Noah Syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard's season-ending injury changes landscape of NL East

Noah Syndergaard's season-ending injury changes landscape of NL East

Though no spring training games have taken place in 12 days, the Mets still suffered a catastrophic injury, losing Noah Syndergaard for the season.

Syndergaard has a torn UCL in his right elbow and needs Tommy John surgery. The early expectation is that Syndergaard will miss some regular-season time in 2021 as well.

This is disastrous for both the team and the player. Syndergaard is set for free agency after the 2021 season, which means he'll need to return next year and show he's healthy and still effective in order to get the huge contract he's long appeared headed for. The Mets have opted against trading him despite rumors in two consecutive offseasons and last trade deadline.

The 2020 Mets will obviously be worse off. Suddenly, their starting rotation goes from a major strength to closer to the middle of the pack. Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in the National League but teams won't be struck by fear when having to face Rick Porcello, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz in a three-game series.

This will change the outlook for the NL East. We don't yet know how many games the 2020 regular season will be so updated over-unders haven't been released, but the Mets' will surely drop by a couple games with this news.

The absence of Syndergaard in 2020 will help the Phillies, Braves and Nationals. Though, really, the Phillies have pounded Syndergaard the last two seasons. In seven meetings since 2018, Syndergaard has a 6.62 ERA and 1.95 WHIP against the Phillies, who've hit him hard for extra bases and run relentlessly against him on the basepaths.

Syndergaard's best work within the division (excluding the Marlins) has come against the Nationals. He has a 3.15 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 97 career innings against the defending champs.

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Hugely disappointing Mets could have one of MLB's most interesting trade deadlines

USA Today Images

Hugely disappointing Mets could have one of MLB's most interesting trade deadlines

It never seems to get better for Mets fans.

Expectations were extremely high for the Mets coming into the season. The reigning Cy Young winner, Jacob deGrom, was returning, along with Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler, who pitched as well in the second half last season as Aaron Nola.

Edwin Diaz, the best closer in baseball last season, was acquired, along with Robinson Cano, who was clearly declining and has a bad contract but still hit .292 with an .840 OPS the previous three seasons.

And yet here are the Mets, less than a week from the trade deadline and in position to potentially move one or more of Syndergaard, Wheeler and Diaz.

The belief, for a while, was that Wheeler was the most realistic trade candidate. He's a free agent after the season and teams that are 12½ games out around the trade deadline typically sell those pieces. But according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Mets may go in a different direction. They may choose instead to trade Syndergaard and look to extend Wheeler.

That approach would make a lot of sense. Syndergaard offers the Mets a chance to rebuild the farm system with top-end talent in a way that trading Wheeler cannot. The Padres have long coveted Syndergaard, and the Twins have also reportedly shown strong interest.

Truth be told, Syndergaard is a lot better in theory than he's been in reality. He has a 4.33 ERA in 20 starts this season. He's struck out just under a batter per inning despite possessing four-seam and two-seam fastballs that routinely touch 98-99 mph. He's hittable surprisingly often. His control is so strong that batters know they'll get a pitch in the zone. He can't hold runners on. He doesn't go especially deep into games, often finding himself at 100-105 pitches through six innings.

There is a perception that Syndergaard is an ace. He's not an ace. He's very good, but he might provide the Mets more value in a trade than he could going out there every fifth day the next couple seasons.

As for Diaz ... how ironic it would be if the Mets did trade him before Wednesday's deadline. It probably won't happen. First-year general manager Brodie Van Wagenen traded arguably the Mets' top two prospects, outfielder Jarred Kelenic and pitcher Justin Dunn, in addition to taking on $100 million-plus of Cano's contract, to acquire Diaz. It was an extremely bold move. Van Wagenen hadn't even gotten an up-close look at what Kelenic and Dunn could do.

It has worked out disastrously, with Diaz having the worst season of his career and the Mets being uncompetitive early in the summer. The optics of trading Diaz for less than it cost to acquire him would be awful, especially for a first-year GM and especially in New York. Selling low is illogical.

The Mets, though, figure to be one of the most active sellers at the deadline. Beyond these three pitchers, Todd Frazier is also likely to be moved. 

Two guys who will be going nowhere are rookies Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso. McNeil leads the majors with a .340 batting average and Alonso already has 34 home runs in 102 games. It's pretty incredible how bad the Mets are despite the eye-popping contributions of that duo.

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Does this video show Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard cheating against the Phillies?

Does this video show Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard cheating against the Phillies?

Put on your tin hats, folks, we’ve got ourselves a conspiracy. You be the judge.

There’s a video, from ESPN's broadcast of the game, that is starting to gain a lot of attention on social media that shows Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard doing something, perhaps, suspicious with his index and middle fingers during the fifth inning of last night’s 7-6 Mets win.

The video shows Syndergaard digging his fingers into the base of his glove, seemingly with some sort of purpose. What could he have been doing?

While we expected a pitchers' duel on Monday night between Aaron Nola and Syndergaard, we got something much different. In a game that featured an over/under of just 7.5, the teams combined for 13 runs, with 10 against the ace starters over just the first five innings. Were the playing conditions a factor?

The game time temperature at Citizens Bank Park was just 50 degrees with 24 mph wind whipping across the field. Needless to say, that’s not ideal conditions for anything outside except flying a kite. Either Syndergaard was doing absolutely nothing wrong, or, he could have been seeking to gain an advantage by placing a substance at the base of his glove to improve his grip, perhaps a sticky substance like pine tar.

As ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote last year, pitchers seemingly are using pine tar to gain a better grip on the baseball, perhaps on a cold night or to increase their spin and movement, but it’s a rule that hasn’t been strictly enforced. The last notable case of a player getting caught using pine tar was back in 2014 when Michael Pineda had some not-so-subtlety slathered on his neck. He received an immediate ejection and a 10-game suspension.

At the very least, Major League Baseball should examine the glove-in-question immediately, and if Syndergaard is found to have been cheating, he should be punished.

However, given that I have absolutely no idea what Syndergaard was doing, he deserves some benefit of doubt for the time being. Should his glove, and perhaps video, be examined and nothing found to be wrong, then at least we will know for sure and he should be given full clemency.

It will be interesting to see if Major League Baseball, will do anything, or if Gabe Kapler will say anything, if asked. 

That would be one heck of a move from Syndergaard, though, to cheat against the Phillies with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in the building last night.

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