The Mets' health report on Ike Davis, and the real story

Citi Field. (paul.hadsall, via flickr)
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From a health perspective, this past weekend was a difficult one for the New York Mets. On Saturday, David Wright was held out of an intrasquad game with stiffness in his rib cage. Reserve outfielder Scott Hairston, the only legitimate backup outfielder on the team, reaggravated the oblique injury that ended his 2011 season.

And Ike Davis, the team's first baseman, who missed all but 36 games last year with an ankle injury revealed that he has been diagnosed with Valley Fever, a fungal infection that has curtailed some baseball careers and ended others.

Pushback against the resulting panic came in a statement from the Mets assuring the public that everything was fine. There are reasons to think so, if the statement is accurate: Davis is exhibiting no symptoms, for instance. And the Mets are hardly the only team with injuries at this point.

But the reason fan response was so fatalistic, and not ameliorated by this statement, is in part that the Davis incident is just the latest example of the Mets issuing injury information that simply isn't true.

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As Adam Rubin noted, just nine days before Davis acknowledged his illness, the Mets “maintained upon his return to camp Feb. 23 following an exam in New York that (1) Davis had a "minor" lung infection, he could resume activities without restriction, and the issue was resolved in their minds. Yet Valley Fever, given the potential severity of its symptoms after as much as a three-week incubation period, hardly qualifies as a 'minor lung infection.'”

Had this been a one-time incident, the Mets probably would be getting a pass from reporters and fans alike. After all, how often does a team face a Valley Fever diagnosis? This pattern has become so familiar, however, that its shocking when a Mets player does have the injury announced by the team, and misses anywhere close to the time the team estimates.

Davis himself was an example of this with his ankle injury last year. After colliding with David Wright on an infield pop fly on May 10, the injury that ended Davis's season was described by the team as a “strained left calf”. He was listed as day-to-day.

Two days later, Davis was placed on the disabled list, with an estimated return time of “at least two weeks." Fun fact: in the same story, David Wright is described this way: “Wright is recovering from a sore back that has bothered him since April 19, and he was not in the starting lineup Thursday for the first time all season, but is expected back Friday in Houston.”

Wright, you may remember, was diagnosed days later with a fracture in his back that kept him out until July, following inaccurate timetables of three weeks and then six weeks.

“Maybe we'll get David back for (Johan) Santana's first start," Sandy Alderson joked in a June 4 postgame press conference, speaking about the pitcher who, of course, didn't return at all in 2011, missing multiple timelines set by the team.

But back to Davis. On May 31, the Mets announced Davis would miss another “three-plus weeks” so that a boot on his ankle could properly heal it. Also, the bone bruise was out. As Alderson described it, “There’s been some question, is it really a bone bruise? Is it a stress fracture?”

He also said, "It hasn’t been recharacterized as anything other than a bone bruise, but a bone bruise bleeds into a stress fracture.”

The answer, for those who waited another three-plus weeks, was: cartilage damage. The Mets announced on June 23 that Davis, if he did not improve over the next three weeks, would have season-ending surgery.

Similar announcements followed intermittently for the remainder of the season; ultimately, Davis decided not to have the surgery, seeing as it was recommended by the very people who fit him with the boot that apparently caused the cartilage damage.

This has been going on for years with the Mets.

At an offseason baseball event, Newsday beat writer Dave Lennon described former Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado this way: “Delgado looks like he could play tomorrow, but even now, the surgically repaired hip still bothers him a little.”

That injury, of course, was described by the Mets in May 2009 at various points as soreness, discomfort, inflammation, tendinitis and then an impingement. He was listed as day-to-day, and never played in the major leagues again.