NEW YORK– I am usually a pessimist about certain situations and have learned in a 40-year career writing about sports to realize the unexpected. Whether it be on-or-off the playing field, I have witnessed the unexpected. On the basketball court or the ice covering hockey, the unexpected occurred.
I have seen the unexpected occur on the tennis court, in the soccer pitch. And with my passion of covering some of the greatest championship fights at venues in the country and world, I will never forget the infamous Mike Tyson, the bite heard around the world taking a piece of ear from Evander Holyfield.
But Wednesday evening in Miami, as I watched Mets closer Edwin Díaz take his trot to the mound for Team Puerto Rico as “Narco” played, I was crossing those fingers. He took his warmups before throwing a 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. And all was well, that is until a WBC celebration for Díaz went wrong. We all know the outcome now, Edwin Díaz suffered a complete patellar tendon tear in his right knee and is lost for the season.
An injury sustained during a celebration that advanced Team Puerto Rico to the quarterfinals of this tournament, and in my opinion a meaningless exhibition series, though with significance for Major League Baseball.
In a matter of moments, when Díaz was aided off the field in a wheelchair, Mets fans and their owner Steve Cohen had their worst nightmare because the best closer in the game is gone till next year. The Mets will survive this, there are options for their bullpen, but the void of Edwin Díaz coming out of their bullpen will have an impact on their championship aspirations.
And as much as this was a freak injury, I am still not an advocate of the WBC being played two weeks before Opening Day. I stand with my case and Edwin Díaz is an example, reiterating this could have occurred during a spring training game, or one that counts in the standings. Mishaps and injuries will occur because they go together in sports.
Yes, the Mets closer who signed the richest contract for a relief pitcher in the offseason, will be conspicuous with his absence at Citi Field, two weeks from the first pitch of the season on that same field in Miami. A freak injury, regardless, a World Baseball Classic every four years that leads to many questions.
The prevailing thought is that an unfortunate injury can occur anytime during a meaningless spring exhibition game, or when the final out is recorded in the standings that has meaning. And baseball has that common jinx, but to see the Mets closer have his season conclude before it starts leads to more questions.
Numerous times to colleagues, fans, and those in baseball, I have questioned, is the WBC worth the risk for a high profiled salaried player who looks at playing for pride of their country? Edwin Díaz is one of those who received permission from Mets personnel to represent Puerto Rico.
Questions that need to be addressed before Díaz was wheeled off the field. His teammates of Team Puerto Rico weeped that put a damper on their celebration, and frankly at this point Mets fans don’t care as to when, who, or where Puerto Rico stands in this pool of other teams that advanced.
This is no knock on Major League Baseball, despite the outcry to modify scheduling, overall the WBC is good for baseball and world wide exposure, but as we see now there are consequences that have a negative impact.
Mets fans of course are in that majority and not fans of the WBC, as are a few former and longtime baseball executives that I spoke with. Back to my point, I always said the WBC was important to the players, especially the Latino contingent of Major League ballplayers that vouch and anticipate to be a part of this spectacle.
But, I always questioned their commitment to their country and leaving spring training facilities that are the preparation and tuneup for that long and arduous 162-game schedule.
The consequence, because the WBC is played at the wrong time of year, there is that risk of injury, now a detriment to the Mets. It could be a risk for the Yankees, or 28 other teams that allow their high profiled players to represent their country in a meaningless two weeks of ball games that MLB looks to enhance for their world wide image.
Yet there was always this risk of an injury on the field, or in the case of Díaz, 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? Was something wrong that precipitated the tear to his tendon?
Regardless, a Mets fan base is angry. Their pennant hopes become more difficult.
The owner on Twitter said, “Edwin Díaz is a great human being and a fierce competitor. All of us at the Mets are shaken but determined to sustain our quest for a great season. We wish Edwin Díaz a speedy recovery.”
However, it is difficult to overcome the loss of Edwin Díaz, and finding a viable replacement will be difficult, though I am sure a season without a closer as dominant as Díaz will hurt the Mets. It’s too premature, though, I am pessimistic here about the outcome as the Mets could utilize David Robertson or Adam Ottavino to fill a void.
The complexion though of their bullpen will vastly change and that was not expected. I am sure, though, Steve Cohen will eventually have more to say, after all on November 9th it was Díaz who signed a five-year contract with $102 million, a record for a relief pitcher and one of many lucrative free agent acquisitions the Mets secured.
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 to get us to the postseason, not to play in a tournament that is significant for your country.
As harsh as that sounds, it’s the only way to prevent an unfortunate injury and spoil the hopes for a championship season. Again, I am not faulting MLB or the WBC for being a bad concept. An alternative, play the exhibition tournament at a time when players are not at risk prior to the season.
Then those like Edwin Díaz can focus on winning a trophy for their country and homeland. Because to them it is pride and also exposing the game of baseball to that world wide spectrum.
To all my beloved fans, especially the Mets fans, I want to let you know that I am doing well and healing. I feel blessed and grateful for your support with messages and prayers, thank you very much! I can't wait to see you guys in NY again and play those trumpets. pic.twitter.com/fnOezkW6Mr
— Edwin Diaz (@SugarDiaz39) March 17, 2023
However, I can understand the circumstances because Major League Baseball has a huge and vested interest with the WBC. I have many times questioned as others do, why not play this exhibition during a midsummer break or after the season?
The players, though, 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 Edwin Díaz injury, again as bizarre as it was, it brings up the question of timing, who should or should not be participating? I always said another alternative is to fill the rosters with minor league players but Edwin Díaz is a MLB name that carries weight, 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 Juan Soto, Francisco Lindor, Javier Báez and Manny Machado.
And there was Edwin Díaz who is supposed to lead the Mets this year to a possible World Series, now of course that is all in jeopardy because he decided to represent Team Puerto Rico on the mound in an exhibition.
I may be in the minority, but Mets fans will probably say the same about this. There has to be an alternative and perhaps the mishap of an injury to Edwin Díaz could lead to changes the next time in 2027,
Rich Mancuso Co-Editor and Senior Writer Latinosports.com. 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
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