What’s going on here?
Again, I refer to the late NY sports columnist Dick Young. And with the New York Mets there is that never ending issue of an injury hex prior to the first pitch in late March. Last year star reliever Edwin Diaz suffered a freak injury to his right knee at the World Baseball Classic championship game that put him on the shelf for the season and a Mets bullpen in chaos.
Tuesday, here we go again. Ronny Mauricio sustained a torn right ACL that will require surgery and the young infielder appears to be on the shelf for the 2024 season, though the Mets have contingency plans in place as to who will command third base.
With Diaz, it became a mess for the Mets bullpen. His recovery went well and he hopefully will return to all-star form. Mauricio was a tale of another freak injury playing for Licey in the Dominican Winter League. Regardless, the Mets plans at third base were geared to Mauricio, their fourth ranked prospect.
So new manager Carlos Mendoza is confronted with his first bout of adversity. Months before spring training there is much time to sort out the options to cover the absence of Mauricio. The Mets could shop and reunite with Justin Turner or continue with a contingency plan to utilize Mark Vientos or Brett Baty.
Mendoza is facing a reality that the Mets will have an alternative. Either way, Mauricio was expected to be a core of an infield corner at third with Pete Alonso at first.
“Obviously, we took a hit and we have to revisit again,” Mendoza said Wednesday at Citi Field where the Mets hosted their annual Christmas holiday party for local school children. “We’ve been saying that we have a lot of that depth. We’re feeling pretty good with what we have.”
A major blow to a Mets lineup that can feed off Mauricio’s tendency to drive in runs and hit the home run, something that always left an impression on personnel. The 22-year-old was signed as an international free agent in July 2017 and made his MLB debut in September. The Mets also added veteran Joey Wendle to their infield equation with a one-year contract and he can be a part of the mix.
But it is the concern for Mauricio and coming after the Diaz injury, a World Baseball Classic on the mound victory celebration last March. That also has to pose a concern for Mets management and possibly a wide spectrum of skepticism to 29 other teams about star players and their roles on another field during the offseason.
Though the questions won’t be answered about putting signed players on the field during the off season, whether it be the WBC or the various international leagues based in Latin America. Unless, though, in the contract there are specifics and that is a whole different matter about where and how.
Since the inaugural WBC there have been various MLB owners expressing their concern about permitting their star players to participate. They are in a minority as the WBC apparently has widened a world wide spectrum of exposure for MLB. Millions in revenue also doesn’t hurt.
Though from a Mets fan perspective it was recurring. Words on social media are not kind about the injury hex and here we go again. That is not acceptable even though the Mets have a contingency plan in place and depth to overcome this latest setback to their roster.
Sure, this one hurts, perhaps not as much as the injury to Diaz. And Mauricio is young enough to overcome a setback. His return is uncertain with surgery scheduled after a second medical opinion. Mendoza said Mets management will await reports from doctors and their medical department adding that Mauricio was devastated about the prognosis. Obviously, a torn ACL is a serious injury and Mauricio may need six to nine months before a return.
But this does not eliminate talk or questions. In particular, should management restrict players from limiting their time on a playing field during the offseason? I asked a NL executive with knowledge of contracts and how to draw the line. I questioned are there restrictions with contracts?
He said, “Look I am not in position to comment about the does and don’ts but indeed there is a concern. Club officials are briefed on postseason plans for players and generally say good luck and come home safe.”
There is also limited resistance. Ballplayers are grown enough to take a risk. After the Diaz injury a prevailing opinion was injuries are bound to occur during the span of a 162-game season, and common with a record number in 2023.
However, the Mauricio injury puts a dent on plans for the 2024 Mets, though, again, depth with their infield offers a contingency and adding a reinforcement is bound to occur for President of Baseball Operations David Stearns via a trade or free agency.
But months before spring training, Stearns and his manager are confronting adversity. The Mets injury hex continues and it’s fair to say, “Oh no, not again.”
Rich Mancuso: X (formerly Twitter) @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso