Not quite the fall of the Roman Empire, nevertheless a decline. The Metropolitans of New York are headed to Mediocreville. The enormous rash of injuries that will keep their stars out for extended periods of time is becoming a quicksand pit, sucking what seems like the whole team down into a failed season. Don’t blame this bleak look at the 2017 season entirely on the Front office. Many out there are already on the bandwagon of blame. Bringing up notions of a dysfunctional franchise going back to 1987. Hogwash! If one want’s to look to blame someone or a group of someone’s, look all the way back to where today’s players came from.
If you have been around baseball for the past 30 years, you have seen lots of changes. Let’s just look at pitching for now. Why are there so many pitchers with injuries we are unfamiliar with? Not to pick on “The God Thor,“ Noah Syndergaard, but he is the most recent super-star to go down. He is a product of the brilliant people, who think they know the game. Like every kid who walks onto a little league field over the past 30 years, he was more than likely told, “Son, throw as hard as you can for as long as you can. That is how you will get to the big leagues.”
And guess what? it worked.
There are plenty of good pitchers in division one baseball who throw 88-90 mph and get outs. They know how to pitch. But no one is going to sign them, because scouts are told to find a guy who throws flaming darts. The new generation of wide eyed young kids hoping to become big leaguers, throw to the gun. Lots of them become very good at throwing upper 90 mph pitches for strikes but at what cost. They are willing to bulk up more than pitchers from the past, to be able to increase their velocity and that to me is a recipe for disaster.
A few years ago, I was talking to a retired big time major league pitching coach and asked him, why do I not see pitchers running like they used to do in the past? He told me they don’t run. He said as a pitching coach, he would run their butts off. And then he told me, “That’s why they had the stamina to pitch nine strong innings. Throwing 130 pitches or more in a game and pitch for 15 or more years. And guess what? None of them had arm problems.”
Players like Syndergaard will take it upon themselves to bulk up with the aid of strength and conditioning coaches, sometimes without the knowledge or consent of the clubs paying their bloated salaries. Trying to hit triple digit figures on the speed gun atop the scoreboard, as their agents lineup endorsements. Home run hitters and flame throwers make the most money.
I blame the state of pitching injury disasters equally on parents, little league coaches, and even high school programs who have these kids over extending themselves at an early age. Before they have had a chance to grow into their bodies, they are being encouraged to throw curveballs, sliders, changeups and speed, speed, speed. Many of them only play one sport and never develop the other parts of their bodies. That’s a problem.
I don’t blame the Mets for the rash of serious injuries. There is no point in putting blame on anyone in that organization. All these clubs are followers and if it works for another team than that’s what they want to do. I believe the powers that be in baseball, starting with youth programs, should reassess their methods of conditioning and how they groom pitchers. Pitch counts and innings pitched mean nothing if they continue to do things that the human body was not designed to do.