The optimism of Mets fans took a hit even before the first pitch of the delayed 2020 season when the team announced last Tuesday that hard-throwing righthander Noah Syndergaard would miss the 2020 season and perhaps even a chunk of 2021 to recover from Tommy John arm surgery.
The old cliche about never having too much starting pitching was proven true again.
Credit has to be given to Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen for signing two free agents during the past offseason, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, for the purpose of providing depth to the starting rotation.
For some reason, though, Van Wagenen remains reticent about removing the very dependable Seth Lugo from the bullpen and giving him a shot in the starting rotation. Lugo has made no secret that he covets any opportunity to start and that while he has been a good soldier he is not as happy as he’d like to be.
In many ways, Lugo is a victim of his own success as he was one of the only dependable arms that former Mets manager Mickey Callaway could rely on to get out of late-inning jams without damage. Callaway had to turn to Lugo because both his setup man and closer, Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz, respectively, were atrocious, while bullpen colleagues Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman were both hurt for a good chunk of the 2019 season.
If Lugo doesn’t get a chance to start for the Mets then it’s a safe bet that he’ll bolt as a free agent after the 2022 season. No one will blame him if that happens.
Many observers have long felt that Syndergaard would eventually need career-saving Tommy John surgery because of his pitching motion, which creates serious arm stress. He missed most of the 2017 season because of both biceps tightness and a torn lat muscle in his right arm and apparently did not make the necessary adjustments after that to ensure durability.
Given what has been going on with COVID-19 and the obvious need for hospital resources to be used strictly for that and other emergency purposes, my mouth dropped when I read the Mets press release a week ago that stated Syndergaard would have the surgery two days later at Manhattan’s Hospital for Special Surgery.
The Mets media relations department, aware of the bad optics, did not send out a press release about Syndergaard after that, but both ESPN and SNY reported that he did have the surgery in Florida as opposed to having it here. My guess is that Hospital for Special Surgery executives were well aware of the media grief they would receive and nixed Syndergaard’s clearly elective surgery.
If that was the case, good for them.