As of the time I’m writing this, it was just reported that Edwin Diaz tore the patellar tendon in his right knee while celebrating Puerto Rico’s win over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night. Even before we knew the diagnosis, we knew it did not look good. The history of athletes sustaining non-contact leg injuries so dire that they can’t put any pressure on the afflicted leg and need to be assisted off the field of play did not suggest otherwise, and here we are. He is expected to miss the season.
It sucks for Diaz. It sucks for Puerto Rico, both his teammates and the proud baseball nation rooting for them. And it sucks for his primary employer, which recently shelled out $102 million to ensure Diaz’s services for the next five years, assuming he’d be able to provide said services unimpeded by an injury sustained in his moonlighting gig.
That primary employer is the New York Mets, which you knew even if you didn’t know, because who else would it have been?
It was a blameless tragedy to which the baseball and Mets commentariat has no doubt tried to assign blame, all of which we can extinguish in short order. It’s not the World Baseball Classic’s fault for existing. The tournament is not here to provide added value to American baseball fans (despite the fact that more American stars have eagerly opted in with every iteration of the tournament) whose heterogeneity and concrete allegiances to their MLB teams have always rendered the WBC as meaningless preseason exhibition. It justifies its existence in the significance it clearly has with fans from countries like Mexico, Japan, Venezuela, Korea, Cuba, the D.R. and P.R., who have infused games with party-like atmospheres, the kind that make you wish MLB games were a little less stolid and a little more Savannah Bananas.
It’s easy to be cynical about the World Baseball Classic as an American fan, but don’t let our provincialism fool you. This tournament matters. It’s not the World Cup, but it matters.
It’s also not Diaz’s fault for celebrating, a wild reaction that nonetheless has salience in the shoutiest corridors of the Hot Take Factory. Players celebrate, freak accidents happen, players get hurt. It doesn’t happen too often and Edwin Diaz certainly isn’t at fault for feeling his jubilant feelings.
Can we blame the fact that the World Baseball Classic takes place in March — right before its marquee participants begin the campaign for which they get paid — as opposed to November or December, when injuries are less likely to compromise their MLB availability? Maybe? But even if Diaz tore his patellar tendon in November, he’s still out through the following season’s All-Star break. Probably longer.
There’s nothing and no one to blame in the earthly realm for Diaz’s injury. Random, tragic bullshit happens. It happens a lot to the Mets, maybe more than your average sports team but probably not an anomalous amount despite what Mets fans may tell you about our star-crossed franchise. Bad luck for the Mets was typically just meddlesome and neglectful ownership disguised as metaphysical injustice. Mets fans want to believe we’re cursed, but really, it’s just that the wrong people were in charge and poor leadership festered into poor results. Steve Cohen proved that you can take luck out of the equation by building a team and an organization strong enough to withstand the cruelest twists of fate.
That’s why this feels like something weirder, and why in the absence of physical, tangible blame, my mind decided to go to a more ethereal place. My left brain knows this is all a sad coincidence, that it could’ve happened to any player on any team. My right brain believes that the Mets are so cosmically and comically tragic, that these things keep happening to them because they never should have existed at all. The original sin of Walter O’Malley moving the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles and National League baseball out of New York was so grievous and final that the Mets’ very existence is a glitch on our timeline. Everything that’s happened to the Mets is a result of the universe trying to course-correct the blight of their place in our collective consciousness. No, they’re not perpetually moribund. The Mets are such a confounding strain of time-space virus that once in a generation they’ll run into a World Series or a pennant, a result of the universe unleashing unto Flushing the wrong concoction of antibodies. Edwin Diaz got hurt in the manner that he did because the Mets aren’t supposed to be here on our plane of existence, and anyone and anything touched by this multiversal orange and blue pockmark is doomed.
Or maybe I just feel that way because I’m a Mets fan. Maybe we’ll win the 2023 World Series with Adam Ottavino or Zack Britton on the mound.
Hey…maybe we’ll win the 2023 World Series with Adam Ottavino or Zack Britton on the mound.