Diaz Injury: WBC Hazardous to a Player’s Health?

I watched Mets closer Edwin Diaz take his trot to the mound in Miami for team Puerto Rico as “Narco” played. He took his warmups. Before he threw his first pitch to close out the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, I and every Mets fan said, please get through this without an injury.

During a celebration following Puerto Rico’s win over the Dominican Republic that sent them to the quarterfinals of the WBC, Diaz injured his right knee and could not put any weight on it. The Mets All Star closer had to be helped off the field. He underwent tests this morning and was found to have a torn patella and is expected to miss the entire season. The season ending injury occurred during, what is essentially a meaningless exhibition series, although with significance for Major League Baseball.

Mets fans and their owner Steve Cohen had their worst nightmare come true. because the best closer in the game is lost for the season.

Yes, their closer who signed the richest contract for a relief pitcher in the offseason, Edwin Diaz will be gone before the season opener that is scheduled for that same field in Miami in two weeks. A freak injury, perhaps, regardless, a World Baseball Classic every four years has always been played with a risk of injury in what are really meaningless games.

The prevailing thought is an unfortunate injury can occur anytime during a meaningless spring exhibition game while throwing a pitch, or when the final out is recorded. To see the Mets closer possibly have his season conclude before it started leads to questions about the future of the WBC.

My main objection and I’ve said it numerous times to colleagues, fans, and those in baseball, is the WBC worth the risk for a high profiled salaried player who looks at playing for pride of their country? Edwin Diaz is one of those who received permission from Mets personnel to represent Puerto Rico.

I am sure now, and saying again, this is a hex of the Mets. A team favored heavily to be a World Series contending team, owner Steve Cohen is not drinking a cocktail, and neither are Mets fans. More importantly, there are more questions again about the WBC.

Back to my point, I always said the WBC was important to the players, especially the latino contingent of Major Leaguers that want to be a part of this spectacle. I always question leaving spring training facilities that are the preparation and tune up for that long and arduous 162-game schedule.

The consequence is that risk of injury because the WBC is played at the wrong time of the year. Players are not geared up to play such a highly competitive game, particularly pitchers. That’s why pitchers are rightfully limited at this juncture of the calendar. 

Yet there was always this risk of an injury on the field, or in the case of Diaz, amidst the celebration when this mishap occurred. Or was there an oversight, and the Mets star closer failed to address an issue to trainers and personnel associated with team Puerto Rico?

Regardless of the circumstance, Edwin Diaz sees his season come to too soon an end. The Mets fan base is angry, the pivotal closer role sustained a major blow, pennant hopes become difficult, and the owner needs to speak.

It is difficult to overcome the loss of Diaz, and finding a viable replacement will be hard to find. I am sure a season without a closer as dominant as Diaz will hurt the Mets. It’s premature, but I am pessimistic about the outcome of what was a promising season. The Mets could utilize Davd Robertson or Adam Ottavino to fill a void. The complexion though of their bullpen will vastly change.

So, I am watching this unfold and Seve Cohen has remained silent. His closer on November 9th signed a 5-year contract worth $102 million, the most ever signed by a relief pitcher and the first of many lucrative deals during the offseason.

But now is the time for the richest owner in baseball to come forward and say, the WBC is played at the wrong time of year and address the issue to 29 other owners. Or take the harsh step, as other owners should, and demand we do not want you playing in the WBC. I want Cohen and owners to stand up and say, we pay you for 162 games and get us to the postseason, not to play in a tournament that is significant for your country.

However, I can understand the circumstances because Major League Baseball has a huge and vested interest with the WBC. Why not play this exhibition during a midsummer break or after the season?

Of course, MLB officials say there isn’t an alternative. The players are content with the scheduling. MLB is content with a WBC held every four years, three weeks before the start of Opening Day. Really. though, I know there can be an alternative.

And with this Diaz injury, again as bizarre as it was, it brings up the question of timing, who should or should not be participating? I always said fill the rosters with minor league players.

Edwin Diaz is a MLB name that carries weight, is high profiled and what MLB looks as marketable for this WBC that will bring appeal and get fans to watch. They watched Wednesday evening because teams from Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic had that group of great Latin players like Juan Soto, Francisco Lindor, and Manny Machado.

Until there is an alternative, I will continue to ignore the WBC.

Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso. Watch “Sports With Rich” with Rich and co-host Robert Rizzo Tuesday evening 8pmET on the SLG Network and YouTube

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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