  • David

    This is a pretty damning article. Makes the Wilpons sound sociopathic

  • Lenny65

    Take me out to the Mets game
    So-ber-ing up the crowd
    Gimping and limping and ham-string pulls,
    Working hurt arms til the pitch counts are full!

    And we’ll wince wince wince for the home team
    When they’re DL’ed it’s a shame
    Cause it’s ten, thirty or sixty days out
    At the ol’ Mets game!

    I had several relatives who used to say “if I never go to the doctor they’ll never find anything wrong with me”. “Had” because they’re all long dead now. Who out there didn’t see THIS coming? Starting Syndergaard today was easily one of the most bone-brained things they’ve ever done, at least since they traded for Juan Samuel.

    “Hmmm, my arm’s acting up a little. Nah, f**k a diagnosis, I’ll just work out the kinks by applying some 100MPH heat.”

    “No problem Noah, you the man, but don’t come crying to us when you need that MRI on Monday.”

    I mean geez, have you ever winced so much in your life? Harvey, Wheeler, Syndergaard, Matz, DW, TdA, Duda, Cespedes, Cabrera, Reed, Familia, Walker, Reyes, Flores, Granderson, Plawecki, Reynolds…you know you winced slightly at every one of those names for various reasons, as did I. If this keeps up I’ll need my own DL stint after watching the Mets anyway after feeling a “twinge” in my wincing muscles the day before.

    • Lenny65

      The most galling thing about today’s injury-related debacle was it didn’t have to go down this way, in a huge blaze of incompetence for all the world to see. It would have been sufficiently demoralizing to hear that Syndergaard will miss x amount of weeks, months or seasons without having to endure the spectacle that took place today. Everyone has their own take on the whole ghastly sequence of events that led to this but IMO the bottom line was that it happened at all. Just like with Cespedes, it isn’t late September do-or-die here and regardless of who was at fault it reflects very poorly on the Mets as an organization. If ownership doesn’t care about glaring obvious ineptitude why should the fans? Unlike the gamble you take with ballplayers and the games themselves you can do something about the way your investment is being run and IMO it’s definitely fair to question that as far as the Mets are concerned.

  • Matt in Richmond

    It’s fair to question Lenny. It’s not fair to state with certainty that any specific individuals are to blame. There are too many unknown factors to do that. I would also humbly submit that what might feel like an embarrassing debacle to a Mets fan is in fact a lot less than that. It feels worse and more unique than it really is because we are so close to it.

  • Daniel Hall

    Funny how what irked me the most about the game was Murph murphing and sticking at third base on Rendon’s last of 27 base knocks, robbing me of the right to claim of having seen a double-digit RBI game by anybody.

    Lemme see that schedule for a second. All night games in Atlanta? Oh, that is such a relief! They’re all your’s, guys, I am *so* *sorry* but I can’t share the grief with you. (/irony)

    The accelerated drama with Syndergaard that unfolded over the week is most bizarre and unbecoming of a major-league franchise… Looks like everybody on the team with the slightest credentials can do whatever he wants. Time for someone to throw his lunch into the trash again! Where’s Captain Wright when you need him!? And what’s with that horrible Horwitz story? Basic manners, anybody?

    When Syndergaard first came up, I always wondered about his postgame interviews; mostly short sentences, long breaks between words, and he was never speaking very loud and always looked embarassed, and I couldn’t decide whether he was just shy and didn’t dig the attention (bad career choice, pal), or just not very smart, but aware of it and did his best to not look like a fool with anything he said. I think I have my answer by now.

    Bright sides: Plawecki looks like he can pitch every other day. Maybe he can even start every other day. Put Lagares in the outfield, though. On all three positions. Might have to cut him into slices to make it work, but I am sure Mr. Ramirez knows a trick or two.

  • eric1973

    Yup, it’s not the injuries, per se , it’s the lack of communication and common sense surrounding the Mets hierarchy, who should be sued for malpractice.

