Mets Injuries: Not Bad Luck

After having his knee examined, Oliver Perez has been shut down and scheduled for season-ending surgery because of patella tendon tendinosis. No word on whether he will have his head examined.

Johan Santana will have elbow surgery.

J.J. Putz has been shut down for the season, due to new fraying in his elbow near the ulnar collateral ligament and a slight tear in his right forearm. He will NOT have surgery to correct the condition.

No word on Carlos Beltran , Carlos Delgado, John Maine, nor Jose Reyes.

There are others on the DL and/or lost for the season, but I mentioned the above for a specific reason. Can you find the common thread?

If not, I’ll make it plain and simple: in each of the above cases, the player’s original injury was misdiagnosed and/or rehab was mishandled.

In other words, all this talk about the Mets being “unlucky” because of all the major injuries suffered is a bunch of bull. Maybe some of it is luck, but at least half of it is due to incompetence.

Though, I tend not to fault the Mets’ medical staff — I have a hunch they know what they’re doing, and making the proper recommendations. In the end, the doctors and trainers have no control over whether a player goes back on the field or to the disabled list — that decision is made by the front office.

If you’ve been paying attention since spring training, you don’t need me to re-hash each individual case and point out where the team went wrong. And it goes back further than the spring — last year’s handling of Ryan Church and Billy Wagner are the most obvious examples from 2008 (you can put Maine in there as well).

In every case, a player continued to play despite an injury. Now, we know that all athletes have to learn to play with pain, and can often play through injuries without causing further damage. But over the past several years, the Mets have been grossly negligent in the evaluation and assessment of injuries.

We know this because:

– the manager, general manager, and player are rarely ever on the same page in terms of information
– the general manager cannot “remember” serious injuries to vital players
– the manager has admitted to allowing injured players to talk him into letting them on the field
– the team has admitted to hiding injuries and allowing players to continue to play through them
– the team has consistently waited too long to place players on the DL
– cortisone shots have been administered so frequently and easily it has become an industry joke
– more than one player has sought a second opinion from outside doctors, without the team’s recommendation
– Maine, Putz, Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, and Church all experienced failure in the rehab process

The only successful injury rehabilitation in the past year was Billy Wagner’s recovery from Tommy John surgery. Is it any coincidence that Wagner, for the most part, rehabbed on his own, at his home in Virginia?

Yes, there is some luck involved in a player becoming injured, and recovering from injury. But bad luck is not a valid explanation for this level of medical failure. In addition to personnel moves, the Mets need to make sweeping changes in the way they a) prepare and condition their ballplayers; b) evaluate and assess all injuries; and c) make determinations based on the recommendations of their medical staff.

** UPDATE **

David Lennon at Newsday has written a similar, more in-depth piece. Good thing to see the professional journalists are seeing things similarly to the fans and bloggers.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude August 27, 2009 at 9:57 am
    I wonder if the Mets will blame having such a high number of players participate in the WBC this year for their multitude of injuries. It would be a very weak excuse, if you ask me…and that’s coming from someone who is no fan of the WBC.
  2. Seth August 27, 2009 at 10:20 am
    I’m assuming Reyes will need surgery at this point. Why not have it now?
  3. Taylor August 27, 2009 at 2:40 pm
    I like the idea of picking up Murton. As for the injuries, I think the problem is simple. Guys are playing minor injuries into major injuries. There is such shame about getting hurt that guys are afraid to take the time off they need. But the ligaments and tendons and muscles and brain tissue don’t respond to machismo. They heal at their own pace. If the day to day is doing damage faster than the tissues can repair themselves the injuries just continue to get worse. Injuries are a physical reality of damaged tissue. They aren’t mental and they need time to heal. Either you give them the time or they get worse. It says on BPro that Frenchy is done now too. His tendon needs surgery.
  4. joejanish August 27, 2009 at 2:46 pm
    Taylor – the problem is not machismo, as any professional athlete worth his salt will beg to play rather than sit due to injury. Rather, the issue is that the Mets have used that fact as their excuse in not keeping players off the field. It’s an easy short-term business decision — they sell more tickets if their stars are in the lineup.

    As for Frenchy, he’s in the lineup today and just hit an RBI single.

  5. Taylor August 27, 2009 at 4:04 pm
    Yeah, how’d that easy business decision effect the bottom line in the end?
  6. joejanish August 27, 2009 at 4:11 pm
    Taylor – exactly. That was pretty much the point of the post. The Mets put making money ahead of the long-term health of their personnel.
  7. sincekindergarten August 27, 2009 at 6:49 pm
    And they are coming close to losing a heluva lot more money, because the fans aren’t going to sit in a brand-new stadium to watch a team that had so much promise . . . but such poor execution.