Posted on September 1, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The New York Mets appear to have lost another player to a season-ending injury. Manager Terry Collins announced after Wednesday’s win over the Miami Marlins that second baseman Neil Walker is likely to undergo surgery to treat a herniated disk in his back, a surgery that will end his season. Walker, who will speak to the media about the issue on Thursday, will join David Wright, Lucas Duda, Justin Ruggiano, and Matt Harvey as players on New York’s DL who won’t be returning this season, with Jon Niese and Juan Lagares being two more players who are unlikely to play again in 2016.
Walker has missed time at various points this season due to a sore back, including the last four games. The herniated disk has caused Walker to feel numbness in his foot and weakness in his leg. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Mets GM Sandy Alderson expressed his confidence that Walker would be able to play through the issue and return to the field this season. However, after getting a second opinion, that view has changed and it now looks like Walker will opt for surgery.
“After all the evidence has been gathered, he thinks that’s where he’s probably headed,” Collins explained. “But we’re certainly very disappointed that it comes to this. He’s had a tremendous year for us. Certainly he makes the decision, and it’s in his best interest.” Outside of Yoenis Cespedes, Walker has been New York’s best offensive player this year. With a month left in the season, Walker had already tied his career-high in home runs with 23. He also finishes the season with a career best OPS of .823.
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“This is a special guy,” Collins said. “He wants to help now, and he’s afraid that if he goes out there in his present condition, he’s not going to be able to play the way he wants to play. He didn’t say one thing about next year. He didn’t say one thing about down the road. He just said, ‘Look, right now, I’ve got to help out and I don’t know if I can.'”
“It’s a massive hit,” lamented infielder Kelly Johnson. “Losing anybody that you’ve been counting on, and having such a great year — Neil’s been, not just on the field but in here, he’s a positive attitude and upbeat, has fun, loves playing the game. It rubs off on us.”
Johnson and Wilmer Flores figure to be Walker’s primary replacements at second base, although Flores has also been part of a platoon at first base with James Loney. With rosters set to expand, Matt Reynolds, Ty Kelly, and T.J. Rivera could also be in the mix at second base. However, based on his production this season, Walker leaves big shoes to fill. It doesn’t help that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is playing through a knee injury, admitting that if the Mets weren’t chasing a playoff spot he wouldn’t be playing.
For Walker personally, the injury comes right as he’s about to enter free agency. What kind of impact this has on the interest in him, particularly with regard to the Mets either re-signing him or making him a qualifying offer, remains to be seen. Alderson previously expressed interest in speaking with Walker’s representatives about coming back next season.
Even with Walker playing intermittently as of late, the Mets have won nine of their last 11 games, bringing them within a game and a half of the second wild card spot, behind only the St. Louis Cardinals after passing both the Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates in the standings. However, knowing that Walker isn’t coming back this season may make it that much harder for the Mets to continue their ascent to the top of the wild card standings over the final month of the season. Of course, Walker’s injury is not the first the Mets have had to overcome in 2016, so no one should be counting out the Mets just yet.