It’s never too early to assemble a Christmas shopping list and so here is the start of one for the New York Mets. A bottle of aspirin would certainly be beneficial. And make it extra strength.
Sometimes, it seems, this team is cursed. It may be because when they built Citi Field, they decided to put in a rotunda, just like the one owner Fred Wilpon remembered from his beloved boyhood shrine, Ebbets Field. This may have offended the spirits of the dearly departed New York Giants and so, every so often, the team that played in the Polo Grounds exercises some payback.
Blessed with a pitching staff of their dreams, the Mets found themselves using starting pitchers you never heard of during a crisis that hit like a thunderclap. The rotation originally was scrambled when Steven Matz and Seth Lugo came out of spring training unable to pitch. It will be a couple of more weeks before they return. Matz has a troubling history of injuries and Lugo was overused in that wonderful invention, the World Baseball Classic.
Then Noah Syndergaard, the ace of the staff and the opening day starter, complained of bicep pain that caused some tremors through the organization. How about we get an MRI to find out what is going on? No way, said Syndergaard, who assured everyone he was just fine. And in the screwed up world of the Mets, the player’s position prevailed. There was no MRI and after a skipped start, the man they call Thor, went to the mound and bailed out after one ugly inning with a bad pain under his armpit. This time, the MRI showed some damage in his lat muscle, an injury that will keep him out until after the July All-Star break.
Dr. Syndergaard’s replacement was Rafael Montero, who left something to be desired in his first start. That caused the Mets to claim Tommy Milone on waivers from Milwaukee and plug him into Syndergaard’s spot.
Then came the Matt Harvey crisis.
Harvey has a reputation as something of a party animal, a handsome young athlete with a fancy salary, who likes to troll New York night life and sometimes stays out late — very late. This habit plus an early morning round of golf left the Dark Knight in no shape to show up at Citi Field last Saturday. No problem. He wasn’t scheduled to start until Sunday. Who would notice his absence?
The Mets were not amused and suspended him for three days, costing him a cool $80,000 in salary. And in his place Sunday, the team paraded out a sacrificial lamb, left-hander Adam Wilk.
Getting Wilk to New York in time for the start was no small trick. He was in Albuquerque when he was summoned. He flew from there to Los Angeles to connect with a red-eye flight that delivered him to Citi Field about four hours before he was to pitch. The results were predictably awful and Wilk was excused the next day to return to the Mets’ Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate.
Now why would a team in New York have its top farm team located on the other side of the country, making emergency call-ups like Wilk complicated? In Mets-land that’s how they do things.
Harvey returned to the team, contrite and embarrassed, promising this would never, ever happen again. Problem is it has happened before. He missed a mandatory workout before the start of the 2015 post season, arriving near the end of the session after saying he lost track of the time and then got caught in traffic. And he showed up late for an exhibition game on another occasion. Given his history of late arrivals and sometimes no arrivals, we can add a Christmas gift for him.
An alarm clock.