When the New York Mets played the San Diego Padres in the Wild Card Series, it was the first time the Mets were in the postseason since they were in the postseason in 2016. In fact, that marked just the second time in team history the Mets went to the postseason in consecutive seasons.
While just seven years ago, none of the players from those 2015-2016 Mets teams are around anymore. Actually, that’s not entirely true with Jerry Blevins working on the SNY postgame and occasionally filling in for Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez.
Blevins isn’t the only player who is retired. Look back at their starting lineup in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series. Almost all of those players are retired:
- Curtis Granderson – retired
- David Wright – retired
- Daniel Murphy – retired
- Yoenis Cespedes – attempting a comeback after retiring
- Lucas Duda – retired
- Travis d’Arnaud – Atlanta Braves
- Michael Conforto – San Francisco Giants
- Wilmer Flores – San Francisco Giants
- Kelly Johnson – retired
That is five retired and one more effectively retired. Notably, with Johnson, we saw Michael Cuddyer and Kirk Nieuwenhuis pinch hit in that DH spot, and both are now retired. If anything, it would seem the San Francisco Giants is the official team of the 2015 Mets.
As we see with Conforto and Flores, there are still some of those Mets players still in the majors, Matt Harvey notwithstanding. However, when Jacob deGrom signing with the Texas Rangers, there are currently no players from that team still with the Mets organization.
When Seth Lugo signed with the San Diego Padres, that left the Mets with absolutely no pitchers from that two year run. When Conforto signed with the Giants, that meant Brandon Nimmo was the only Mets player from that two year stretch to remain with the Mets, and he only played in 32 games.
When deGrom signed with the Rangers, we obviously lamented the second greatest Met ever leaving the organization. However, it was Conforto and Lugo leaving which officially turned the page on those teams with so much promise which ultimately fell apart due to the Wilpons malfeasance and cheapness.
In a sense, we should welcome this chapter forever being closed. Now, it is all about Steve Cohen and how he runs the Mets. So far this offseason, that means Nimmo is a Met for life in addition to adding Justin Verlander, Koudai Senga, Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Omar Narvaez and hopefully, Carlos Correa. Oh, and by the way, the Mets brought back Edwin Diaz and Adam Ottavino.
So yes, it is sad to see a part of Mets history gone, but we will have those memories. More than that, we have an exciting new era and owner. Now, it is time to just wait for Correa to sign, and the Mets to win a World Series.
One of the topics discussed with Jacob deGrom‘s free agency was his New York Mets legacy. If he were to stay, he was definitively going to surpass David Wright as the best player in team history to spend his entire career with the Mets. However, deGrom signed with the Texas Rangers leaving Wright’s legacy secured.
That is not to say Wright’s legacy is set in stone. There are other players who could potentially challenge Wright’s status with the franchise. One of those players could be Brandon Nimmo.
Nimmo has started to make some headway onto the Mets record books. He’s fourth all-time in OBP, 11th in SLG and triples, 21st in runs scored, and 29th in doubles. He’s in the top 30 in a number of other categories. He’s also fifth all-time in wRC+ and sixth in OPS+.
Put another way, Nimmo has been one of the more dynamic offensive weapons in Mets history. He is not seen as such, but one day he could be viewed as the best lead-off hitter in team history. At the moment, that title probably belongs to Jose Reyes partially due to his longevity, and also, partially because of the stolen bases and triples.
In terms of Wright and Reyes, Nimmo has proven to be the far superior defender. Yes, Wright has the two Gold Gloves, but for his career, he had a -24 DRS. We can ignore OAA because there is only data for his 2016 season when he should not have been in the field due to the spinal stenosis. For his part, Reyes had a -60 DRS at short.
Nimmo was great this year in center with a 6 OAA. Much of that is in thanks to the Mets rebuilt scouting and analytical departments who positioned Nimmo better in the outfield. At the moment, he is a very good defensive center fielder. Over the long term, we know he will age well as he has experience playing good defense in the corners.
All told, Nimmo looks like the type of player who can emerge as one of the true greats in franchise history. In fact, he could emerge as the best.
He’s knocking at the door in terms of advanced offensive metrics like wRC+ and OPS+. We also see his defense at a level where he has become very good. That all should translate to WAR. That did this past season with him having a 5.1 bWAR and 5.4 fWAR. Of course, that is where things get a little more dicey with him.
At the moment, Nimmo ranks 14th among position players in Mets history with a 17.2 bWAR. That leaves him trailing Wright’s 49.2 by 32.0. His 17.9 fWAR ranks 13th, and he trails Wright’s 51.2 by 33.3. That is a significant gap.
