The Mets may not be America’s team but they sure seem to that of Blue Shield Blue Cross. As hard as it is to believe, Mets players are getting hurt at a faster rate than they were in either 2015 or 2016. It is a forgone conclusion that pitching ace Noah Syndergaard won’t be back until after the All-Star Game break at the earliest while closer Jeurys Familia will be lucky to get back on the mound by Labor Day. Very few expect team captain and third baseman David Wright to ever play a game again. Last Wednesday the Mets suffered a trifecta of injuries in their 9-4 win over the Cubs.Starting pitcher Matt Harvey had to be pulled after the fourth inning. He had given up three mammoth homers but was most galling to manager Terry Collins was that he had to ask his pitching coach, Dan Warthen, if Harvey was capable of throwing fastballs because he was unable to crack 90 mph on the radar gun. It turns out that he has a very dead arm and you have to wonder if the one-time toast of the town is over the hill.
Centerfielder Juan Lagares broke his thumb diving for a ball. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the same thing happened last year. The biggest blow was hot-hitting second baseman Neil Walker tearing a ligament in his leg running out a bunt to first base. Ironically, he had suffered an inflamed knee the week before but was able to avoid the disabled list when the swelling was reduced significantly. The one bit of good news was that outfielder Michael Conforto did not have to go on the disabled list after experiencing discomfort in his back ten days ago. He missed three games against the Cubs but returned for the series with the Washington Nationals although he did struggle at the plate when he returned. Since a lot of us experience occasional dorsal pain I asked Conforto what he did to recuperate. “I used a heating pad and stretching exercises that were suggested by the Mets’ training staff,” he replied.
Curtis Granderson suffered through a calf injury in 2016 and needed surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb following the 2015 season, but the 36 year-old Mets outfielder has managed to beat the team’s injury jinx so far in 2017. Last week, Granderson, one of baseball’s stellar citizens (he was named the recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award for community service by Major League Baseball last October) was nominated for the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award at July’s ESPY Awards slated for the day after the All-Star Game in LA. “I probably won’t be there because I have a kids baseball clinic in Chicago (Grandy’s hometown) the next morning. Thank goodness for Skype!” he told me with a smile. Last week commemorated a pair of milestone anniversaries for Mets fans with one pleasant and the other not. Let’s start with the more upbeat. On June 16, 1997 the Mets defeated the Yankees 6-0 in the first-ever regular season Subway Series game. Dave Mlicki, was the starter winner for the Amazins. When I spoke to him a few years ago he told me that was unquestionably the highlight of his career and he was a pretty good pitcher.
On June 15, 1977, the Mets traded the greatest player in their history, Tom Seaver, to the Cincinnati Reds after he and then team president M. Donald Grant had a number of disagreements ranging from is compensation to the team’s reluctance to get involved with free agency which had only started two years earlier. Attendance declined dramatically and the team became a cellar-dweller for the rest of the ‘70s and even into the early ‘80s. Discussion of the Seaver trade of 40 years ago still makes Mets fans apoplectic. David Ross was a big league catcher for 15 years and called it a career after his last team, the Chicago Cubs, won the World Series last fall. Although he only played two years for the Cubs, he quickly became a beloved player to fans in the Windy City. A few days after winning the World Series, a few members of the Cubs, and arguably their biggest celebrity fan, Bill Murray, took part in a pair of “Saturday Night Live” skits. I asked Ross, who is currently a baseball analyst for ESPN and was working Friday night’s Nationals-Mets game, about his recollections of his appearance on SNL.
“We got to the NBC Studios around 4 PM on Saturday and we quickly had to learn a song-and-dance routine as well as our lines. To say that I was out of my comfort zone was an understatement. My heart was racing. I was going to be on live television in less than eight hours.” Ross performed so well that the producers of ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” asked him to take part in their spring 2017 episodes and he lasted far longer than most of the other celebrity contestants. (Photo Arturo Pardavila)