Nimmo proud of himself, other vets as season ends abruptly

Center fielder's year cut short due to AC joint sprain in right shoulder

October 1st, 2023

NEW YORK -- Until this week, the Mets were only a shade worse than the celebrated Braves at keeping their core position players healthy. For most of the summer, regardless of aches and pains, , , and posted up nearly every single day.

Then came the final week of the season and what Nimmo ruefully called “a cherry on top for how this year’s been.” Between rain delays, late nights and doubleheaders, the Mets endured a few final injury indignities: McNeil was diagnosed with a partial tear of the UCL in his left elbow, Nimmo suffered a season-ending AC joint sprain in his right shoulder, and during the first game of a doubleheader sweep of the Phillies on Saturday, Alonso even took a cut fastball off the face guard of his batting helmet.

Alonso was fine, but the other two are done for the year, left unable to participate in the Mets’ 4-3 and 11-4 wins at Citi Field.

“It is [disappointing], but honestly, I’m proud of the season,” Nimmo said. “We were really pushing for it early, and the guys needed me on an each-and-every-day basis. And then I was able to finish strong with the last couple months. It would have been nice to finish. But to be honest, this has been a crazy last week.”

Were the Mets headed to the playoffs, Nimmo likely would have received a cortisone injection and been ready for the start of the team’s first postseason series. With the team out of contention, however, there was little reason for him to do anything other than let his shoulder heal naturally. An MRI revealed no rotator cuff damage, giving Nimmo and the Mets plenty of optimism that he’ll be back to normal early in the offseason.

McNeil, likewise, doesn’t need surgery despite his partial ligament tear. He’ll rest for six weeks, refrain from playing golf (the hard part), and be ready for the start of Spring Training.

“I’ve been grinding through it basically all year,” McNeil said. “I’ve basically always had something going on.”

In a vacuum, these injuries don’t matter much for a team that has long been out of realistic contention. To a man, though, Mets players have yearned to stay as competitive as possible despite their position in the standings. Saturday provided the latest example, as Tylor Megill broke out a new pitch -- a clone of Kodai Senga’s ghost fork, which he renamed “The American Spork” -- in the first game of a doubleheader, before Francisco Alvarez hit a grand slam as part of a multihomer effort in the nightcap. Alonso appeared in both halves of the proceedings and was hit by a pitch in each game, encapsulating the idea that posting up isn’t easy.

“We’re a bunch of high-character individuals that are working toward the same goal, which is going out there and trying to be as excellent as possible,” Alonso said recently. “The season hasn’t gone as well as we want. But despite the results, we still keep going out there and holding ourselves accountable and to a high standard.”

That’s why Nimmo was at least somewhat bummed not to be able to play in the season’s final three games (or three and change, if the Mets are forced to return to Citi Field on Monday for the ninth inning of Thursday’s suspended game against the Marlins). The first portion of Nimmo’s career had been defined by a frequent inability to take the field. Over the past two seasons, Nimmo has worked hard to shed that injury-prone reputation, revamping his training routine in an effort to stay healthy.

It’s worked, resulting in a $162 million contract and confidence that he can not only stay healthy going forward, but also continue to improve. This summer, Nimmo focused on his power stroke, resulting in career highs in home runs (24), extra-base hits (60) and RBIs (68), all without sacrificing the on-base skills that made him such a valued leadoff man in the first place. Next year, Nimmo hopes to steal more bases without affecting his ability to play daily.

So despite the way things ended, the Mets are satisfied with the season that Nimmo gave them. He can rest easy this winter on the strength of his accomplishments.

“I’m really proud of it, personally,” Nimmo said. “I think I made a lot of strides offensively, and I think that I learned a lot of things that I’m going to take into next year. Things didn’t work out the way we wanted, obviously, team-wise. But I’m very, very proud of the strides I made personally.”