PHILADELPHIA — There are decisions that ruin games and then there are decisions that ruin seasons, and Mets fans should appreciate that difference as well as any sports enthusiasts on this planet.
Mickey Callaway made one call Sunday afternoon that cost the Mets a game, a 4-2 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank. Prior to that, he committed to a move that might have saved the Mets’ season.
Yet Callaway isn’t the only rookie Mets official constantly put on the line. Each time Yoenis Cespedes grimaces in pain on the field, the Mets’ new medical officials step up to the plate for their own big moment.
“Every day, they make a judgment whether he’s a DL or not,” Mets assistant general manager John Ricco said of the Mets’ performance folks after Cespedes fought through his achy right quad to homer, single and make three catches in left field. “We’ve been conservative with [Jacob] deGrom, conservative with [Todd] Frazier. We’re not afraid to put a guy on [the disabled list] if the circumstances warrant, and right now, that’s not what [is recommended].”
To watch Cespedes play baseball nowadays is the equivalent of watching Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver navigate the steel trap doors in “Galaxy Quest”; you feel like if he makes one wrong move, he’ll get smushed. Cespedes hustled out an infield single in the third inning, he ran in to make a shoestring catch on Maikel Franco’s sixth-inning line drive, and he backtracked to grab Odubel Herrera’s deep liner in the seventh. The only time he didn’t have to labor was when he trotted around the bases after his sixth-inning blast to left field off Phillies starter Aaron Nola broke a scoreless tie.
“He did a good job,” Callaway said of Cespedes, who didn’t make himself available to the media after the game. “When he had to run, he ran hard. When he had to get a ball in the corner, he ran hard. He hit a homer. He’s gutting it out for the team.”
This past offseason, the Mets made a public show of hiring Jim Cavallini as their director of performance and sports science, replacing head trainer Ray Ramirez by promoting assistant Brian Chicklo and naming Joseph Golia the new assistant trainer. Such a revamp proved necessary after last year’s fiasco, during which errors of omission led to Cespedes (left hamstring) and Noah Syndergaard (lat), among others, missing considerable time. Now the Mets are deferring to their group, and therefore putting the onus on Cavallini and his deputies, when it comes to player health.
“We rely on the guys who know a lot more than we do,” Ricco said.
As Ricco noted, the Mets have exhibited caution in the cases of deGrom (hyperextended right elbow) and Frazier (strained left hamstring), and as much as Sunday’s loss hurt, it would have been far worse had Callaway not lifted deGrom after a torturous 45-pitch first inning in which the right-hander loaded the bases with no outs then escaped the jam without a run scoring. It was a slam-dunk decision, all the more so because deGrom just came off the DL.
“We didn’t feel good sending him back out,” Callaway said. “We can’t do that to anybody. That’s a lot of pitches for one inning.”
(As for Callaway’s in-game call to stick with Paul Sewald to go after Philadelphia pinch-hitter Nick Williams in the sixth, rather than switch to a warmed-up Jerry Blevins, with Williams subsequently hitting what turned out to be the game-winning three-run homer: Eh. Blevins hasn’t been very good this season, and when you need to get 24 outs from your bullpen, you switch up your game plan. Even if you hated the move, it doesn’t carry long-term consequences.)
Cespedes gets Monday off with the rest of his teammates, and maybe he can keep grinding through and contributing at a level clearly less than 100 percent. Maybe this turns out as the Mets desire.
We monitor it as closely as we do Callaway’s in-game tactics because we know, all too well, just how high the stakes can be on such decisions.
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