World Baseball Disaster
Edwin Díaz suffers knee injury celebrating win
Some people are born beautiful, rich, talented. It makes you wonder if God truly creates everyone equal when you watch LeBron James play basketball or Taylor Swift sing a song.
Nobody reading this is asking to have it all, to be famous athletes or musicians. Jets and Mets fans are simply asking to have one freaking day where they can feel simultaneously excited about their teams.
I had written this newsletter with a very different opening around 10:00 pm last night. I had a poetic opening that weaved in the news about Aaron Rodgers becoming a Jet and how 2023 could be the first year since 1969 that the original Shea tenants could be champions again together.
Instead, we are talking about Edwin Díaz injuring himself while celebrating Puerto Rico’s World Baseball Classic win. You can see how it happened in the video below:
🚨 THE LATEST: The All-Star closer will undergo imaging at some point today. The Mets confirmed it is a right knee injury. They will offer an update “when it is appropriate.” That’s all we know as of publish time. It’s hard to feel optimistic about the prognosis.
“It’s awful,” Adam Ottavino said, via The Athletic. “I know what it meant to him to be in that situation for Puerto Rico. I know what type of kid he is and how hard he works. I know how much he cares and what he means to Puerto Rico and to the Mets. For everybody, it’s just sad. I really don’t have any other emotion beside that. I’m just hoping for the best for him.”
🗣️ Excuse me while I vent.
I wrote in this very space a few weeks ago how there is no real added risk for players participating in the WBC versus regular spring training. José Quintana is going to miss half the season from an injury he suffered before joining the tournament. Brooks Raley withdrew from the USA roster before playing a game. The Mets have been snake-bitten in Florida with injuries to several pitchers, including Bryce Montes de Oca and yesterday, Sam Coonrod.
We get it. Players get injured all of the time. You don’t need to play in the World Baseball Classic for that to happen.
This is different. This isn’t Edwin Díaz tweaking his shoulder while throwing a 3–2 slider. This is Edwin Díaz hurting himself in a scenario that could only happen because of the World Baseball Classic. You don’t celebrate beating the Cardinals in a split-squad game in March. You walk harmlessly off the mound. We’ve seen players injure themselves in celebrations before. Kiké Hernandez has oddly been part of two recent cases, as Díaz’ teammate, and also when Cody Bellinger separated his shoulder celebrating a home run in the 2020 NLCS.
It’s a fluke injury. You could say it’s the same as Díaz hurting himself taking an awkward step into the dugout. On another morning when emotions are less raw, many Mets fans would give you that point. Not this morning. Not when the image that is supposed to be representative of the unique intensity of the World Baseball Classic might become a lasting image of a star closer possibly blowing out his knee.
Plenty of you dear readers have written in the comments how much you don’t like the WBC, how it stressed you out to think you could lose a player while he isn’t wearing a Mets uniform. Many of you decided to be adult about your feelings. You let logic prevail. You politely nodded as Twitter talked up the excitement of these games. You were ready to keep your ugly thoughts to yourself, the ones that make the irrational sound logical in your head after watching X-many years of Mets baseball.
Then the best closer in baseball hurt himself celebrating a meaningless game. All the baggage from rooting for this team returned. You have every right to be frustrated this morning.
None of this is to say the World Baseball Classic shouldn’t exist or isn’t important. In fact, calling the game meaningless isn’t fair on my part. Díaz told ESPN earlier in the week that the match-up against the Dominican Republic “will be like Game 7 of the World Series.” We’ve seen the packed crowds waving flags from all parts of the globe. We’ve obviously seen the emotion it brings to the players who bear the names of those countries on their jerseys. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen the worst possible outcome—an injury during a celebration.
The WBC can be fun and can be the reason Edwin Díaz probably won’t pitch again for a long time. Both things are true.
Now that I’ve properly vented, let’s discuss some related injury news and try to think logically about what’s next.
Edwin Díaz isn’t the only injured player in the Mets’ bullpen. Brooks Raley is still recovering from a hamstring injury, although he seems optimistic he will be ready for Opening Day. Bryce Montes de Oca won’t throw for 3-to-4 weeks. And earlier on Wednesday, before the Díaz fiasco, we learned reliever Sam Coonrod has been shutdown with a high-grade lat strain.
“He was having a great spring (and showing) the reason why he’s a guy that people continue to give chances to if he can just stay healthy,” Showalter said, via Newsday. “But we’re hoping however long it’s going to be, we’ll be able to get him back because he was pitching as good as anybody in camp.”
