Given the grim circumstances, Sandy Alderson definitely wasn’t going for laughs on this Black Sunday, just minutes after the Mets were humiliated, 23-5, at Nationals Park. But when the clubhouse door opened, the first words out of the general manager’s mouth were the date and time of Noah Syndergaard’s MRI.
In case you’re wondering, it’s today at 7 a.m. Apparently, Syndergaard is going to lie in the tube voluntarily after refusing to do so late last week, when he first complained of what was diagnosed as biceps tendinitis.
A lot of good that does anyone now. Forget the MRI. What the Mets and Syndergaard really need is a time machine. Then they could travel back and undo every one of the bad decisions that ultimately led to him clutching his armpit area, then walking off the mound yesterday in the second inning.
The reason? The Mets are calling this most recent affliction a “possible lat strain,” and from what we witnessed, it certainly looks possible. But how can we believe anything from this team when it comes to medical issues?
With Syndergaard already on his way to New York, Alderson and Terry Collins refused to draw any direct connection between the earlier biceps issue — again, their words — and this particular injury, referred to as a lat problem.
But seriously. That’s a heck of a coincidence for the two to be unrelated, even if the second was caused by compensating for the first. Or maybe Syndergaard, who tends to get agitated when asked about injuries, was trying to make a point yesterday by throwing even harder than usual. That didn’t work out too well, either, as the Nationals thumped him for five hits and five runs in his 27-pitch first inning despite a steady diet of 99- and 100-mph fastballs.
The velocity was there. But this wasn’t the same Syndergaard, not getting smacked around like that.
Alderson wouldn’t concede that being more forceful with Syndergaard about the MRI might have revealed the lat strain or showed symptoms of impending danger. “We’ll never know,” Alderson said.
But ignorance always seems to be the best course of treatment when it comes to Mets injuries, and this is another epic fail. Incredibly, this just happened last week with Yoenis Cespedes, whose own hamstring condition wasn’t treated carefully enough — the team first labeled it a “cramp” — and finally put him on the disabled list.
How many teachable lessons do the Mets require to eventually get one of these right? As stubborn as Syndergaard was in flatly refusing the MRI, the Mets repeatedly have told us how over-the-top careful they intend to be with their young aces. And with all of Syndergaard’s snippiness about it with the media, he still complained to Mets staff for two days, even telling reporters he couldn’t lift his pitching arm above his shoulder at one point.
That’s a pretty huge red flag. But Syndergaard eventually told the Mets he was fine, and when he passed Friday’s bullpen test in D.C., they green-lighted him for the series finale.
With the Mets facing a crisis point in their season, they also might have been a little too eager to have him pitch against the Nationals before the gap expanded even further. So if Syndergaard said he was OK, cool.
“We took him at face value, and he also threw a bullpen,” Alderson said. “The people who were watching him had no misgivings at all about him making his start. He was good to go.”
Small consolation now. Something went wrong between Friday and the second inning yesterday, when a 90-mph changeup to Bryce Harper had Syndergaard twisting off the mound and grabbing at his upper back. Collins and trainer Ray Ramirez bolted from the dugout, and in less than a minute, Syndergaard was walking off.
Until today’s MRI, there’s no calculating how much time the Mets’ ace will miss, but a severe lat strain can cost a player two months. No wonder Collins was fuming after the game, and snapped when asked if he was upset at Syndergaard’s situation.
“You think?” he said, his face reddening. “What do you think?”
We think this was another all-systems meltdown by the Mets, one we’ve seen far too many times before. And they might not recover from it this season.