    • Dennis

      I have to agree… is mindboggling how long and how often this lack of communication occurs.

  • Dave

    It’s been obvious for quite some time that the Wilpons remain in denial over injuries so as to minimize any possible impact on ticket sales…Thor obviously keeps the turnstiles moving more than Sean Gilmartin or Rafael Montero will. One can’t help but wonder how many free agents and their agents have crossed the Mets off their list out of fear that injuries will be mismanaged to the point of career endangerment. Yes, Thor acted like Mr Indestructible Macho Man, but somebody has to step up and say “cut the crap, you’re having the MRI.”

    Who thought that letting Gabriel Ynoa and Logan Verrett go (in exchange for what amounts to a day’s receipts at Shake Shack, if that) might come back to haunt them?

  • Dennis

    I spite of the doom and gloom……they did take 2 of 3 this past weekend.

  • LeClerc

    My impression is that there is no “the buck stops here” decision maker apart from those decisions that involve financial investment.

    Weighing misfortune vs mismanagement, the scale dips unambiguously towards the latter.

    Getting back to the 2017 season: Gilmartin is not the number five guy in the rotation. His only value (if any) is as a garbage time innings eater (but hey – now we have Plawecki for that). That brings us back to (aaaargh!) Montero (the baddest of all bad pennies). The nibbler is back in town.

    A decision maker must address the state of the infield now. Cabrera is gimpy. Walker’s skills have diminished. Reyes is an offensive asset but a defensive liability. When healthy – Flores and Duda should share first base duties. I think we shall see Rosario sooner than later.

    Granderson’s place now is on the bench (after Cespedes or even Nimmo returns).

    Bullpen: Gotta go with Familia, Reed, Robles. Blevins and Edgin for lefties. Smoker and Salas are erratic question marks.

    We are looking for Conforto, Bruce, and a healthy(?) D’Arnaud to put some runs up.

    Anyway – on to Atlanta!

  • Wheaties54321

    I believe overdoing it in the weight room contributed to both Noah and Ces’ injuries. Obviously this is mostly speculation, but it’s an idea that deserves attention. I have a feeling Keith and Ronnie may agree with this take.

  • Gil

    One thing is for sure, Sean Gilmartin throws a great BP.

    We need Matz and Lugo back, and we need Gsellman to start pitching like deGsellman of last year.

    Everyone has to step up.

    • Matt in Woodside

      Hard to blame Gilmartin, though. Pitchers get rusty when they don’t do anything but hang out in airports for a month. Like everyone, I love Syndergaard, but he deserves as much blame for this whole situation as Collins or the trainers. He told everyone he was fine, declined the MRI, and it led to unexpected starts for Gsellman and Harvey. Granted, I think Gilmartin should have taken the spot start last week when Syndergaard couldn’t go, and that’s on Collins. But I can’t even remember if he was on the roster or on a plane that day. He probably can’t either, at this point.

  • When I read the articles about Noah’s off-season workouts, it scared the crap out of me. Then the articles came out about Yo. I was a 41 yr PE teacher and track coach & always interested in training. My concerns about heavy weight training started with David Wrght. His physical problems seemed to me to start after he spent his off-season doing heavy “core” work. Noah, putting on 15 lbs of muscle is admirable, but it seemed counterproductive for a pitcher. The videos Jose posted of HIS off-season work were also frightening! His movements (which have always been SO graceful), are tight and stiff.
    The first baseball player I ever remember reading about doing a lot of weight training in the off-season was Carlton Fisk. Soon after, he had many muscle problems.
    It seems that baseball players should re-evaluate how much, and what kind of weight training they are doing. There are way too many muscle related injuries.

  • Greg Mitchell

    For those who refuse to place any blame: I was watching on TV 500 miles away and saw Noah wince and grab LAT on the PREVIOUS pitch. Terry and Warthen are standing right there presumably watching every pitch (especially after his firet inning) and they don’t see this and come out? They had even watched 8 batters slam him in first inning before coming out to mound even once. And that is on top of letting him pitch without MRI–and the long, long history of injury malpractice under Terry and Sandy, most recently with Ces. Even Duda played Friday in rehab–and has to sit out next two days, and counting. I could go on. Then there’s the pitching “depth” in AAA–Gilmartin and Montero!

