Matt Harvey’s Elbow Injury Fallout

No matter what happens with his elbow, Matt Harvey of the Mets is still going home to this:

Anne_V

I’m not using that image of Anne V. in an attempt to accumulate gratuitous web hits, but as an example of Harvey being perfectly fine whether he has to have Tommy John surgery or not. The reactions ranged from the ludicrous to the suicidal and I’m not quite sure why. There’s being a fan and treating an athlete as if he or she is part of your family and cares about you as much as you care about them.

Let’s have a look at the truth.

For Matt Harvey

The severity of the tear of his ulnar collateral ligament is still unknown because the area was swollen and the doctors couldn’t get the clearest possible image. Whether or not he can return without surgery will be determined in the coming months. It’s possible. If you run a check on every single pitcher in professional baseball, you can probably find a legitimate reason to tell him to shut it down. Some are more severe than others. Harvey’s probably been pitching with an increasing level of damage for years. The pain was  manageable and didn’t influence his stuff, so he and his teams didn’t worry about it. This surgery is relatively common now and the vast number of pitchers return from it better than ever. The timetable given is generally a full year, but pitchers are now coming back far sooner.

“That’s so Mets”

This injury is being treated as if it’s something that could only happen to the Mets. The implication is that their “bad luck” is infesting everything they touch. But look around baseball. How about “that’s so Nats?” Both Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg required Tommy John surgery in spite of the Nationals’ protective measures and overt paranoia.

How about “that’s so Red Sox?” Clay Buchholz has spent much of two of the past three seasons on and off the disabled list with several injuries—many of which were completely misdiagnosed.

How about “that’s so Yankees?” Joba Chamberlain and Manny Banuelos had Tommy John surgery; Michael Pineda has had numerous arm injuries since his acquisition.

How about “that’s so Braves?” Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters (twice), Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood have all had Tommy John surgery. The Braves are considered one of the best organizational developers of talent in baseball.

Dave Duncan warrants Hall of Fame induction for his work as a pitching coach and had Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter undergo Tommy John surgery. You can go to every single organization in baseball and find examples like this.

The Mets kept an eye on Harvey, protected him and he still got hurt. That’s what throwing a baseball at 100 mph and sliders and other breaking pitches at 90+ mph will do. It’s not a natural motion and it damages one’s body.

The Twitter experts

Some said the Mets should not only have shut Harvey down earlier, but they also should have shut down Jonathon Niese, Jenrry Mejia, Zack Wheeler and Jeremy Hefner. Who was going to pitch? PR man Jay Horowitz? Others stated that they were planning to undertake research into the pitching mechanics technique of “inverted W” (which Harvey didn’t use). I’m sure the Mets are waiting for a layman’s evaluations and will study them thoroughly.

Of course, many blamed the Mets’ manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen. That was based on an agenda, pure and simple. Some have been pushing for the Mets to bring back former pitching coach Rick Peterson. They’re ignoring the fact that Peterson is now the pitching coordinator for the Orioles and their top pitching prospect, Dylan Bundy, had Tommy John surgery himself. Is that Dan Warthen’s fault too?

To have the arrogance to believe that some guy on Twitter with a theory is going to have greater, more in-depth knowledge than professional trainers, baseball people and medical doctors goes beyond the scope of lunacy into delusion of self-proclaimed deity-like proportions.

Bob Ojeda

With their station SNY, the Mets have gone too far in the opposite direction from their New York Yankees counterpart the YES Network in trying to be evenhanded and aboveboard. Former Mets pitcher Bob Ojeda should not have free rein to rip the organization up and down  as to what they’re doing wrong. This is especially true since Ojeda has harbored a grudge after former GM Omar Minaya passed Ojeda over for the pitching coach job and openly said he didn’t feel that Ojeda was qualified for the position.

Now Ojeda is using the Harvey injury as a forum to bash the Mets’ manager and pitching coach and claim that he had prescient visions of Harvey getting hurt because he was throwing too many sliders. I don’t watch the pre and post-game shows, so it’s quite possible that Ojeda said that he felt Harvey was throwing too many sliders, but if he didn’t and kept this information to himself, he’s showing an insane amount of audacity to claim that he “predicted” it.

He needs to tone it down or be removed from the broadcast.

Player injuries can happen anywhere

The winter after his dramatic, pennant-clinching home run for the Yankees, Aaron Boone tore his knee playing basketball. This led to the Yankees trading for Alex Rodriguez and Boone not getting paid via the terms of his contract because he got hurt partaking in an activity he was technically not supposed to be partaking in. Boone could’ve lied about it and said he hit a pothole while jogging. The Yankees wouldn’t have known about it and he would’ve gotten paid. He didn’t. He’s a rarity.

