Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Mailing It In

The title of this post has nothing to do with the way the New York Mets are playing. Sure, they've been up and down this past week. Their offense is unwatchable at times, which predates many of their better players going on the IL. The team's chances of ever fulfilling their offensive potential now seem to hang on whether they can get their best players healthy and keep them that way. All things considered, the Mets are doing okay right now, keeping things going despite the ever-growing Injured List. Even a tough loss tonight from a tired bullpen doesn't change that.

As it stands right now, here is the Mets Injury List. Everyone is on the 10-Day list, except where noted:

Of the group on the 60-Day List, Dellin Betances and José Martínez seem to be the furthest away from a return. Realistically, neither of them seems like they'd be much help if they did. Betances is a shadow of his former self without elite velocity. Martínez, even if he managed to bounce back offensively, would have fit into the Mets better if the Universal DH was still around.

As for all of the other names, it's gotten to the point where I'll believe they're coming back when I see them in the lineup. It seemed like Nimmo was close to a return before he had to be shut down again. It's great that Davis, Lugo, and Syndergaard are all in Minor League rehab assignments. I find it heartening to read about their first steps in attempting to return to the Mets, but the Nimmo setback, in particular, has caused me to temper my optimism.

I tend to lean towards caution when I talk about something that I lack expertise in. I'm neither a doctor nor a qualified trainer. Some of the injuries are things that you can't really control. Lugo, Betances, Syndergaard, Martínez, deGrom, Walker, Davis, Almora, Nimmo, and Pillar all fit into that category one way or another. But Gary Cohen has been speaking to all of the soft tissue injuries the Mets have experienced. Those things happen in baseball over a long season. It's complicated further by the weird 60-game schedule from last year.

The Mets seem to be playing it very cautiously with deGrom and Walker's injuries, which absolutely makes sense given the stress of pitching a full 162-game season after last year's sprint. The injuries to Carlos Carrasco, Luis Gullorme, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto are all pulls and strains. I'm not accusing the Mets trainers of being lax at all, but I have to believe the club is looking hard at such issues as stretching and hydration and reevaluating their protocols for those items.

Still, as extensive as the Injury List is currently, most of those guys are on that list for reasons other than the soft tissue-related problems. Lugo had elbow surgery, Betances has a shoulder issue, Martínez had knee surgery, Davis had a sprained hand, Nimmo had a bruised finger, Almora ran into a wall (literally), and Pillar got hit in the face with a baseball. There's been more than a little bad luck involved here. I'm not getting any sense that there is a lack of competence in how the Mets are trying to keep their players healthy, at least not at this point.

So why did the Post's Joel Sherman, one of the best writers on baseball in the country, decide to gift us with this crap a few days ago? Sherman decided that the number of injuries and reinjuries is "troubling," though he really didn't explain why that was so. It came off to me as another lazy piece calling out the Mets for some vague area of incompetence without really bothering to come out and accuse them of anything specific.

After serving up some weak slop in the meat of the article, Sherman then chose to take a dig at the Mets and their fans that really had no point for the piece:

And it is not as if the Mets still have Jarred Kelenic sitting in the minors ready to debut for them.

If you missed the "subtlety" of that line, it included a link to a previous Sherman piece about Kelenic that really felt like another lazy poke at the Mets and their fans. The thinking behind it was, I guess, that the Mets had to somehow do something to "save this trade from all-time infamy" while completely overlooking the simple fact that the deal had been made by a bunch of folks who no longer run the team. That fact was inconvenient to the story Sherman was trying to tell.

Honestly, the article seemed like some tired old hit piece on the Mets, one like we've read about a thousand times over the last couple of decades, which I guess is a way to steal a click from haunted Mets fans and gloating Yankee fans. I like Sherman a lot, and I even enjoy it when he writes something critical of the Mets if there is any real point behind it. But I felt like he wasted my time with both of those lazy, pointless articles. If that's the best that Sherman can offer folks who follow the Mets and enjoy reading articles of substance, then he should just stick to writing about the Yankees. Good riddance, bro.

Not that Joel Sherman is the only one mailing in a story on the Mets that seems more rooted in the culture of failure under the Wilpons than in the current reality. Buster Olney tweeted out the following yesterday:

I came across Olney's tweet when I saw Mark Healy's reply:

I'm going to be less polite than Mark was. These are the sort of lazy opinions that we've come to expect from the national guys, Olney in particular. They don't have time for nuance or reassessing opinions formed under the previous regime. Those will never change until they have to, and it's going to take more than one season to effect this change, even if things go pretty well for the Mets this year.