  • Gil

    partial tear in the lat. Ray Ramirez will put some icy hot on it and the Mets will send him back out in 5 days.

    This really sucks.

  • sturock

    Well, now we know. Torn lat muscle.

    A lot of blame to go around. Yes, mgmt is slow to just put guys on the DL– esp. now that the ten-day means they don’t miss a lot of time. And Noah should have gone for that MRI of his biceps last week. Maybe he misses a start, maybe he goes on the DL for a little bit. Now he’s gonna miss two-three months. Thanks, Thor.

    The lunatics are running the asylum there. Can you imagine a Yankee player– Core 4 days or now– refusing to go for an MRI? That wouldn’t happen.

    The Mets are just lax, they don’t seem to really care. And it comes from the top.

  • Guy Kipp

    The Mets are the only organization in sports whose fan base can regularly tell when one of its players will suffer a significant injury before the medical staff or the organization itself.
    And this stuff is nothing new. Recall Jon Niese, in 2009, pulling a hamstring covering first base, insisting he was OK to continue, and the trainer allowing him to go back to the mound and take some warmup throws. On the first warmup pitch, Niese went down like he’d been shot, and he was done for the season.
    You can’t make this stuff up.

  • Matt in Richmond

    For whatever it’s worth; Tom House (legendary pitching coach who Nolan Ryan credits with extending his career), predicted back in February that Noah would get injured. He stated this upon learning of the 17 lbs of muscle Noah added without throwing, in other words adding that much muscle that had no muscle memory of the proper mechanics of pitching.

    • Dennis

      Interesting Matt…..I just looked that up. He actually said by the 2nd week of June he would be injured, so unfortunately he was early with his prediction.

  • Lenny65

    Knowing the Wilpons as we do, IMO it’s fair to wonder if perhaps they “cut corners” in areas of managing the team that the average fan doesn’t necessarily see, for example with cutting-edge baseball science and technology. The point being that sure, every team deals with injuries, it is sports after all. But the constant tide of them combined with the routine ineptitude and uncertainty seems like something that’s unique to the Mets.

  • open the gates

    Thank you, Jason, for writing what many of us were thinking and couldn’t quite put into words.

    It is long past due pulling the plug on Death Ray Ramirez. And frankly, the player’s union should demand an investigation into the long-term malfeasance of the Wilpons regarding the health and well-being of their players. This has been going on for at least ten years too long.

  • eric1973

    All management’s fault. The player is expected to say he is fine. Weight training cannot br good for pitchers.

    Rube Walker had them throwing all the time.

    • Dennis

      Nope. Not all management’s fault……..Noah (or any player for that matter across MLB) is an adult. Take some responsibility and go to management and tell them how you feel. If he was concerned enough about his health not pitch in the World Baseball Classic, then take the time you need now to have it taken care of before additional damage is done.

  • Bob

    I think “aw fuck” sums it all up.
    Met Fan since Polo Grounds, 1963

  • Howard Mangel

    I didn’t see a mention here but Buster Olney had ESPN’s
    Physical therapy/ ortho rehab expert, Stephania Bell (who is a Physical therapist) on his BBTN podcast this past Friday, talking about Cespedes’ hammy and how it is likely related to
    His injuries last year– AND she detailed recent physical rehab studies that have found new superior — in clinical studies– rehab techniques that are shown to improve recovery and reduce relapse! And they noted he was up stretching to PH every game he was supposedly resting.

    Does anyone know if the Mets trainers or PTs or docs keep up with this stuff? With so many injured players it’s essential that they get on the cutting edge.

