And after exhaustive study, thought, and consideration, the Mets have decided the best way to improve their oft-criticized handling of injuries is to put a gag order on their manager.
Actually, let’s hope they’ve drawn more substantive conclusions, but they did tell Terry Collins, in so many words, to shut up on the subject.
Indeed, there he was at his pre-game press conference on Wednesday, responding to a question about Jay Bruce’s back stiffness with a very tight-lipped, grim-faced answer:
“I’m not at liberty to discuss the injury situation,” he said.
Well, that should solve all of their problems.
Since the Noah Syndergaard fiasco, where the Mets let their star pitcher decline their request that he get an MRI, only to see him suffer a torn lat muscle in his next start, GM Sandy Alderson said he was going to shy away from forecasting timelines for players returning from significant injuries, and, OK, that’s understandable.
But now the organization is taking it to an extreme, and all indications are the gag order on Collins came from above Alderson, which essentially means Jeff Wilpon.
At his press conference, the manager didn’t look happy about it, and, in fact, a club source said Collins was furious about being told what he could and couldn’t say, as it applied to rather routine injury news on both Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes.
Bruce left Tuesday night’s game with lower-back tightness, and he was out of the lineup on Wednesday. Yet several minutes before the manager’s press conference, Bruce told reporters it was a minor injury and he expected to be back in the lineup on Thursday.
Which, of course, made it seem all the more silly that Collins wasn’t allowed to so much as comment.
As for Cespedes, Collins has been saying for days that the star slugger was getting closer to returning from his hamstring injury, but when he was asked on Wednesday if there was any set date for his return, the manager simply said:
As that was the last question, he was up and headed for the exit before anyone could follow up.
According to a source, Collins was especially annoyed that he’d been told earlier in the day not to discuss whether Cespedes would be playing in any minor-league rehab games before returning to Citi Field.
And since when is that the stuff of state secrets?
Clearly this is something of an overreaction to the criticism the Mets have received about how they handle injuries. And, to be sure, at times they have been guilty of talking too publicly about when they expected players back from significant injuries – often erring on the optimistic side.
In truth, however, the criticism over the years has stemmed mostly from how various injuries have been treated and diagnosed, the most famous example being the time they put Ryan Church on a cross-country flight after suffering a concussion.
They’ve also been too slow to put players on the disabled list, hoping injuries would heal quickly, too often leaving themselves playing shorthanded for days at a time only to eventually put the player on the DL anyway.
Recently, Alderson admitted the organization is examining everything related to the handling of injuries, and good for the Mets if they’re willing to look for ways to improve in that area.
However, their biggest fault is that at times they’ve simply been guilty of not being open and honest enough publicly about injuries, putting a happy face on matters that only made a later, more serious diagnosis seem bungled.
In any case, it’s not as if Collins has been some loose cannon, spouting opinions against the organization’s wishes. Usually he has simply been as candid as he thought was sensible, figuring the best way to handle injury news was to be upfront about it.
And while he wouldn’t comment on why he had been muzzled, he did tell me he didn’t see a need to overreact to the Mets’ injuries.
“We don’t have any reason to think it’s something we’re doing or not doing that causes injuries,” Collins said. “It’s not like we have five guys out with hamstring injuries. If that was the case, I’d say, ‘yeah, we need to take a look at the way we do things.’
“But look at some the injuries: Travis (d’Arnaud) hit his wrist on a bat with his follow-through on a throw; Lucas (Duda) hurt his elbow trying to catch a throw at first; Wilmer (Flores) had an infection; other teams have injuries too, by the way. It’s just the way it is in baseball.”
In fact, it’s not the injuries this season that have caused the hysteria. Rather it was allowing Syndergaard to dictate the handling of his biceps soreness, which may or may not have led to the torn lat, and trying to nurse Cespedes through his hamstring injury without a DL stint, only to claim the re-aggravation wasn’t related to the original injury.
Of course, none of that had anything to do with Collins, yet now he’s been told he can’t talk about injuries. Yeah, that’s the answer.