On one hand, if ever there was a time for pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery, this is it. Because the abbreviation of this season due to the coronavirus pandemic means there is less baseball to be missed while recovering from the operation, which typically takes about 15 months.
On the other hand, the extremely limited supply of personal protective equipment for medical professionals means that elective surgery is, at best, an irresponsible thing to be doing.
If it seems like one of these choices should easily outweigh the other, that’s because it should. Yes, it would suck for Chris Sale or Noah Syndergaard to have to wait until there’s no longer a crisis to be able to start an extended period of inactivity, possibly costing them multiple seasons of their athletic primes.
More people dying from COVID-19 would suck a whole lot more.
The choice between someone’s ability to throw a baseball and someone’s ability to continue living is … okay, apparently it’s not that easy, according to National League Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso lashed out at critics of Syndergaard’s surgery.
There was an easy way to get around this, either for Syndergaard and Sale, or for the Mets and Red Sox, especially knowing that even Dr. James Andrews, the most famous orthopedic surgeon in America, has stopped performing Tommy Johns for the time being. Tyler Beede of the San Francisco Giants got it right after his own surgery, telling The Athletic that he would have postponed the operation if necessary, and that “I’m not insensitive to what’s going on in the world.”
The Mets, in their statement announcing Syndergaard’s surgery, at least acknowledged the existence of the pandemic. That’s better than the Red Sox did, both in announcing that Sale would go under the knife and that his surgery was successful.
If Stephon Marbury can arrange for 10 million N95 masks to help New York’s fight against coronavirus, surely two sports franchises worth a combined $5.5B, or a couple of multimillionaire pitchers, should be able to wrangle up something? It’s not just that it’s a good thing to do, it’s a must for public relations at a time when you’re quite clearly doing something selfish during a global crisis.
Even if nothing is finalized as far as what kind of support the teams or players would want to publicly give to the battle against the virus, how tone deaf do you have to be to just go ahead with these elective surgeries and not give a nod to what’s happening?
Here’s how easy it should be for both teams:
“The New York Mets (Red Sox) appreciate that medical professionals are risking their own health every day to save lives as the coronavirus pandemic rages. While we’re glad that Noah Syndergaard (Chris Sale) is able to have his Tommy John surgery performed, and it’s important to us as a baseball team, we want to support the efforts of doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who are doing things that are more important to our community. We’re the New York Mets, and right now the emphasis is on New York. Therefore, we are arranging for $1 million worth of personal protective equipment to be delivered to Elmhurst Hospital (Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, less than a mile from Fenway Park), just two miles from our Citi Field home. New York (Boston) has always had our back. Now we want to have New York’s (Boston’s).”
If the Mets or Red Sox want to take that, word for word, go ahead. Just do the right thing instead of looking like a bunch of dopes trying to do business as usual at a time when nothing is usual.