Top 10 Mets Pitching Busts (Surgical) Of Past 20 Years
If you're a Mets fan with any amount of gray hair, you have lived through this before. From Generation K of the late '90s to the present-day rotation issues, dealing with promising young arms winding up on more operating tables than All-Star teams is nothing new to the waylaid New York Mets franchise.
Hey, to the woe-is-me Mets fan, at least you got to see them in the World Series last October.
On the heals of the most recent devastating news that Mets' Matt Harvey needs yet another season-ending, if not career-threatening, surgery, we break down the top 10 Mets pitcher surgical busts of the past 20 years.
How embarrassing is it for Mets fans we only need to go back 20 years to gather such an extensive list?
You cannot blame Mets manager Terry Collins, who has often been exasperated with his team's injury woes.
— Eric Mack (@EricMackSports) June 22, 2016
It is an organizational epidemic. It is the way of life in the land of the Mets. It should be noted, entering this week, Noah Syndergaard was the lone Mets starting pitcher to have avoided Tommy John surgery to date. How long might his elbow full of bone spurs take to tear its ulnar-collateral ligament?
How many Mets fans would give up a rib for their team to avoid these devastating losses?
Speaking of giving up a rib, that is exactly what Harvey will do to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome, as ESPN's Adam Rubin reported Friday.
Top 10 Mets Pitching Busts (Surgery)
1. Pedro Martinez 2006 (Shoulder—Torn Rotator Cuff)
This one hurt most because it came to mark the end of a short-lived Mets heyday. The Atlanta Braves had finally aged out of NL East dominance and Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and company had looked poised for a successful postseason run. That went by the wayside when it was announced Martinez wouldn't be available for the postseason. Or most of 2007. Or ever again as himself, really.
2. Matt Harvey 2016 (Shoulder—thoracic outlet syndrome)
This was supposed to be the Mets' year of ultimate triumph. A young rotation looked unstoppable for years to come this past October. The surprising 2015 run to be mere runners-up in the World Series was supposed to be a start of a new-age Mets dynasty. Mets fans should have known better.
3a. Paul Wilson 1999 (Elbow—Tommy John surgery)
Wilson was supposed to put away the Mets' misery from the '90s Generation K flame outs (see below), including his own surgery in 1996 to repair a torn labrum. When it was announced he would require Tommy John surgery at the end of spring training, Mets fans had to fear "Here we go again." Nevermind the Mets would force Game 6 of the NLCS that year against the aforementioned Braves—much less make it all the way to a disappointing finish in the 2000 Subway Series against the dynastic New York Yankees.
3b. Paul Wilson 1996 (Shoulder—torn labrum)
Yes, Wilson gets another spot with the first of his serious surgeries, because like Harvey, Wilson was a early Round 1 draft prize. In fact, the Florida State product was selected No. 1 overall as the woeful Mets aimed to turn around their franchise after the hangover from the Darryl Strawberry-Dwight Gooden-David Cone-Howard Johnson era. Wilson's shoulder surgery followed Pulispher's Tommy John procedure, but preceded his own and...
4a. Johan Santana 2010 (Shoulder—torn anterior capsule)
Santana capped off his third straight season with an injury, this time one that would knock him out more than just the rest of the current season like surgery on bone spurs would in 2009 (sound familiar?). Santana also pitched through a torn meniscus at the end of 2008 with the Mets. Santana's surgery knocked him out all of 2011 and would later be re-torn...
4b. Johan Santana 2013 (Shoulder—torn anterior capsule)
Just months after giving Mets fans the first no-hitter in team history (June 1, 2012)—in his 11th start coming back from shoulder surgery, mind you—Santana would re-tear his shoulder capsule and miss all of the 2013 season. His comeback attempts failed in 2014 and '15 and a return later in 2016 is still a possibility, albeit slight.
5. Victor Zambrano 2006 (Elbow—Tommy John surgery UCL tear and torn flexor tendon)
This one stung because it was believed the Mets finally had a wunderkind answer to the Generation K failures in Scott Kazmir, who they dealt at the 2004 trade deadline in a much-bashed deal for Zambrano. There were rumors after the deal Zambrano was already damaged goods with a sore elbow, but it wasn't until early 2006 when that elbow finally succumbed to season-ending surgery.
6. Matt Harvey 2013 (Elbow—Tommy John surgery UCL tear)
Yes, the Dark Knight deserves two spots in the top 10 because he has brought about some dark nights and days for Mets fans since the news of his first major season-ending surgery broke. This was a completely dominant Harvey pre-surgery for a sub-par Mets team desperate to break through after years of struggles on the field and in the tabloids amid the Fred Wilpon-Bernie Madoff connection.
7. Bill Pulsipher 1996 (Elbow—Tommy John surgery)
Here we slot the first of the Generation K breakdowns. To recap how the promise and hype led to injury and despair, we quote Pulispher to the New York Post's Zack Braziller:
Pulsipher and Jim Duquette, the Mets vice president of player development at the time, both believe Generation K had a lasting impact on how pitchers are treated, because of how injuries derailed the trio. Back then, innings limits and pitch counts were as relevant as Twitter.
"I've told many people this before: I've done two things that never will happen again," said the 42-year-old Pulsipher, who works in construction on Long Island now. "Throw 200 innings in a minor league season and throw 131 pitches in my first major league start. Those two things will never happen again."
Ah, those Mets.
8. Jason Isringhausen 1997/1998 (Elbow—Tommy John surgery)
The third act of Gen-K. While Isringhausen would wind up with 300 saves and the most successful career of the trio (after his days as a Met ended at the 1999 trade deadline), this was just the first of a trio of Tommy John surgeries he would undergo in his career. As an ultimate indignity to Mets fans, Izzy was on the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals team that would eliminate Reyes, Wright, Beltran and the Mets with a victory in Game 7 of the NLCS.
9. Zack Wheeler 2015 (Elbow—Tommy John surgery UCL tear)
Wheeler, who has dealt with some setbacks in his recovery this year, makes the list because his surgery came before the true arrival of Syndergaard and Matz and before the Mets would reach the '15 World Series on the strength of those arms pairing down the stretch with Jacob deGrom and Harvey. Wheeler is still working his way back and Mets fans might hope he can help overcome the loss of Harvey, but reports have him no better than a late-August returnee at this point.
10. Billy Wagner 2008 (Elbow—Tommy John surgery UCL tear)
We finish off the list with the closer who could have helped save the Mets from back-to-back heartbreaking stretch-run collapses in the NL East at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the end of a brief competitive Mets era from the days Wagner signed in 2006 and led to the dog days that preceded the drafting of Harvey in 2010.
Other significant Mets pitcher surgeries that just missed the cut:
- Mike Pelfrey 2012 (Elbow—Tommy John surgery)—He never lived up to his Round 1 draft hype and was the symbol of Met disappointment.
- Jacob deGrom 2010 (Elbow—Tommy John surgery)—He wasn't a household name then, but he surely needs to carry the torch now.
- Steven Matz 2010 (Elbow—Tommy John surgery)—Also injured before hype truly got to him, but hopefully his recent bone spur issues are not a sign of more trouble.
Again, Mets fans likely already figure otherwise.
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