Last Friday night, Yoenis Cespedes surprised everyone — including the Mets — when he revealed a surgical option for his hurting heels that would require an 8-10 months rehab process.
That was after nine weeks on the disabled list, and playing in pain during his first game back. Yet four days later, the only definitive word the Mets had on Cespedes was returning him to the DL before Tuesday night’s 6-3 win over the Padres and then saying they were waiting on a second opinion that was expected to come at some point Wednesday morning.
For whatever reason, the Mets had kept Cespedes on the active roster (fortunately Sunday’s game was rained out) with apparently no intention of playing him. He finally saw the team’s foot specialists Monday and had an MRI, but they still failed to reach a verdict.
The Mets have a long history of stalling on such matters, almost always to the detriment of both the club and the player. In layman’s terms, the non-orthopedist take, here are the key factors involved in figuring out whether or not Cespedes should have the double-heel surgery. See how long it takes you to choose.
Since August of 2016, Cespedes has served four separate DL stints for leg-related injuries, this heel problem being the fifth. He’s suffered from strains to the quad, hamstring and hip. But it was last season, when Cespedes was limited to 81 games, that Sandy Alderson first mentioned the heel issue.
Subsequently, John Ricco — one of the three acting GMs — said that Cespedes has been bothered by heel problems throughout his career, and even before the 2015 trade to the Mets. Not only that, Ricco has stated that all of these leg ailments are connected, with the heels a crucial link in that kinetic chain.
“Is the heel causing the change in the gait to cause the muscle strain,” Ricco said the other day. “Is the muscle strain causing him to run differently and exacerbate the heel issue? They’re all connected. So you’ve got to treat the whole problem. We got him to where his legs are strong — the heels are an issue.”
Pretty clear cut, no?
Obviously the thought of Cespedes being sidelined for 8-10 months is not ideal. To this point, he’s played in just 46 percent of the Mets’ games since signing that four-year, $110-million contract, and we can’t blame the Mets for feeling burned on that investment. If Cespedes had the surgery tomorrow, he wouldn’t be back until midway through spring training next year — at the earliest.
But having a hobbled Cespedes for the remainder of this season, playing sporadically as he tries to get his heels functioning on a daily basis, is a futile exercise when you consider the Mets’ situation. As the team weighed this decision, they were 17 games under .500, on pace for a 67-win season. Seriously, what’s the point?
Fixing Cespedes for 2019 is the priority now. The rest of ’18 is for the Jeff McNeills and Peter Alonsos. There’s no reversing the dismal tide at Citi Field in these waning days of July, regardless of whether Cespedes plays or not. This should be a much quicker debate than it’s turning out to be.
But if history has taught us anything, it’s that the Mets don’t handle injuries in a competent fashion. There was hope at the start of this season that could change with the overhaul of the training protocols, and still the team fell into the same traps, racking up DL stints early and often, same as ever.
This Cespedes situation is textbook Mets, and the case that it seems to match most closely is Carlos Beltran from back in 2009, when the team’s $119-million outfielder clashed with the team over the treatment of his ailing right knee. What started as a bone bruise degenerated into chronic osteoarthritis, and Beltran tried to play through the painful condition, only getting on the field for 81 games.
Once the offseason arrived, however, Beltran wasn’t satisfied with the team’s prognosis, as the Mets’ doctor David Altchek recommended rest and dialing back his winter workouts. He chose to see another knee specialist, Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Co., and decided to have surgery there on the spot rather than further consulting with team officials.
That made the Mets angry enough to consider legal action against Beltran, but the threats were short-lived. Why? Bottom line, Beltran needed the surgery.
We see no difference with Cespedes. One of these days maybe the Mets will learn from the past rather than keep repeating it.