Coutinho: Injury To Mets’ Mejia All Jerry Manuel’s Fault

By Rich Coutinho
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Jenrry Mejia was one of the Mets’ top prospects just 12 short months ago, but a lame-duck manager misused and at times abused his young arm.

Jerry Manuel knew his job was on the line. He knew Mejia was more talented than most of the pitchers in his 2010 bullpen. Someone in the organization should have said “no” to Manuel (and Omar Minaya, who was also on the hot seat) — the risk of using him as the set-up guy was far greater than the reward.

Watching Mejia in spring training last year, you could see his stuff was intoxicating. But as I said at the time, you had to resist bringing him north. He was far too valuable a chip to use in relief if the plan was for Mejia to be a starter in the 2012 rotation. One of the voices in the organization who tried to dissuade bringing Mejia to the big club was Dan Warthen.

Warthen saw the big picture but was vetoed by a staff that knew it was win or bust for them. Now, I am no pitching coach, but I always thought Mejia was a bit too raw for the majors and needed better command of his secondary pitches.

In order to get that command, he needed to be pitching every 5th day on the minor league level, much in the same way Dillon Gee was used last season in the Mets’ minor league system. Not only was Mejia not allowed to pitch every 5th day, he was asked to serve as a mop-up man, sometimes going 7 days without pitching in a game. Then, when Manuel had no more use for him, he was jettisoned to the minors and stretched out to be a starter.

Nobody will ever convince me that doing that did not grease the skids for him— effectively landing Mejia in the Tommy John operating room.

That’s the danger in allowing people with limited job security to make big, long-term decisions. The major league rosters are littered with prospects who end up on the scrap heap — and that’s after they’ve been given every resource to succeed. Mejia was hamstrung from the start and now is facing a long road back. Granted, the success rate of Tommy John surgery is outstanding, but there are no guarantees Mejia will rebound. Some pitchers never make it back and others may take up to 18 months before they even approach pre-injury velocity.

This could have all been avoided if the Mets used some restraint and stuck to the original plan. They should have labeled Mejia a starter for 2012 and treated him as such.

I get the sense that the present management team will take the proper route and learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. This becomes doubly important if the perception is true that this group will develop more talent than it acquires via free agency. J. P. Ricciardi and Sandy Alderson certainly have a good track record of nurturing prospects and not abusing them. That is sometimes a slippery slope when operating in New York, a “win now” city, but prospects need to be treated with kid gloves, whether you plan on keeping them or trading them for veteran players.

All you have to do is look at Jenrry Mejia’s MRI. That’s all the evidence you need. Restraint with top prospects is always the best road to travel.

Do you also blame Manuel for Mejia’s injury? Sound off in the comments below…

  • Tony Fair

    You know, I was not a Jerry Manuel fan at all, but I don’t like this disparaging a man’s name after he’s gone. The reasoning behind Rich’s thesis is thin at best. I’m with Cruzer & DMezzepesa on this one.

  • The Coop

    Wow, love how the bullies all come out and hide behind their computer screens. In any case, if there were any Mets fans who were not only behind having Mejia in the ‘pen but wanted to see him on the team in 2010, I’d like to meet them. Because I am a blogger and seriously connected in the Mets fan-world and EVERYONE was mortified at the thought of both scenes. I think Rich has done a keen job of looking at the details. Like someone said above, injuries happen. ‘Tis true, but with the Mets recent handling of prospects, injuries and bullpen pitchers, having Mejia get seasoned in the minors was the way to go. So it’s easy to have 20/20 hindsight with Manuel but it does make one question if rushing him damaged his arm. It’s a question that probably won’t get answered IMO.

  • Dominick Mezzapesa

    How do they give you guys blogs? It’s funny how bloggers use revisionist history to create a story.

    Now if you said this when they brought Mejia up, then you actually are a real reporter, but this was amateurish at best.

    Anyone who has even the slightest clue about pitching knows there is no way of knowing who’s arm will develop an injury. or who’s arm will be able to handle the strain of pitching 200 innings a year.

    It’s ridiculous to place blame on anyone for an injury.

  • ridiculous opinion piece

    Mets fans wanted Mejia in the bigs once they heard Strawberry says he was as good as Mariano during spring training of last year, now they’re blaming Manuel. In case you people haven’t realized, Manuel, Omar and the rest of management team are now gone.

    This guy got hurt this year, with a new staff & new management running the show since last October. The kid when into spring training this year healthy & left to the minors healthy. Injuries happen, it’s part of the game.

    Remember this is the same guy who also wrote Bay was going to be a game changer upon his return, yet the Mets are still in last place

  • tnizzle

    This is beyond stupid. Jennrry Mejia is a 6 foot righty with a high effort delivery who throws 95 mph, Is anyone really shocked he blew out an elbow? And can we get a little more backup for your unshakeable opinion than ‘Jerry didnt use him for 7 days at a time’? Its not like he pitched him htree days in a fact he barely pitched him at all.

    Yes, Mejia shouldve been left to start in the minors and yes Omar and Jerry did the wrong thing by putting their own self interest in front of the kid’s. But tit’s a pretty far leap from that to “they were responsible for Mejia injury”.

  • Anders F

    I agree with Cruzer. Injuries happen. One statement I do agree with: That’s the danger in allowing people with limited job security to make big, long-term decisions.
    I believe when a manger or GM has limited job security, most do a worse job , not better.

  • Tony Edwards

    While I’m not willing to blame Manuel’s use of Mejia as the reason for this current injury, I’m in total agreement with wanting to see Mejia put in a full season of AA before ‘crowning’ him a key member of the 2012 rotation. Now with this injury, that dream is probably on hold.

  • Cruzer

    this is completely rididculous…. All this is is looking for someone to blame for the Mets having no talent on the field. Looking for someone to blame for the Mets going no where for a good 5 years. Why is no one blaming Tony LaRussa for starting Adam Wainwright out as a closer then making him a starter and for 3 years he’s thrown 200+ innings? Making a young top prospect a guy that comes out of the bullpen early in his career is not uncommon anymore. Are we gonna blame the Nats for “ruining” Steven Strasburg. The kid had never come close to throwing the amount of innings he was on his way to throwing. And where’s he at? Oh yea, hes on the operating table. Injuries happen man. To say it’s ALL Jerry’s fault is completely absurd.
    Also, Tommy John surgery is not a death sentence. So he will be out probably until mid to late next season. Big deal! This team is going no where, and most guys anymore getting TJS come just as strong if not stronger. This is probably the most common injury to a baseball player in our game today.
    I think this article is the most ridiculous opinion piece I’ve ever read.

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