Mets Must Overhaul Pitching Protocols



The only one of the Mets starters not currently waving a health red flag is the one whose roots are not in the organization – Bartolo Colon. To be fair, Colon had health issues earlier in his career and a PED history, but he’s clean now and save a ball hit off his thumb has been fine.

Colon, at 43, has been a source of stability on the mound since joining the Mets, but his greatest contribution might be the suggestion to Noah Syndergaard, whose 23-year-old arm suddenly lost its steam, to back off his between-starts throwing.

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets' pitching problems. (Getty)

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets’ pitching problems. (Getty)

When Syndergaard told Bob Klapisch, one the most knowledgeable baseball writers I know, his arm felt “like there are parachutes attached to it,”  there was the image of swimming against the current.

Syndergaard is pitching through a bone spur in his elbow. Syndergaard experienced a sudden five-mph., drop off his fastball in his last start against the Nationals, similar to turning an oscillating fan from high to medium. Every pitch was a change-up.

Matt Harvey, who at 27, is out for the season following shoulder surgery; the second time in four years the knife cut him out of the rotation. Jacob deGrom was given a chance to be on the National League All-Star team but told manager Terry Collins he was too tired. The word he used was “beat.”

He’s only 28.

Then there’s Steven Matz. He had Tommy John surgery before he was 25, and like Syndergaard is pitching with a painful bone spur.

Finally, there’s Zack Wheeler, who at 26, also experienced Tommy John surgery. He was supposed to come off the disabled list in late June and send Colon to the bullpen. Then it was July, then after the All-Star break. Now, it is mid-August.

I’m waiting for the announcement he will not pitch this year.

Realistically, nobody expected all these guys to blossom into 20-game winners at once. However, also realistically, nobody expected them all to break down all at once, which is closer to happening than one might think.

Is this a coincidence or something deeper?

I would love to see the Mets get back to the World Series. However, I would rather they not make the playoffs, even have a losing season, if it meant seeing each of these guys healthy. For that to happen, the Mets need a serious and comprehensive plan. And remember, wishing is not a plan.

The first step is to recognize how they’ve handled things in the past. The second step is to recognize it hasn’t worked.

I’ve been on the record and will not back off saying they mishandled Harvey from the outset of his arm problems in 2013. It should be noted Harvey back then, and today contributes to his own problems.

Syndergaard won’t pitch until the Mets are in Chicago next week. They’ll ease him back in the rotation, which is a wise decision. Not so wise is their inexplicable decision not to schedule a new MRI. The Mets are going on a previous set taken several weeks before the Washington meltdown.

Just stupid.

GM Sandy Alderson said of Syndergaard and Matz their bone spurs is a matter of pain tolerance. More than once they’ve said the pitchers – the keys to the Mets’ future – couldn’t risk further injury.

Wrong answer.

There are no guarantees when it comes to injuries. The only guarantee is if you continually do something wrong and it doesn’t work, it won’t get better.

The Mets have the possibility to have a great pitching staff, but that’s all it is now – potential. It will remain potential unless the Mets do a complete overhaul in how they handle their pitchers.

From throwing between starts, to pitch counts, to days off, to dealing with pain and discomfort, to a myriad of other things, there must be a complete change. There should be uniformity in policy and procedure from the rookie league to Citi Field.

I don’t know if these Mets will develop into a staff for the ages or fizzle out like the Oakland staff under Billy Martin. Both could happen.

Something is wrong and priority one for the Mets is to find out what it is and fix it.

I don’t care about what happens this year, it’s probably too late, anyway. I care about what happens in the years to come.


10 thoughts on “Mets Must Overhaul Pitching Protocols

  1. Wow, I’m certainly glad you don’t make the decisions. Too much nonsense in this article to even address. Reality check: The Met collective brain trust is far smarter than any of us. Get off your high horse, John.

  2. John, are you serious? Didn’t Colon have to go to Germany a few years back to get a procedure done on his shoulder that isn’t permitted here in the U. S.? Also, Colon doesn’t go all out in his throwing. And, how would anyone avoid bone spurs? Lastly, Matt Harvey this year has been out of whack in his mechanics and way out of shape.

