The Mets have a small army of doctors, physical therapists and conditioning coaches at their disposal, along with being affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery, one of the best orthopedic treatment facilities on the planet.
Yet somehow, Yoenis Cespedes still was to able to shock everyone late Friday night by saying that he’s suffering from twin-heel “calcifications,” a condition that he insisted needs surgery to fix and would require eight to 10 months of rehab.
After hearing this, and then listening to Mickey Callaway stunningly claim to be unaware of Cespedes’ bombshell the very next morning — at his regularly scheduled, daily media briefing — we don’t know which is worse: The Mets mistakenly operating under the belief that Cespedes could play through his debilitating heel issues, or not knowing the longer-term severity of his medical problem.
Either one reflects poorly upon the organization, and the bad optics of the Cespedes situation only got worse Saturday, with the Mets letting Callaway fend for himself at the microphone. Not a great strategy. Callaway has enough on his plate without having to play doctor at his news conferences.
But the Mets refused to make any of their three acting GMs available Saturday to address the Cespedes issue, choosing to punt until Sunday afternoon, when John Ricco is expected to provide some answers about the slugger’s prognosis before the Subway Series finale in the Bronx. No wonder this has spiraled into the mess it’s become.
A day after returning from the disabled list, and then going back on the bench, Cespedes was unavailable to be used as a pinch hitter Saturday in a situation that was begging for him during a ninth-inning rally in the Mets’ 7-6 loss to the Yankees. Afterward, Callaway said that maybe he could play Sunday (we say no chance) — but wouldn’t see a specialist or get an MRI until early next week. Aside from being totally backward, how could Cespedes be allowed on the field again before getting further medical clearance? And why did he get green-lighted in the first place?
“We thought his heels were in a really good spot coming in or wouldn’t have activated him,” Callaway said. “So he was good to go.”
Apparently not. When Callaway stepped to the podium at 10:30 Saturday morning, the first question lobbed at him was predictable: What was his reaction to Cespedes’ surgery-related comments from the previous night? His response was hard to believe. Or not, considering the Mets.
“I didn’t get to read any of the stuff he said or hear it, so, you know, I’m not quite exactly sure of what he said,” Callaway said. “I just know that he came in pretty sore today and we’re not going to start him.”
It’s not that we always expect Callaway to pick up a newspaper on his own or check out a few web sites before facing a few dozen media members. But there’s no way the Mets could have allowed him to sit in that chair without briefing him first, and playing dumb is never a good look for a manager — even if Callaway was advised to do so. And would it be too outlandish for Callaway to maybe check in with Cespedes to get his side of the story beforehand?
This was an epic fail all-around, and not just from a PR standpoint. Nine weeks on the DL, under the scrutiny of all those medical personnel, and Cespedes can just spring that heel disaster on everyone at his locker, seemingly out of the blue?
Truth is, the heel condition is hardly a new ailment, despite the Mets describing his injuries as everything from hamstrings to quads to hip flexors. It’s all part of the same kinetic chain, and the lingering heel problem has been in the background throughout. A year ago, Sandy Alderson made the first reference to Cespedes’ sore heels. Earlier this month, on July 6, Ricco said that his chronic issues were heel-related more than anything else.
Despite being inserted back into the lineup Friday night at DH, and homering in his second at-bat, Cespedes complained of his heels hurting midway through the 7-5 victory over the Yankees. That frustration is likely why Cespedes lashed out at his locker afterward, complaining of the social-media perception that he wasn’t trying hard enough to come back from the DL.
“It’s bad that you’re doing your best and working hard every day and people are saying things that are not correct,” Cespedes said late Friday night through his interpreter. “I am not going to go down and lower my level to their level.”
Maybe Cespedes felt pressured to return despite still feeling pain, and one source said Saturday that he’s been dealing with the heel condition for the past year. Cespedes has played in only 46 percent of the Mets’ games since they made him the sport’s highest-paid outfielder with that four-year, $110-million contract, so that’s not ideal for the organization either.
The Mets weren’t supposed to be having these embarrassingly high-profile medical episodes anymore. But if dysfunction is a disease, this franchise is a long, long way from finding a cure.