March 15, 2015

The "Curse" of Tommy John

Tommy John, two words no pitcher ever wants to hear, it's a career altering surgery that the vast majority of pitchers rebound from but they lose a minimum of a year in the game and spend time in that vast empty void called rehab.

It's not as hard for the fans, depending on the pitcher.  Let's be honest, Matt Harvey having TJ was much more emotionally unnerving than either of Jeremy Hefner's.  Josh Edgin is the latest Met to hear that news and while this one doesn't rank as highly as Harvey's it is more significant than Hefner's.

Putting the impact of an injury on a scale is a cruel and cold move but it's necessary to understand how we think as fans.  Bobby Parnell went down on day 1 last year and no one really blinked an eye.  Not because we think ill of Parnell, but we were all still suffering through the malaise of knowing that Harvey was not on the bump for that Opening Day.  Also, Jenrry Mejia filled the role admirably and the Mets ended up with a fairly decent bullpen once we moved on from old retreads.

The point here is that the Mets are not the only team dealing with this issue, TJ surgery is not confined to Queens, better teams have dealt with bigger losses to this surgery and still fared very well.  The Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright to TJ in 2011 and they won the World Series.  The Braves lost Johnny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty in 2013 and still made the playoffs.

The Mets roster this year most likely does not stack up against these two teams, but it does show that a team can be successful despite injuries.  As most people say injuries are going to happen and they should not be used as an excuse since all teams deal with them.

This dependence on a LOOGY is something that has only really surfaced as a "role" in the last 10-15 years.  Bullpen specialist is slang for can't get three consecutive outs consistently.  It analogous to calling a secretary an administrative assistant or a janitor an environmental custodian.  We all want to feel good about our jobs but lets be honest, why has it become such a carousel in the bullpen.  You get this one out and then you get that one out, so on and so forth.  Thanks a lot Tony LaRussa, this is pretty much your fault and another reason games are three and half hours long.

I want 6-7 guys in the bullpen who can get outs, lefty, righty, man, woman, child, alien, whatever.  Throw strikes, get outs, strand runners.  I don't think it's too much to ask of major league caliber players to do their jobs.  Just don't get nuts that we no longer have Josh Edgin for the season.  This is a primary reason why the team held on to all of its young pitching, depth.  I have screamed and yelled a few times about trading one or two of them for another bat but reality has once again set in that they need those arms and they aren't the ready commodity we always think they are.  Someone in the front office was proactive enough to say we can't afford to trade these arms away just yet and with good reason.  Two fifths of the starting rotation has had TJ, another may (although unlikely) be in the offing and a few of our top prospects have already had the dreaded surgery as well.

This is just a fact of life.  Like Seinfeld said you are really just cheering for the laundry after all and the name on the front of the jersey is and should be more important than the one on the back.  Having Matt Harvey helps, a lot, but it does not solve all of our ills.  Ask Steve Carlton what it's like to be a good pitcher on a horrendous team.

It's still March, I don't care that the Mets lead baseball in 8 different offensive categories, mostly off guys who'll be bagging groceries in six weeks.  What counts is April 6th and beyond.  Stay healthy, get your reps in, the next man must step up and fill the voids we have.  Beware the Ides of March, that is unless your season doesn't begin until three weeks later.

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