On their off-hours, players do things they’re technically not supposed to be doing.

Jeff Kent broke his hand riding his motorcycle, then lied about it saying he slipped washing his truck. Ron Gant crashed his dirtbike into a tree. Other players have claimed that they injured themselves in “freak accidents” that were more likely results of doing things in which they wouldn’t get paid if they got hurt. Bryce Harper, shortly after his recall to the big leagues, was videotaped playing softball in a Washington D.C. park. Anything could have happened to injure him and he wouldn’t have been able to lie about it. Boone told the truth, but no one knows exactly when these injuries occur and what the players were doing to cause them.

With Harvey, we don’t know how many pitches he threw in college; how many softball games he played in; how many times as a youth he showed off his arm to the point of potential damage. This could have been coming from the time he was twelve years old. In fact, it probably was and there’s nothing anyone could have done to prevent it.

The vagaries of the future

The Mets were counting on Harvey for 2014. They have enough pitching in their system that it was likely they were going to trade some of it for a bat. If they wanted Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gonzalez or any other young, power bat they were going to have to give up Wheeler and/or Noah Syndergaard to start with. Without Harvey, they’re probably going to have to keep their young pitchers. That could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Or it could be a curse if either of those pitchers suffer the same fate as Harvey or don’t pan out as expected.

If Harvey can’t pitch, it’s a big loss. That’s 33 starts, 210 innings and, if he’s anywhere close to what he was this season, a Cy Young Award candidate and potential $200 million pitcher. But they can take steps to replace him. They can counteract his innings with other pitchers and try to make up for a lack of pitching by boosting the offense. In short, they can follow the Marine training that GM Sandy Alderson received by adapting and overcoming.

Harvey is a big part of the Mets future, but to treat this as anything more than an athlete getting injured is silly. It happened. There’s no one to blame and when he’s ready to pitch, he’s ready to pitch. Life will go on.




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  1. #1 by Travis on August 27, 2013 - 7:22 pm

    You’re criticizing Bob Ojeda for saying he predicted an injury yet you freely admit you haven’t been watching enough to know if Ojeda predicted it or not.

    • #2 by admin on August 28, 2013 - 4:45 pm

      If you reread what I wrote, I ripped him for going so far over the top in trashing the organization while working for its in-house station. No one has said they heard Ojeda make his injury concerns for Harvey public due to his use of the slider. If he didn’t, it makes the Monday morning quarterbacking even more egregious.

  2. #3 by Andee on August 28, 2013 - 5:46 am

    Yeah, there have been all kinds of wackedy-do injuries out there. I’ve heard of players going on the DL because they threw their backs out sneezing. Obviously it wasn’t the sneeze that caused it, there was something waiting for one more straw to break…but you can’t tell what that is until it happens. Players routinely play in pain and discomfort; it’s the rule for them, not the exception.

    I hate to lose him, because he was so much fun to watch…but you know what? The starting pitching will be fine. It’s not like when Santana went down a few years ago and it was rag arm central. Wheeler-Niese-Mejia-Gee-Montero would still probably be the best 1-5 the team has had since their 1980s heyday, and then they still have Syndergaard waiting, and he might be even better than Harvey (he’s been more dominant in AA than Harvey or Wheeler, despite a rare bad outing the other night). Heck, Harvey might want to worry about whether he’ll even have a job when he comes back. (He probably already is worried, judging from that soon-to-be-infamous tweet of his promising to be ready by April 1.)

    No, the real problem it poses for the team is that now Sandy has to hang on to all his prime arms and can’t trade them for a hitter unless they sign another starting pitcher. (Which actually might not be a bad idea, with all the guys they’re going to have on innings caps the next two years; a rubber-arm dude who you can throw out there for 7 or 8 innings every five days will help preserve the bullpen.) But really, despite media trolls’ bloviating, I don’t see how the team did anything wrong with him. Where were all those trolls a month ago? Surely if were covering the team, they could have written about what kind of agony Matt was experiencing then and that they really should stick him in an MRI tube right this second. Screw ‘em.

    • #4 by admin on August 28, 2013 - 4:48 pm

      The sneezing injuries are sometimes more nefarious. Wade Boggs once claimed to have hurt his back taking off his boots. He did. Sort of. His former mistress Margo Adams said he did injure himself taking off his boots so Blue Jays’ catcher Ernie Whitt could try them on and fell off a chair while doing it.
      People are going too crazy over the tweet. He’s hoping he’ll be back and is trying to stay positive. It was nothing more than that. Maybe he won’t need surgery.
      I think it might wind up being a good thing that Alderson goes the free agent route to get bats rather than trade the pitchers. One thing I think he’ll do – and he was probably gonna do it anyway – is go get a veteran, Bronson Arroyo-type arm.

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