Diagnosing a medical condition can be an inexact science. Symptoms might be elusive or misread altogether. Mistakes often are made.
The Mets, however, never seem to get anything right. And with Steven Matz headed for season-ending surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve in his left elbow, a problem that finally was discovered Monday after he pitched in pain for months, we’re counting this as more evidence of malpractice.
“It’s definitely nice to have an answer,” a relieved Matz said Monday night after the Mets’ 3-2, 10-inning loss to Arizona at Citi Field.
You know when it would have been nicer? Back in March, when Matz first complained of elbow discomfort and the Mets told him it was all in his head because the arm looked structurally sound on the MRI.
So Matz went on the disabled list for three months and never improved, and when he did return, he had to take strong anti-inflammatory medication to stay on the mound.
All the while, he pitched poorly, to a 6.08 ERA in 13 starts. He didn’t help the Mets, and the Mets certainly didn’t help him by suggesting behind the scenes that he had to learn to tough it out, to pitch when he wasn’t feeling 100 percent.
As always with the Mets, this could have been avoided. They have two pitchers on their staff who previously had the same ulnar nerve surgery — Jacob deGrom and Erik Goeddel — so why not test Matz for that when nothing else could be found? It had to wait until Aug. 21?
Based on the sheer number of injuries the Mets have to deal with every season, the odds suggest they’d diagnose one correctly, just by accident. Even a roulette wheel carries a 1-in-37 chance of cashing in, with zero skill involved.
But the Mets somehow manage to turn every injury into the worst-case scenario, for whatever reason. Matz was dealing with constant elbow pain and even skipped bullpen sessions between starts because of it.
The Mets’ solution? Limit his use of the slider to ease the strain on his elbow and aggressively prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs. What, no Flintstones chewable vitamins?
Anyone who follows the Mets knows this is not a new problem. Unfortunately for Matz, pitching under the Mets’ dubious supervision has stuck him with the label of being injury-prone.
But Matz’s troubles are just the latest to illustrate the medical disconnect that continues to plague the Mets. Only in Flushing does routinely losing pitchers, year after year, get treated by the front office as the cost of doing business.
Unlucky, sure. But hey, accidents happen, right?
Forget that Noah Syndergaard’s catastrophic lat strain might have been prevented if Sandy Alderson had brushed aside Thor’s MRI protest and sent him for more tests. That fateful decision cost Syndergaard most of this season.
You’d think the Mets would have learned their lesson, but here’s what they took from that boo-boo. Clam up with medical info and encourage their players to do the same. The less everyone knows, the easier it is to go with plausible deniability when a health disaster strikes. Spin Doctoring 101.
The problem with that plan is that people are used to the Mets’ act. The team is consistently terrible at staying on the same page.
Initially, it was Terry Collins who broke the news Monday by blurting out that Matz likely was headed to the DL, but “this isn’t an injury” and “if he had to, he could pitch tomorrow.”
Had to? Like if his dog was kidnapped, and only by pitching would he get Spot back?
Gradually, Collins sheepishly admitted that Matz’s elbow was bothering him, but he was vague to the point of the exchange being comical. Apparently, Alderson told him that Matz probably was headed to the DL, but not much more.
Alderson never surfaced Monday to fill in the blanks, but what was left to say? Another pitcher in pain and going for surgery. Another pungent odor of medical malfeasance.
When it comes to the Mets, you don’t need an M.D. to know something doesn’t feel right.