WASHINGTON — Nobody is going to admit they were wrong here. Not Noah Syndergaard for refusing to get an MRI on his pitching arm. Not the Mets for failing to insist he do so.
Yet clearly all parties most assuredly are to blame, and now, after Syndergaard walked off the mound in the second inning on Sunday due to pitching-related pain, they can only hope the lack of caution doesn’t cost them too, too dearly.
As it was, the injury led to the most embarrassing loss since the Mets turned the corner as contenders the last few years, as the Nationals whacked away to a 23-5 win, forcing Terry Collins to finish the game with catcher Kevin Plawecki doing the pitching.
They’ll gladly live with that, however, if Syndergaard’s “possible lat strain,” as the Mets are calling it, doesn’t turn out to be too serious.
Syndergaard leaves with arm injury as Mets routed by Nationals
For the moment, there is no telling. Syndergaard left for New York before the game ended, and now everyone will await the results of, you guessed it, an MRI that is scheduled for 7 a.m. on Monday.
Obviously there is no guarantee this could have been avoided if the Mets’ ace had agreed to such an exam a few days ago, or even if this injury is related to the biceps issue from last week.
Terry Collins, whose frustration showed in a loud, angry retort to a reporter after the game about whether he was upset, insisted it’s not.
Yet GM Sandy Alderson said the likely lat injury “may or may not be related to his previous complaint, which was the bicep.”
Noah Syndergaard leaves Mets-Nationals with ‘possible lat strain’
In any case, the precaution should have been taken.
But Syndergaard, who gave up five runs in the first inning before he was injured, was stubborn, even hard-headed in insisting there was no need to take a look inside his arm, despite the fact that he twice experienced some level of pain last week.
More than once he has said he doesn’t want any sort of negative thoughts about the possibility of injury in his head, but that’s no excuse. A pitcher needs the information an MRI provides to know if there is an issue that could lead to serious injury.
Syndergaard said he didn’t need it because he knew his own body so well. And again, it’s possible this was unrelated, but it’s also very possible a biceps weakness, or something else, could have put more stress on the shoulder, the lat, whatever.
Either way the MRI would have provided more information, and in this day and age, teams send players to get them as routinely as if giving out a couple of aspirin.
So Syndergaard should have been smarter about it.
But the Mets also should have insisted on it.
Really, after all the injury-related controversies they’ve had over the years, often for underestimating the potential for serious damage, you’d think they would never leave themselves open to second-guessing like this.
Of course, it was only last week that Yoenis Cespedes re-injured his hamstring shortly after the original injury, inviting criticism for not putting him on the disabled list at the time — especially now that the DL calls for a minimum of 10 days, not 15.
In Syndergaard’s case, the Mets have made protecting their pitchers a priority this season. From day one of spring training Collins has said over and over that, after all the injuries last season, they would go to extremes in that regard.
Early in spring training they didn’t even let pitchers throw to bases in fielding drills, which seemed to be an overreaction to last season, but it left no doubt about their commitment to minimizing risk.
Yet in this case they were willing to let Syndergaard say no to their request that he get the MRI. When asked why, GM Sandy Alderson on Saturday here said, “I can’t tie him down and throw him in the (MRI) tube.”
No, but the Mets could have exerted more influence, or flat out told him that if he didn’t get one, he was going on the disabled list.
Of course, that could have gotten messy, perhaps even involving the Players Association claiming a team can’t put a healthy player on the DL. Except it was Syndergaard who reported the issue with his arm to the trainers last week, so he really wouldn’t have had a case.
And chances are it wouldn’t have come to that.
So why didn’t the Mets insist? After Sunday’s game Alderson said the Mets were comfortable that Syndergaard was good to go, and explained the decision-making process involved, starting with the pitcher’s own insistence he was OK.
“We took him at face value,’’ Alderson said, “but he also threw a pen and felt fine. We also had a recommendation made by the doctor, who felt strongly that he was fine.”
OK, but again, what was the harm in getting the MRI? There was none. So while Alderson said he had no regret, in a way he owned up, perhaps unwittingly, to at least some culpability.
“Would the MRI have disclosed a lat issue or reaffirmed some concern about the bicep?’’ he asked. “We’ll never know.”
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