Despite a slew of injuries to key players this season, the Mets remain committed to strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis, GM Sandy Alderson told Mike Puma of the NY Post.
"Mike is not going anywhere," Alderson said. "Mike is one of our most important staff and resources. ... The perception that some people have of what Barwis provides to the Mets is completely erroneous. He provides mostly training in the offseason."
Barwis has been with the Mets since 2015. He relocated the central hub of his Barwis Methods business to newly built training facility at the team's complex St. Lucie, where Mets players (and several players from other MLB teams) spend time in the offseason training with him and his staff.
Yoenis Cespedes was filmed during the offseason doing 1,100 pound 'bear squats,' but Alderson said Barwis had nothing to do with Cespedes working with that much weight and that Cespedes trusts Barwis.
"Cespedes didn't do any of that kind of exercise with any of his work with Barwis," Alderson said. "It was filmed, I think, because somebody wanted to demonstrate how strong he might be and it has left a completely erroneous impression."
Cespedes, whose season ended due to a hamstring strain -- and who dealt with another hamstring injury earlier this season -- recently said that he was going to change his training regimen this offseason while attempting to also lose 15 pounds.
Alderson added the Barwis "had nothing to do" with Noah Syndergaard's offseason training. Syndergaard, who put on a significant amount of muscle during the offseason and who has been out since April due to a torn lat, said -- like Cespedes -- that he will be changing his training regimen.
"So much of what I've learned this year," Syndergaard said earlier this summer, "is that I thought I was doing what I needed to be doing. But I realize now how messed up my body was, and I'm working hard to get it back to normal."
The varying injuries the Mets suffered during the season make it hard to blame Barwis, a team source told Puma, again reiterating he works with players in the winter not summer.
In addition to Cespedes and Syndergaard, the team also dealt with injuries in 2017 to Michael Conforto (dislocated shoulder and torn posterior capsule), Jeurys Familia (blood clot), Matt Harvey (scapula), Steven Matz (ulnar nerve), Zack Wheeler (stress reaction), and T.J. Rivera (Tommy John surgery), all of whom missed significant time this season.
From what I've been told, and now see with my own eyes, is that Alderson has already started instituting policies to improve communication between coaches, trainers, doctors, players and Barwis. The best example is how they're handling Syndergaard's return...
That said, the above quotes from Alderson to Puma are noteworthy, because they seem to defend how distant one element (Barwis) is from what everyone else is doing.
The fact is, Sandy is correct -- no one group is responsible or doing anything wrong. According to people around baseball (and not the Mets) Barwis does terrific work, as do the team's doctors, players, training staff and coaches. The problem isn't in their individual actions, it's that they may not have been working together and so -- at times -- were not discussing how certain dietary changes and training routines may impact expected on-field performance.
Again, thankfully, it seems things are changing...
In addition to a new policy of sending frequent, detailed updates to media on the current state of literally every player on the DL and in recovery from injury or surgery, the Mets also seem to be getting departments together to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Alderson speaks to reporters after the trade deadline in 2015. Credit: USA Today Sports.
"We're going to err on the side of caution and give him some extra time," Terry Collins recently said, when explaining why a Syndergaard throwing session had been delayed. "We talked about it and got a lot of people together, including the trainers, and they said they'd like to take an extra day with him. I think you'll see him throwing to hitters soon."
Similarly, in May, after several devastating injuries to his team, which was followed by harsh criticism from fans and media, Alderson announced that he planned to start holding daily meetings with his medical staff.
"We haven't reached any significant conclusions, but we have changed some of our practices," Alderson said at the time about potential adjustments to the team's injury protocol.
The Orioles, Yankees, Nationals, Astros, and Pirates had all overhauled their medical, and strength and conditioning departments in recent years, according to a recent report from ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. And, in the case of Houston and Pittsburgh, each hired directors of performance, or sports scientists to help bridge the gap between on- and off-field staff.
Alderson had been considering a similar solution, he told Crasnick.
"Having a director of performance sciences is a relatively new idea that's been adopted by a handful of teams,'' Alderson explained. "It makes sense to have someone who coordinates all of the various training and rehabilitation disciplines. That's something we certainly are looking at on an ongoing basis and may be considering in the future. In the meantime, that coordination is being done with the personnel we have, and I feel that coordination has worked well.''
In re-reading the above statement from Collins, the takeaway should be him saying how all key parties met, talked, and made a collective decision based on the best interest of the player (as opposed to wins, tickets, and ratings). Also, after silencing Collins on medical issues earlier this season, he was clearly free to make that comment, which further suggests changes have been made and that they're confident in the results.
The team's training and medical staff is an easy target for people who need to blame someone or something for injuries. However, the truth is, their doctors and training staff are very much respected around the game. In many cases, other organizations send their players to New York.
Again, I contend the two main issues for the Mets have been 1) occasionally rushing guys back from the disabled list, possibly for the purposes of ticket sales, promotion, and a desperate need to win; and 2) getting different departments to communicate with one another.
In other words, it's not the personnel as much as it's the protocol and purpose. You can read more about this here, which I've written about a few times this season based on a discussion I had with author and injury expert, Will Carroll, who has consulting work with several team medical staffs.
Obviously, it would be nice to eliminate injuries entirely, but that is unrealistic. However, if Alderson ends this season having created a better process to get players back healthier and less likely to be reinjured, it will be a major victory for 2017.