Monday, March 16, 2015

Aw, Geez

Injuries, particularly devastating ones to the elbows of pitchers, seem to have become as much as part of Baseball as, say, the Designated Hitter. Nobody likes it, it causes divisive amounts of controversy and there's no good solution to stop it. The Mets have had plenty of their own pitchers shelved due to major elbow injuries that required the Big Boy Surgery over the past couple of years and now they've been hit twice more in the past couple of days. Josh Edgin was diagnosed with a ligament injury apparently caused by a bone chip that was cutting into the ligament and after a second opinion decided to go under the knife. That was bad enough. More disheartening to the Mets chances this season was the news this morning that Zack Wheeler had been diagnosed with a torn ligament in his elbow and would need his own operation.

Word later in the day revealed that Wheeler's elbow had been of concern to doctors, but that a major injury didn't appear imminent. It just required "monitoring." These kind of situations, however, tend to not end well, and that being said, perhaps it's not totally surprising that this is the end result for Wheeler. That doesn't make it a positive by any stretch of the imagination, and in fact for a team and a fan base that's constantly had to deal with injury after injury and disappointment after disappointment it's downright disheartening.

But in the big picture, it's not the end of the world.

When Matt Harvey went down with the same injury in August of 2013, that was really bad. Harvey had emerged among the Best pitchers in Baseball over the course of his brief career, and he was expected to lead the charge when the Mets eventually returned to prominence. His injury for all intents and purposes put things on hold for the team and basically threw the fan base off a collective cliff. Zack Wheeler's emergence helped to lessen the sting of losing Harvey in 2014, but ultimately his strong finish to the season didn't immediately turn the Mets into contenders. Wheeler's larger problem among fans seems to be basically that he's not Matt Harvey and he didn't come up and produce the same results. Wheeler in 2014 had a good season but pitched like a young pitcher who was still trying to figure it out. There were moments where he looked very good, but also moments that he was pretty bad and the goal for this season was more of the former and less of the latter. Matt Harvey came up looking like such a finished product that it was easy to project the same hype onto Wheeler. Not the same kind of pitcher, not the same kind of results.

Point here is that the loss of Wheeler is frustrating and annoying and a sizable chunk of the Mets fan base is probably yelling about "AW THERE GOES ANOTHER SEASON (these are the same people who think they can force the Wilpons to sell the team and continue to harp on how the Mets need to fire Terry Collins and hire Wally Backman tomorrow)," but in the grand scheme of things, starting pitching is the one area where the Mets could absorb a major injury. Wheeler's gone for 2015, and that sucks. Fortuitously, the Mets have a major league quality starting pitcher who can slide right in and take his place in Dillon Gee. Imagine that. For once, the Mets actually have a contingency plan! Sandy Alderson hasn't hit on everything, but the non-move of dealing away Gee or Jon Niese showed a good bit of temperance on his part. Gee won't be Wheeler but in this rotation he doesn't have to be. Gee just has to be Gee, and in certain periods of his career he's pitched rather well. He'll get the first crack at holding down this spot in the rotation, but if it doesn't work out, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are also primed to move up the ladder this year.

So, don't panic just yet. If anything, the Edgin injury is more difficult for the Mets because they don't have another lefty reliever to replace him, or at least not one with any kind of Major League experience. But on the other hand, relief pitchers are like elbow injuries. Annoying and unpredictable.

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