Coonrod had been almost flawless in five spring outings, allowing only three men to reach base. Claimed off waivers from the Phillies during the offseason, this is the second consecutive year he has injured himself in March. Last year, a shoulder strain kept him on the IL until late August. He never found a rhythm after that, leading to Philly designating him for assignment. The 30-year-old was a candidate to make the Opening Day bullpen, or at least provide an optionable player the team could shuttle between the minors and the bigs.
The Amazins have taken shots to both the top and back-end of their bullpen. They have some ready-made options to take on closing duties in David Robertson and Adam Ottavino. But they have holes to fill.
It means they could explore adding external options, such as Buck Showalter favorite Zack Britton, whom Mike Puma reports the team was considering even before the Díaz’ injury. Britton is hosting a showcase on Thursday and the Mets are expected to attend. Puma also lists Corey Knebel and Will Harris as viable candidates. I’ll add Cody Stashak and Ken Giles as two more names to consider. The Mets will also need to rely more on some players on the fringe of the roster, such as John Curtiss and Tommy Hunter.
Let’s move on to something positive. We are two weeks away from Opening Day. If you follow the current order and believe the latest NY Post report, Max Scherzer will take the ball in Miami on March 30 and Justin Verlander will start the Home Opener on April 6.
We got a preview of Verlander’s brilliance Wednesday afternoon against the Cardinals. Despite feeling “a little sloppy,” the three-time Cy Young Award winner pitched five nearly perfect innings, striking out eight and allowing only one hit.
He called his slider “a bit loose.” He threw it 23 times (second most to his fastball), landing it in the zone probably too much for his liking. He lives on his gloveside, even more so than a typical right-hander, but as you can see in the chart below, he had trouble landing the pitch down and away where he has the most success against right-handed hitters.
The Amazins already had a perfectionist in Max Scherzer. Now they have another with Verlander. We’ve heard from several Mets players this spring about how they are soaking up these work habits. It’s what makes adding these guys even more valuable than what they provide on the field.
🌎 LINDOR MAGIC: In a bit of positive news from the WBC, Francisco Lindor continues to look like a world beater. With two more hits yesterday, including a thrilling inside-the-park home run, he is batting .467 over the tournament’s first four games.
🇺🇸 USA USA! After the Díaz injury, I joked that Mets fans suddenly became strong supporters of Colombia. But Team USA has advanced to the next round against Venezuela after a 3–2 win last night. Pete Alonso continues to struggle at the plate, going 0-for-4, which makes him 0-for-9 with four strikeouts after group play.
⏭️ UP NEXT: In another positive sign, Kodai Senga is already returning to the mound to start tonight against the Cardinals. He was scratched from his last start with arthritis in his right index finger. Hopefully, a small speed bump to adjusting to the new ball that will go away with time.
🔗 How gambling on Stephen Ridings embodies Mets GM Billy Eppler's bullpen philosophy, by John Harper, SNY: “It was part of a specific strategy: after building the nucleus of the 2023 bullpen with key free-agent signings and a significant trade this winter, Eppler could have spent more of Steve Cohen’s money for added depth on veteran relievers but instead decided to make several bets on high-ceiling, high-risk arms that have the potential for dominance.”
🔗 Juan Soto, Pete Alonso and what it’ll take to lock up other top young bats, by Tim Britton, The Athletic ($): “Mirroring Olson’s deal would leave Alonso making $173 million over eight years (remember, he’s set to make more in arbitration). Mirroring Bryant’s $26 million per year for seven free-agent years would leave Alonso making $217 million over nine years. Let’s split the baby and value Alonso’s free-agent years at $24.5 million for seven of them, taking him through his age-36 season. I’m going to round just slightly up on the resulting math, because I prefer whole numbers, leaving Alonso with a nine-year, $207 million extension with an overall $23 million AAV.”
🔗 Italy’s espresso machine stems from Piazza’s Mets days, by Michael Clair, MLB: “After the press conference was over, K.K. was able to meet Piazza in the bullpen and present him with a gift: A brand new espresso machine, with plenty of pods for the team to stay caffeinated all game long.”
And we close this one out with a Steve Cohen sighting at the Tokyo Dome where Shohei Ohtani happens to be starting for Japan…
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Meaningless = to fans of MLB. I don’t really care what it means to the players, or, if I’m being honest, to the fans in the stadium last night. None of them are paying my cable bill for the privilege of watching a team that just got worse overnight. Diaz’s salary is guaranteed. We’re the losers here.
With so many pitchers opting out of the WBC because of this very possibility of injury, why would the Mets not do everything in their power to stop Diaz from endangering their $100 mill commitment? Hard not to feel like the Wilpon Mets this morning.