May 28, 2020

Monday Mets: Trying To Avoid The Injury Monster

The phrase “as long as they stay healthy” has become so closely tied to the Mets, so clearly identified as a main goal for the year, that it’s reasonable to believe that the front office has officially added it to the team name: The New York Mets As Long As They Stay Healthy. At the very least, it should be under consideration for this season’s team slogan. I think it fits right in with Catch the Rising Stars (1983), Baseball Like It Oughta Be (1986), or even We Believe In Comebacks (2010). As Long As They Stay Healthy – it’s got a potentially friendly ring to it, if you know what I mean. The season is a little more than two weeks old now, so let’s see how the chase to achieve that goal is going.

It’s easy to equate the Mets fight against the threat of injuries, with a group of goofy but mainly harmless teens battling a villainous monster in a slasher movie sequel. As the audience can expect, even though the monster was seemingly eradicated in the past, it’s back and ready to destroy, again. The first ones to go are always the young ones (like Dominic Smith), the innocent ones who haven’t experienced the past horrors (the newly-acquired pitchers: Jason Vargas and Anthony Swarzak), and then the obvious ones (like David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud). Man, Travis d’Arnaud. He’s like the Mets version of Kenny from South Park. It’s never a question of if he’ll get injured, just when and how. Things did get a little extra interesting, and troubling, when the other Mets catcher, Kevin Plawecki, fractured his hand on the same day the team announced d’Arnaud’s injury. Suddenly, the role of Mets catcher started to resemble that of Spinal Tap drummer, only not as humorous. Fortunately Plawecki’s injury seems to be relatively short-term, especially when compared to his “tools of ignorance” counterpart. By the way, I’m curious how many people read this paragraph and said to themselves, “Oh yeah, Anthony Swarzak, I forgot about that guy.”

Last year’s version of this story, however, was obviously way worse, even just at this point in the year. By mid-April, the Mets already knew that Wright was a lost cause, that Seth Lugo would be gone for the first half of the season, they had no idea what Steven Matz’s story was, and Brandon Nimmo was wrapping up his time on the DL (and would then go to the minors). All this without the annual d’Arnaud injury, as well as the rest of the heart-breaking list of talent that would miss significant time, beginning in late April. To be clear, no players actually had a literal heart break, but that feeling was experienced by players and fans alike.

In other words, 2017’s monster was impossible to beat. There was no Hollywood ending to that movie. Not even a Bollywood ending to that movie, as that would have required dancing which would have probably led to more injuries. Nope, last year’s injury monster leveled Queens, decimating anything that attempted to stand in its way, and once the manager, Terry Collins, realized that there was nothing he could do to stop it, he went down with the rest of the team.

This year’s Mets team appears to be prepared to battle the villain. There will be some casualties along the way; I see Wright and d’Arnaud nodding their heads. Be careful, guys. And at the same time, between the new training staff, Mickey Callaway and the new coaching staff, some of the new roster additions, and even some guys that have returned seemingly from the dead, the 2018 Mets are showing what their roster can accomplish when relatively healthy.

It would be hard to fault anyone who follows the Mets for automatically uttering “as long as they stay healthy” whenever discussing this team. Every time a Mets player strains his face, or is hit by a pitch, or comes out of the game earlier than expected, fans start to shudder and then check the web for updates, as well as information on potential backups or trades. After the 2017 experience, this is understandable.

At the same time, we’ve passed the two-week point of the season, most of the team is safe, and there seems to be a plan to deal with those who aren’t. Those who follow other teams might find it a bit early to care about such things, but to Mets fans, it’s almost as encouraging as their 12-2 start.