ESPN let a lot of people go who used to cover baseball for them. Olney remains one of their biggest draws, but I don't pay for ESPN content any longer. Olney is a good part of the reason why it's just not worth it. All you get from them is a lot of stuff like this. Other teams don't get updates on everyone they traded away who's doing well. Bashing the Mets is just a way to get easy clicks.

In fairness, as lazy as Olney can be about teams that he pretty obviously doesn't follow closely, he's not alone in doing this. None of the national baseball writers have the time to watch enough of all 30 teams' games to get a real educated opinion on all of them. They click around, watching some of one game, some of another, etc. They all have local media sources that they can call to get specific info on teams. Still, they're all just assimilating second-hand info into a generalized view of most teams that lacks nuance and any sort of deep understanding of what the real issues might be. Some are better at it, or maybe just less intellectually lazy than others.

I've waited more than two decades for the Wilpons to be shown the door, only hoping that the new owner would be someone who would have a better idea on how to run a baseball team in the largest market in the country. It's certainly still too early to judge the Steve Cohen era, but the depth his front office prioritized this offseason is at least keeping things afloat for the time being. The Mets seem to be striking a fairly good balance between setting up future success and trying to compete this season. And it's an obvious truth — even if Joel Sherman and Buster Olney don't bother to acknowledge it — that the prospects they're talking about were traded by the departed folks who were complicit in the chaos and dysfunction of the old regime.

The topic of the problems that the Mets organization tolerated when it came to how women were treated is important and should not be glossed over. Nor should it be overlooked that the people who created the bad situation are gone, and there seems to be a real effort under Steve Cohen to ensure that culture doesn't continue. This should be at least given an opportunity to be proven success or a failure, but instead, stuff keeps being written that doesn't really do that. This problem exists in other clubs, too, but where are the exposes on these clubs?

I read a story a while back that I won't even link to. One part that really irked me had some details on "former Mets manager" Mickey Callaway, completely ignoring the problems he had in Cleveland and how they were tolerated. Callaway was a pitching coach in Cleveland's system from 2010 to 2017, their major league pitching coach from 2013 - 2017. There were plenty of accusations against Callaway there, where he spent many more years than in New York, yet that just keeps getting glossed over, and the Indians seem to get virtually a free pass. For that matter, the Cubs and the Diamondbacks seem to be getting the same free pass for the years Jared Porter worked for them and what he did there. Why was this story so overwhelmingly, indeed almost exclusively, about the Mets?

What's irksome about how the Mets get reported is that the press maintains their pet organizations get the opposite treatment from the Mets: much praise and glossing over things that don't fit into that narrative. A good example of that is two organizations the Mets just played, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Atlanta Braves.

Tampa Bay is rightly credited for the organization's tremendous success on a small budget. However, only rarely do you hear whispers about how maybe they use that reputation as an excuse to spend microscopically on players. Yeah, they have a tough situation with their ballpark, but even the club's most ardent fans are probably tired of watching good players allowed to leave as free agents if they're not traded away first.

And then you have the Braves, who certainly do a lot of things right, even if the previous GM John Coppolella got booted out of MLB permanently for cheating. Watching the Braves these last three days has convinced me what a missed opportunity they had this season. They were a game away from a shot at the cheapskate Rays in the World Series last year, yet they let their closer Mark Melancon walk and elected not to bring back key bullpen guys Shane Green and Darren O'Day.

The Braves also cheaped out with their starting rotation and had no real contingency plan for Travis d'Arnaud getting hurt. Any Mets fan could tell you Travis's health is always a ticking time bomb. In nine seasons, he's only topped 400 plate appearances once.

The Braves handed their CF job to a 22-year-old with 2 games of previous MLB experience. Cristian Pache is a highly-regarded prospect from what I read, but he's not proven that he can play at this level or even stay healthy.

The biggest indictment of Atlanta is what San Diego did this offseason compared to the Braves. San Diego is a smaller market than Atlanta. The Atlanta metro area has about 5 million people, San Diego is about 3 million. I'm sure that San Diego suffered about the same financially as the Braves, but they went all in this offseason while the Braves seemed to do the bare minimum. If I was a Braves fan, I'd be very, very angry. But the Braves get raves on their culture and don't get called on for their cheapness. Okay.

I think that I'll be a lot pickier about what I spend my time reading in the future. I'm not going to call out every time some writer mails in a piece about the Mets. I wouldn't have time enough to write about anything else. But it felt like something I wanted to get off my chest tonight.

By the way, sorry about missing a few days. I've had a recurrence of the back problems that I needed an operation to clear up last year. I have an appointment with the orthopedist tomorrow, and I'm somewhat worried that I might be headed for another.

Please stay safe, be well, and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

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