What’s up, docs?

One of my good friends recently asked her husband how it was possible that young, fit pitchers like Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell get injured, whereas  overweight players like Bartolo Colon and David Wells usually remained unscathed. Her husband quoted the late great Ralph Kiner and responded, “It’s like Ralph said, ‘You can’t pull fat.’”

Seriously, though, what is up with the Mets and injuries?  Oh, sure, all teams have them, but it’s still April and the Mets already have had  60% of their starting pitching staff (Harvey, Mejia, and Niese) on the DL, with Harvey most likely out for the season and rotation contender Jeremy Hefner also recovering from that same affliction. Mets closer Bobby Parnell had Tommy John surgery, and  is definitely out for the season.  Add to this list one of the few players who was actually hitting consistently Juan Lagares (pulled right hamstring), and it’s frustrating to say the least.

NY Mets Pitcher Bartolo Colon. Not exactly the picture of health. Photo: NY Mets

NY Mets Pitcher Bartolo Colon. Not exactly the picture of health. Photo: NY Mets

The Mets’ medical staff is embattled and taking shots from players past and present. And, it’s not as if it’s a secret. Former Mets pitcher John Maine (remember the Maine?) was very open in his disdain for the Mets medical team. When talking about his last injury while he was still a Met, Maine told The New York  Times, “My shoulder was being held together with duct tape at the time. They knew everything that was going on. They all knew. It was obvious. You don’t go from throwing 94 to 84 miles an hour. They knew my condition. I was 100 percent upfront about it; I didn’t lie about it. At the time it wasn’t so much pain, I just didn’t have anything.”

When asked about John Maine’s comments, pitching coach Dan Warthen called Maine “a habitual liar.”  Not cool, Dan, even if it was the truth — you reduced a serious discussion about one of your starting pitchers into a childish round of pointing figures and “who said what.”

Who could forget Carlos Beltran?  Concerned about his knee and after first consulting with the Mets medical staff, Beltran asked if he could get a second opinion. The Mets agreed, but reportedly asked him to hold off on surgery until he could get a third opinion.  Dr. Richard Steadman was the second opinion, and told Carlos he should have the surgery. Beltran ignored the Mets wishes to wait and get a third opinion. He opted to have surgery immediately. Immediately. What does this say about his opinion of the Mets doctors?

Add to this the injuries that are reported to the fans as “not serious” but in actuality are season-enders. Think Jose Reyes in 2009. Think Ike Davis in 2011.  All teams have injured players, it’s part of the game.  A lot of it is bad luck, too. (Valley Fever, anyone)? The question is why are the Mets injuries usually “mysterious” — a veritable litany of vague strains or pulls that get worse instead of better?  What kind of conditioning regime are these players following? Is it too strenuous or not strenuous enough?

There’s no simple solution. But I do know that if the people I worked with at my job were as unhappy with my performance as Mets players seem to be with their medical staff, I wouldn’t still be employed. Perhaps a change is in order. It’s surprising to me that season-after-season, the players change, yet the Mets medical staff remains pretty much intact. Why?

If the Mets insist on keeping their same medical team my advice would be to start serving the players more bacon and cheesy fries in the Mets clubhouse. Because, after all, “you can’t pull fat.”

6 thoughts on “What’s up, docs?

  1. Referring to anyone as a “Macy’s Parade Balloon” is insulting. Both Bartolo Colon and David Wells are overweight athletes true..but to make fun and degrade them in this manor is not acceptable. That is unprofessional and just plain mean.

  2. Hi Craig, You know, you are right. And I honestly like Bartolo a lot. After the article was posted today I felt badly because I realize I was trying to humorous and I agree I went over the line. I apologize to Bartolo and David and anyone else who was offended by my description.

