WASHINGTON — Leave it to Sandy Alderson, the mayor of Panic City, to channel FDR for Tuesday’s state-of-the-union briefing inside the visitors clubhouse at Nationals Park.
The Mets GM assured us that any fears stoked by the bone-spur hysteria of the previous night, regarding the elbows belonging to Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, were overblown. Perhaps even inflated by the pens and notebooks surrounding him.
“I think what we have a tendency to do around here,” Alderson said, “is manufacture anxiety.”
OK, fine. Guilty as charged. But the way the Mets handled this whole ElbowGate fiasco in the first place was hardly textbook crisis-control. And how are we supposed to react when injuries leak out, a player denies them, and spooky words like surgery begin floating around?
Put it this way: How many times, say in the past decade or so, has a Mets’ rosy diagnosis ended in the nightmare scenario? Right. Just pointing out that it’s probably better to assume the worst in these cases and then be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t turn out that bad.
Sounds overly pessimistic, we know. But just keeping it real. Listening to Alderson, who cited the team’s doctors, Syndergaard should be solid, as the bone spur inside his elbow doesn’t need to be surgically removed. The pitcher himself said he felt great Monday during a sub-Thor performance Terry Collins believes was caused by the kid trying to show the world he’s fine.
Before you get too comfortable, however, Syndergaard’s already been for MRIs twice in two months. He may look unbreakable, but any elbow repeatedly stressed by the torque of a 90-mph slider is vulnerable. For now, the Mets are proceeding as if this recent scare never happened.
“I don’t think anxiety is the proper response in Syndergaard’s case,” Alderson said.
Great, because the Mets have enough to freak out about with Matz, who is dealing with a much larger, thereby more bothersome, spur that has to be removed at some point — preferably after the season. Matz was pushed back to start Thursday’s opener against Cubs at Citi Field, but it’s anyone’s guess how long he’ll last — either in that game or for the immediate future. Matz, like Syndergaard, is on a steady diet of anti-inflammatory medication to cool off the elbow and the Mets hope he can push through the discomfort. All the while knowing any pitch might be his last.
That’s the type of Grade A uncertainty that would have any manager stirring Xanax into his coffee every fifth day. And Collins, who’s jittery enough lately trying to assemble the NL All-Star roster on deadline, is not looking forward to putting his bullpen on high alert for every Matz start.
“It’s why sometimes this job can be a little taxing,” Collins said, smiling.
Collins let the injury frustration get the better of him last week when he jokingly called PR guru Jay Horwitz a “puppy dog” before abruptly storming out of a postgame news conference. But Monday night was no picnic either as Collins was confronted, on camera, with the unofficial report of Syndergaard’s spur and had to bluff his way through.
The job, for anyone in a Mets’ uniform, isn’t getting any easier. The 11 games against the Nats, Cubs and Marlins heading into the break is like a “Survivor” challenge. The goal here is not to get tossed out of NL East contention in two weeks. And knowing the rotation is compromised, with Matz teetering on the edge, is reason to worry.
Zack Wheeler, delayed again in his TJ surgery rehab, is only up to playing catch at 90 feet. Should the Mets need to patch some holes in the meantime, Collins is looking at Logan Verrett, Sean Gilmartin or maybe Rafael Montero.
“We have a less-than-perfect situation right now with the people we have,” Alderson said. “It’s certainly not ideal. But every team deals with this, so we’re still in pretty good shape.”
Nothing to fear but fear itself? We’ll see. Manufacturing anxiety has always been a robust industry in Flushing.