Part of me wants to LOLMets, but it's not appropriate today. Steven Matz, the 24 year old prospect who burst onto the major league stage with a pair of dominating starts on the mound and at the plate, is hurt with a severe-sounding lat tear. When a player, especially a young player who doesn't have the same level of job or financial security as a veteran, gets hurt, it's never funny. So I'm not amused. Not even close. Instead, this morning, I'm angry.
Matz's injury first cropped up during his first start on June 28 and was serious enough that he reported it up the chain of command with the Mets. This, dear friends, is exactly what you want a young pitcher to do. Rather than choose to protect their hot new investment, however, the Mets apparently ignored the issue and sent him out again for his next turn in the rotation. Via ESPN New York's Adam Rubin:
Daily News reports Steven Matz will miss several weeks with lat injury. Seeking to confirm. Mets acknowledged injury in area after 1st start— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) July 9, 2015
Kind of amazing Mets let him make that start at Dodger Stadium after he complained about issue after first start.— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) July 10, 2015
Now, the Mets are in a race to the postseason, and are clinging to that possibility by a relatively thin margin at the moment (Baseball Prospecuts places their playoff odds at just under 30 percent). So one might be inclined to cut the club some slack if they were shorthanded. Here's the problem, though. The Mets were going with a six-man rotation. They had plenty of pitchers to survive while Matz rests up.
No, Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard won't benefit from pitching reduced innings, but at least nobody has to be jostled in the rotation. Nobody has to go on short rest. Hell, if the six-man rotation is that damn important, Dillon Gee can provide a mediocre start every once in a while, and he's wasting away at Las Vegas. What the hell is the point of having six starters if you can't cover for a guy who needs time to heal?
Now, we don't know for certain if the Mets exacerbated the situation or not by letting Matz start again after he had told them that he was hurt. I'm no doctor, obviously, but I think it's fair to assume that it at least couldn't have helped Matz to be exerting himself in that condition. We also don't know what, if any, the long term implications are of letting Matz start while hurt. Maybe he still would have needed the platelet-rich plasma injection he received, and would have been out for three-four weeks anyway. Maybe there won't be a cascade of injuries down the line as Matz adjusted or will adjust his pitching motion to counter whatever pain he may feel. All of that is uncertain.
What is certain is that the Mets let a 24 year old prospect who is part of their long-term plans start a game with an injury. That is negligent. Maybe not medically negligent (although probably), but definitely negligent of the club's future. Young arms need to be protected, and the Mets clearly did not do that. Indeed, after he had been averaging 84 pitches per game over his last six starts at Las Vegas, and had topped out at 100 on the year, the Mets immediately threw him in the deep end, making him throw 110 pitches in his first start, and 101 in the second. Now, that's not abuse, necessarily; pitchers should be able to throw 100 pitches a game. But the fact that the team didn't ease their young starter into that workload is troubling, especially since mechanics tend to break down as fatigue increases. Perhaps that's part of the reason we've seen Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler both go down with arm injuries in the last two years.
Risking that kind of injury is negligent of Matz's future as well. Matz signed as a second round pick in 2009 for less than $900,000. That's a lot of money, of course. But it isn't life-altering money. It doesn't set Matz up for life. And if the Mets compromised his future for...you know, I don't even know what they were compromising his future for. A random game in early July? It was a road game, so they didn't even get to sell extra tickets! Not that that should have factored into the decision. I'm just trying to figure out who the organization could have talked themselves into such an inexcusable and unconscionable decision..
So yes, laugh at the Mets and their incompetence if you want. But be concerned as well that the Mets don't have the best long-term interests of their club and their players at heart. Be angry that they're willing to compromise the future for a piddly short-term gain. And be worried for the careers of Steven Matz and the truly impressive collection of other young starters they have accumulated.