    Here’s a link to the pod:

  • Eric from Brooklyn

    My question to Greg, Jason, and any one else who has an opinion; is there any conceivable situation that would move the Wilpons to sell? Of course we have dreamed of this for a while, but this is a genuine question. With their cavalier mishandling of injuries, they are fostering an environment where all our once dominant young talent will be super eager to leave. I know it’s pretty unlikely but I wonder if they ever consider it. They aren’t good at this and everyone hates them. When the Mets do well, it’s pretty much in spite of them and when they do poorly, they are usually to blame in some way.

    • Seth

      Here’s my opinion: no. They’ve owned or part-owned this team for over 35 years and they have no desire or inclination to sell, no matter how many “Wilpons must sell!” tweets are sent out. I mean, really — why would they sell?

    • No. The window was when Madoff left them financially crippled as opposed to merely financially hobbled. MLB didn’t force them out then and won’t now. If you want new ownership, look at the actuarial tables and calculate your chances of outliving Jeff.

  • Guy Kipp

    I’m becoming more convinced that Ray Ramirez owns compromising photos of Jeff Wilpon with a sheep or something.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Ok. That was funny.

  • eric1973

    I don’t think Jeff Wilpon has anything to do with this. All TC, Sandy, and their minions, like Dan Warthen.

    BTW, when they offered Walker the 17mil, I thought for sure they were doing it for the draft pick, once he turned it down. I was horrified when he accepted it, and even more horrified when it seemed the organization was happy. We already have one neck surgery guy on the team.

    Walker seems like a good guy, but…

  • Matt in Richmond

    I’m not really into the blame game, as I find it to be a futile exercise. None of us have enough information to accurately portion out the blame, and there’s the reality that often there isn’t anyone to blame. Some things just happen. To whatever extent there is blame in this situation however, my instinct is that most of it goes to Noah himself. This seems like a world class case of hubris. The tough part is that so much of what has driven his success (his stubbornness, competitiveness, toughness and arrogance) is what worked against him here. Hopefully in hindsight this will turn out to be a tough but valuable lesson for him.

  • Dave

    I know this makes me sound like a grumpy old guy grumbling about these damn kids nowadays, but the more they baby these pitchers, the more fragile they seem to be. Imagine telling Seaver or Koosman or even Doc that you hope he could pitch 190 innings this year, or telling Tug McGraw that his job was to get one lefty hitter out in the 7th inning. And if Schoendienst or Alston went out to the mound to take the ball away from Gibson or Drysdale because they were up to 100 pitches, they would have had to bring in a surgeon to remove the ball from where it would have been placed.

    All this science, all this training, all this data, all this money, and things have gone backwards. This rotation that many were, very prematurely, calling the best in baseball or the best in Mets history, is better than Generation K, but seems unlikely to ever live up to the hype. #KidnapBartolo

    • Seth

      I thought about my grumpy old dudeitude too, but then I realized that back then, our dads were probably saying the same thing about Bob Feller, Ralph Branca, and Carl Erskine.

    • You should read The Arm, Dave. Tons of guys busted their elbows back then. The difference was they disappeared forever instead of for 12 months … or tried to hang on as junkballers.

      Seriously, read The Arm. I learned a lot and it’s a great read besides.

      • Dave

        Thanks…just checked, our local library has it, so will give it a read. Yes, I remember the Gary Gentrys of the world who never came back, but with all the medical advances and improvements to technology and data that can presumably prevent problems, tons of guys still bust their elbows, and none of them pitch the way pitchers once did. Seaver was good for 15-20 complete games a year. Gooden threw 276 innings at age 20. Neither suffered as a result. Tug used to regularly pitch 2-3 innings at a time and 100 a year. And yes, they were stars, but in terms of those stats, not necessarily outliers. A manager or pitching coach today would be banished from the game for merely suggesting anything like that. What’s happened to the human body? Was Devo right, humans are de-evolving?

  • 9th string catcher

    I think it’s a case of a big guy trying to shake off an injury. 24 year olds are like that. Fact is, they wanted to check for a bicep injury, not rib – even if he did the test, they might not have found it. Guys who throw this hard are going to hurt themselves – it happens all over the league. A body can’t withstand that kind of impact for long. It’s why we have 7 starters – at some point they all go down. Then they’ll come up and down again.