  3. He may be overweight….but he has the same tendons, ligaments, rotator cuff and UCL’s as any other pitcher in baseball….His weight has ZERO to do with him not being injured. It’s not why he’s a good pitcher…and it’s not holding him back at the age of 40…To bring up his weight….and to make it a issue in this case is wrong. Now if he was struggling to play, bat, or pitch because of his girth…absolutely…but to make a joke out of it is not reporting….it’s bullying….. Just my humble opinion, and honestly Lisa….I’m talking more about the NY POST with their “LARDBALL” headline…that was SHAMEFUL….it’s not reporting….it’s spectacle an with obesity being what it is in this country…..it’s down right unacceptable and mean.

  4. There are a lot of innaccuracies here. First of all, when Dan Warthen called John Maine a “habitual liar,” it was NOT about Maine’s (MUCH LATER) criticism of the Mets’ handling of him. Here’s a link to a story about the “habitual liar” comment:

    http://metsblog.com/metsblog/quote-john-maine-is-a-habitual-liar/

    As you can see, what happened is that Maine was pulled from a start by Warthen back in 2010 after throwing only 5 pitches. Warthen thought something was wrong; Maine said he was fine, Warthen pulled him anyway. It was the last start Maine ever made for the Mets, due to injuries that led to his being non-tendered at the end of the 2010 season. THREE YEARS LATER, Maine, in an article published by the NY Times, criticized the Mets’ handling of him. That article did refer to the Warthen quote calling him a liar, but if you read what Warthen actually was saying, what he was saying was, “John Maine will never admit to me when he needs to come out of a game,” not “John Maine is lying about criticisms of how we handle injured players in comments that he won’t make for three more years.” The NYT article is here: http://bats.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/back-in-majors-pitcher-maine-denies-lying-to-mets-in-2010/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

    But the NYT piece misrepresents Warthen’s comments. If you read Warthen’s full statement from the original story I linked to above, he does not seem to be saying “John Maine lied to us about being hurt.” He was responding to Maine’s insistence, both during and after the game, that he could have stayed in to pitch. He was saying that Maine was too competitive to admit when he needed to come out of a game.

    But the NYT’s mangling of Warthen’s quote is not nearly as bad as yours; you take statements Maine made in the NYT article from 2013, and then say Warthen’s quote about being a liar, which occurred in 2010, was a RESPONSE to it. That’s just patently false.

    It’s clear that, in those days at least, there was an attitude coming down from the organization that injured players should just go out and play. This was the allegation made by JJ Putz after the 2009 season, in which he blew out his arm. He said the Mets put pressure on him to pitch, but said it was over the OBJECTION of the team’s medical staff:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/mets/new-york-met-putz-pitcher-blames-team-arm-woes-poor-treatment-article-1.195178

    That was the season before Maine got hurt.If you take what Putz says together with what Maine says, it sounds like the Mets, in the Omar years at least, were putting a lot of pressure on hurt players to keep playing. Whether that’s still true or not is unclear.

    As to whether the Mets changed medical and training staffs, they did hire a new strength and conditioning coach and a new assistant trainer when the new regime took over, but left head trainer Ray Ramirez, who was brought to the organization by Minaya in 2005, in place, and he’s still the head trainer. The team doctor, David Altchek, is a very highly regarded orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, and is also team doctor for 5 other MLB teams, including the Yankees. He had been replaced by the Mets in 2004 but was brought back prior to the 2009 season and has been the team doctor ever since.

    The rash of TJ surgery around baseball is hardly limited to the Mets (the Braves have two pitchers who have undergone the procedure this season, and the Yankees just lost Ivan Nova to it.) Statisically, 1/3 of all major league pitchers will undergo the procedure at some point in the year. It may be that the Mets put pressure on hurt players to keep playing (this was clearly true under the previous regime, as two different pitchers confirmed it) but that would be a management issue, not a result of anything the trainers or coaches or doctors are up to. It’s easy to want to blame the trainers or coaches for the rash of injuries; but if there were industry-standard practices to avoid such injuries, you’d see other teams using them, and the Mets would be outliers. That does not actually seem to be the case.

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