The Cubs have given us plenty of reasons to criticize them over the last few years (and beyond, of course), but it’s nice to know we can always feel better by saying, “At least they’re not the Mets.” Steve Cohen’s pricey circus courts epic failure at every turn, the latest example of which is former GM Billy Eppler stepping down in the wake of an ongoing MLB investigation into improper use of the injured list.
Eppler’s departure isn’t entirely shocking in and of itself because this is what the Mets do and because former Brewers baseball boss David Stearns recently took over as the Mets’ president of baseball operations. However, many were quite surprised by the move, which came after Eppler informed upper management that he didn’t want to be a distraction to an organization that might not even have any actual substance if it wasn’t for distractions.
If Stearns hires a new No. 2, it’ll mark the team’s sixth GM since 2018. That inglorious run is comprised thus far of Brodie Van Wagenen, Jared Porter, Zack Scott, Sandy Alderson, and Eppler, a group that represents systemic organizational incompetence on a number of different levels. Anywho, back to the issue at hand.
Everyone knows about the “phantom IL” and it’s something most or all other teams have used at one point or another. With that in mind, the Mets must have really been flagrant with their roster manipulation. Or perhaps one of the players involved wasn’t complicit in his designation. Maybe a disgruntled employee blew the whistle. Mets fans have offered plenty of theories, a number of which involve former Cubs great Tommy Hunter.
The righty reliever managed just 54 innings over 36 appearances in a three-year tenure with the Mets that included multiple IL stints due to back issues. Many believe those back issues tended to flare up following periods of poor performance, though there’s a lot of chicken-and-egg at play there. Either way, Hunter was designated for assignment on June 10 and released three days later. He was not picked up by another team.
Another solid theory involves 31-year-old outfielder Tim Locastro, who was placed on the 10-day IL with back spasms on April 17 to clear a spot for third baseman Brett Baty to be recalled. Thing is, the Baty promotion may have been in the works prior to any actual injury to Locastro. But the real kicker is that Locastro really did get hurt during his rehab assignment and was eventually placed on the 60-day IL until finally being reactivated on August 12.
Without openly accusing the Mets of falsely manipulating the IL in either case, it’s easy to see how either player might be a little salty over the way things played out for them. We may not know for sure until MLB concludes its investigation, and even then it might all just end up like a fart in the wind since the scapegoat is already gone.
To that end, I want to very briefly revisit the idea of Stearns stepping in to run the Mets’ baseball operations and what that could mean moving forward. For now, I’m speaking specifically about the pervasive Pete Alonso rumors we’ve been covering this week. MLB Network Radio’s Mike Ferrin told me definitively that Alonso is not being traded, citing Stearns’ comments on the matter.
While I am dubious of executives’ public comments as a rule, Ferrin “weigh(s) the history of the exec’s public truth-telling with the historical accuracy of those pushing the rumors.” That’s certainly fair and I noted in the piece linked above that we should consider how the reports are coming from competing sports radio stations in Chicago, so we’ll see how everything ends up playing out.
For now, let’s just take solace in the fact that the Cubs aren’t the Mets.