    Thor is a big loss, but he’s only been the ace for like 5 minutes. We’ll get thru it.

  • Steve D

    I’d like to see two things come out of the Syndegaard situation.

    1) The GM should tell any player refusing an MRI that they will not play until they submit to one.

    2) Stop with the weightlifting. Work on proper mechanics and flexibility.

    As for the Cespedes video, that is just unbelieveable even by Mets standards.

  • Lenny65

    I don’t even want to blame anyone. I just want to watch an ascendant young Mets ace pitch without worrying that this might be his last start for two years, that’s all. Whatever it takes to get to that point is money well spent IMO.

  • Martin Dickson

    There’s no crying in baseball but the Mets are pushing it close with that theory. A team that is built to win but once again is broken. What’s wrong with getting Donaldson from the Jays for 3rd base as Captain Wright is never going to be right. Also the hitting goes missing even when one of the Aces if dealing. Clearly the Nats are better at the moment so the owners should get their finger out and do something about it.

  • open the gates

    I know it’s not considered mature or politically correct to assign blame. And if this was the first time, or the fifth, or the thirtieth, maybe I could hear that. But this team has been committing medical malfeasance on their players at least since the mid 90’s. And it’s not just the injuries – it’s how they’re (mis)handled, (mis)treated, the reluctance to put guys on the DL, the offseason muscle building that has been discredited since the steroid scandal era, playing guys through horrific injuries, mixed messages, misdiagnoses, miscommunications with players and with fans, Ryan Church and his concussions, David Wright playing half a season with a !@$%&* broken back, etc, etc, etc. Now we have potentially one of the best pitching staffs ever that is being systematically decimated by these guys. And don’t talk to me about how Syndergaard and Cespedes need to take their own responsibility. Yes, they do, but this stuff has been going on practically since before Syndergaard was born. This is not a Noah Syndergaard issue. It is a New York Mets medical and conditioning issue. And I love hearing about how I’m not a doctor or a trainer so how dare I comment on what I don’t know. You don’t have to be a doctor to see that there is a real problem here, and has been for a very, very long time. Heads should be rolling.

  • Lenny65

    Just speaking for Mets fans I think this hits so hard because we all felt that this team was possibly on the cusp of being serious contenders for a while, which is somewhat uncommon in Queens. Being a disappointment by coming up short on the field is one thing, but this clawing sense of “what might have been” is even worse IMO.

    And like I was alluding to above, nothing tests your loyalty like the clown-shoes antics and the Harvey/Cespedes/Syndergaard show was just cringe-inducing stuff. At the very least they could do us the courtesy of APPEARING competent. You couldn’t look at a sports site today without seeing another column about the Mets medical ineptitude. Hope the Wilpons realize that national press like that does nothing to put asses in (expensive) seats.

  • eric1973

    Remember 3 years ago, Wright slid into second base, clearly wincing, and should have been taken out of the game. He was allowed to stay in, and further hurt it the next day. Around the same time, Wilmer turned an ankle landing on the first base bag, in obvious discomfort. He was left in the game and hurt it worse the next day.

    Just two examples that stick in my craw.

  • Jeff to the Wilpon. I’m just sayin’…

  • LarsThorvald

    The real problem with this organization is Jeff Wilpon. I know some people inside who tell me that he gets his fingers into every decision made, regardless of whether it’s his milieu or not. Employees live in fear of him. Remember when Met fans used to laugh at the Yankees when Steinbrenner was acting out with all his shenanigans? Well, it’s no different in Flushing except it’s not as well known outside the organization. To quote one person, “Jeff’s more worried about PR and ticket sales than anything else.” So you can quibble with Syndergaard or Alderson or Collins or Harvey all you want. Nothing really changes until Daddy’s golden boy picks up his toys and leaves for the last time.