  3. To open up and review this issue is a good thing. But it is much too easy to recommend a total overhaul on how the Mets handle pitchers. Do you have specifics? Do you have a plan that can guarantee arm strength and total health for these young Met Pitchers? Probably not, this article is written like a fan who complains but really doesn’t have a bonafide clue on what changes will work.

  4. Tom Boswell had an article a few days ago on the differences between the Mets and Gnats with pitching. Sandy Alderson is a former Marine…tough it out kind of guy. John Rizzo is the son of a scout and briefly played minor league ball. He tends to fall in love with pitchers and babies their pitch counts and innings. Which is more successful? Hard to say: the Mets were in the World Series last year while the Gnats haven’t won a post season series. But the Gnats are in first.

    I do not understand why more teams don’t follow Earl Weaver’s advice. The best place for a young pitcher is long relief out of the bullpen and an occasional start. He was very successful.

  5. “GM Sandy Alderson said of Syndergaard and Matz their bone spurs is a matter of pain tolerance. More than once they’ve said the pitchers – the keys to the Mets’ future – couldn’t risk further injury.

    Wrong answer.”

    Are you a physician?

    Seriously. Are you? Because I’ve asked you the following question five times now. Should the Mets shut down Noah & Matz for the rest of the season to remove the bone spurs? That’s the only way the pain disappears. It’s the only way the spurs disappear. And their seasons will be over. Is this what you’re advocating for? Because otherwise, Alderson’s statement holds, and the spurs are not in position to cause structural harm (as per Mets doctors, and previous cases with independent physicians for other teams). Rest won’t help. Easing them won’t help. A DL stint won’t help.

    There are no guarantees when it comes to injuries, you say. You’re right. There’s also no “protocol” that can guarantee injury prevention. Teams are trying everything. You just want the Mets’ “protocols” to be “different,” without really laying anything out or tackling the truths.

  6. Gotta say i disagree with the notion that the Mets have a systemic issue causing them to ruin young arms. Many young arms around the league have struggled to avoid surgery/DL stints at some point because they throw hard and that takes a toll on the body. How short our memory can be, as i actually read another article blasting the mets for how they’ve treated Harvey but praised the nationals for shutting down strasburg for the playoffs because of how well he’s pitching now… they must’ve forgotten he ended up needing Tommy John surgery the year after anyway. Known fact that pitchers who throw gas who aren’t named Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens go through periods of dead arm and/or injury and hit the DL at some points during a long season. My guess is you’re not much of an athlete because over 162 games everyone plays hurt, or with aches and pains. As long as there’s no structural risk for them to continue – which includes not altering a swing or pitching motion to compensate for the soreness, then it is really all about pain tolerance and ability to perform through it. not in any way a stupid strategy.

    I know you need to write a column but jumping on the Mets is just lame scapegoating to find a reason for reigning NL champs not running through competition like expected. The mets issues are reliance on the HR, and lack of situational hitting, plain and simple. The starting pitching has, and will be fine. Middle relief? they could use some help though.

    Greater minds than ours have pointed to overuse prior to even getting to professional baseball as a cause for injury as children are choosing one sport and sticking with it more these days than playing a few sports seasonally which allowed for different muscle groups to develop/rest etc.

  7. Bastardo has been terrrible. i am surprised there is not more universal venom directed his way. Not that I think it would right, but every few years a guy tends to serve as the lightening rod for all the fans… Ollie, luis, bay, etc… I thought smoker was going to turn out to be a major find, it’s nice he has K’s but last time i checked his ERA was in the 7’s with more than a few hrs…. guess it would be nice if edgin could return to contribute. montero seems to have just lost it. i hoped he was going to break through a few years ago..

    • Luckily for Bastardo, he hasn’t been in position to ruin too many games. He’s been awful, sure. But for the most part, he’s just a garbage arm in the bullpen. And he’s not going anywhere anyway, not with another $6 million on the books for 2017. If this team were (or ends up being) under .500, you can definitely expect the vitriol to kick up a notch.

  8. It’s a coincidence of course

    I have been saying the same for years now. Modern training sucks.
    Ron darling says the same.
    But they manage the game how they do and it makes all the pitchers get hurt.