“I don’t believe what I just saw!”
Longtime baseball fans will immediately recognize this as part of the HR call made by announcer Jack Buck when an injured Kirk Gibson came to the plate and homered off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
However, modern day Mets fans utter the same thing. Except for this time, it’s in regards to another year filled with injury after injury. It’s like the car insurance commercial that compares a kid getting her first car to a middle-aged guy getting the tires ripped off his vehicle. Both say the same exact thing, except one time it’s said in amazed excitement and the other it’s uttered in total disbelief.
This can’t be happening! Oh, it’s happening sweetheart.
At the time of this article, the Mets have yet to place Asdrubal Cabrera on the disabled list. Pretty much any team in the league would have done so already, so they weren’t playing shorthanded. My expectation is that the Mets will do just that later today. So, the rest of this piece is written as if the Mets have already made this move. So, with Cabrera finally joining the ranks of those who’ve hit the DL, we can now field an entire team of guys who’ve been officially sidelined with an injury. Here’s one potential batting order:
And we also have Steven Matz and Seth Lugo and Jeurys Familia. We’re not quite at a full pitching staff yet. Then again, it’s only May, so let’s not rule it out from happening, either. And the thing is that, much like last year, these are all DL stints past the minimum 10-day stay. Flores had the shortest stint at 13 days. Cespedes is at 19 days and counting. Duda missed 22 days. Lugo, Matz and Wright have been out over six weeks with no firm return date yet established. Syndergaard was recently moved to the 60-day DL. Familia may miss the rest of the season.
Back to this year and the Mets have had 12 DL stints already. How does that compare to other teams? Let’s look at DL moves within the NL East, taking the information from ESPN’s transaction pages.
Braves (5) – Cabrera, Rivera, Winkler, Johnson, Kemp
Marlins (8) – Despaigne, Locke, Prado, Hechavaria (2X), Volquez, Chen, Rojas,
Nationals (6) – Turner, Drew, Solis, Glover, Eaton, Kelley
Phillies (4) – Elfin, Buchholz, Kendrick, Nola
The Mets have had five position player starters, two starting pitchers and their closer shelved. By contrast, the only player of significance for the Braves put on the DL was Kemp, who missed just 12 days. The Marlins have had two starting position players and two starters. The Nationals have had two starters and a closer. The Phillies have had one starting position player and two starting pitchers.
Regardless if you look at raw numbers or impact players, the Mets’ DL issues have dwarfed those of their division rivals.
The injuries have been a big problem. But the biggest issue remains the starting pitching and their inability to go deep into games, which has overwhelmed the bullpen and not allowed a potent offense to produce victories on a consistent basis. In the three games in Milwaukee, the Mets’ offense posted 17 runs, which should have been two, possibly three wins. Instead, the Mets were swept.
But perhaps help is on the way. Both Lugo and Matz are expected to begin rehab assignments on Thursday. Assuming no setbacks – and we all know how dangerous that assumption can be – we might see both back in the majors the first week in June. But what can the team do until the injured pitchers return?
My preference would be to put at least Robert Gsellman and possibly Tommy Milone on notice, that they are expected to go seven innings or face a demotion. At this point, why continue to send Gsellman to the mound to experience 4 IP, 6 R outings? Wouldn’t that be the baseline expectation from Corey Oswalt or P.J. Conlon at this point? And they might even surprise and produce better if given a shot.
My temporary solution would be to disable Cabrera, call up Oswalt and have him in the pen. Familia can move to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man for Oswalt. Right now, the bullpen needs fortification more than the bench does. And if Gsellman doesn’t deliver, flip Oswalt into the rotation. Oswalt had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League and has followed that up with a 2.04 ERA with 33 Ks in 35.1 IP with a 3.0 K/BB ratio in Double-A. That’s better than what’s available in Las Vegas.
Is an active roster with 13 pitchers ideal? Good god, no. But we’re not anywhere close to dealing with ideal and something needs to be done. It will be interesting to see if the Mets do anything besides cross their fingers and hope for the best.