However, as we learned with Wright’s career, you need to both stay and be healthy. For his part, Wright did stay, but sadly, he was not healthy as his career came to a very premature end due to spinal stenosis. When it comes to Nimmo, for most of his career, he has been injury prone, but for the first time this year, he was relatively healthy.
If Nimmo can stay healthy and stay, there’s a chanced he catches Wright. Assuming he lands a five year deal, he would have to average a 6.4 bWAR and 6.7 fWAR to catch Wright. Considering Nimmo’s high is a 5.1, that is a steep ask, but then again, he is capable of doing it or coming close to it.
Keeping in mind there is a universal DH and an ability to move to one of the corners, there is a chance Nimmo could play longer into his career and remain productive. We did see it with a player like Curtis Granderson. Again, while we can dicker over the likeliness of it all, it still remains a possibility.
However, for all of that to even be a discussion, the first step has to happen. Nimmo has to stay and re-sign. Of course, that’s not all on Nimmo. Much of that is on the Mets. When it comes to that, Nimmo being the only real center fielder on the market means the Mets have no other choice than to step up and keep him.
We saw Jacob deGrom leave. That was unfortunate. The Mets cannot let Nimmo leave. They need to keep him and let him secure his own legacy as a member of the New York Mets.
Collusion has been a very real thing in baseball history. That was no more apparent than when Andre Dawson signed a blank contract with the Chicago Cubs because no one would offer him a contract.
Ultimately, the Hall of Famer Bud Selig collusion efforts led to MLB paying $102.5 million to the player’s union. We’ve subsequently seen evidence of collusion, but the matter has not been subsequently taken to arbitration.
That brings us to the right now with Aaron Judge’s free agency.
As reported by The Athletic, MLB is requesting records between the New York Mets and New York Yankees regarding Judge. Specifically, they want communications between Steve Cohen and Hal Steinbrenner.
This goes back to a report saying how both teams “enjoy a mutually respectful relationship, and do not expect to upend that with a high-profile bidding war.” If you’ve been around New York baseball since free agency began, you knew this was going to be the case.
Typically speaking, the Mets and Yankees don’t pursue each other’s free agent players. That goes double for the higher profile players. Really, when you think about it, the Mets and Yankees never get into a bidding war over a player.
That’s not to say players don’t switch teams. We know Curtis Granderson signed with the Mets after four years in the Bronx. Pedro Feliciano signed with the Yankees after his second stint with the Mets.
What was notable about both players is their tenures with their previous team ended. To put it another way, the franchise was not pursuing their own player in free agency.
That may also explain the respective franchises historical obsession with their respective high profile players towards the end of their careers.
We’ve seen the Yankees sign players like Carlos Beltrán, Dwight Gooden, and Darryl Strawberry. The Mets made trades made trades to obtain El Duque and Robinson Canó in addition to signing players like Willie Randolph.
This just doesn’t happen when these players initially hit free agency and their team wants to keep that player. Certainly, a large part of that was the Wilpons unwillingness (followed by their inability) to spend.
As we look to this offseason, both Judge and Jacob deGrom are free agents. These are franchise defining players. They are future Hall of Famers whose numbers will be retired by their respective teams.
They also solve problems for both teams. It’s just going to come at exorbitant salaries. Even with the money both teams have, they likely will not be able to sign both.
That’s part of the reason there is a détente between these franchises.
These two teams could be running up the cost on the respective players. Eventually, one is going to be signed by someone. That doesn’t mean the other will get signed.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument, the Mets sign Judge. Let’s also assume, this puts them out of the deGrom market.
We’ve heard rumors deGrom is looking for money similar to Max Scherzer. Let’s say the Mets were in that neighborhood before signing Judge and breaking off negotiations.
It’s entirely possible the Yankees were never going to that point. That leaves them out on deGrom, and we’ve already heard other teams balking at what deGrom wants. In the end, this means deGrom eventually signs for less than what he would’ve had this détente not existed.
The simple fact is this détente is necessary for the franchises and players. It’s not driving down player salaries. It’s keeping them all high. It’s allowing Judge and deGrom get the highest possible contract they could receive.
Both the Mets and Yankees now they have an uneasy relationship. They’re rivals who share a city, but they need one another. They’re allies when it comes to revenue sharing and the CBT, and they both know they both do better financially when both teams are thriving.
So, the Mets and Yankees have this unwritten détente which has served New York baseball well for 30+ years. We will now soon find out if this unwritten détente is also unspoken.
It may be a bit unfair to Edwin Diaz, but back in 2019, the pressure could not have been higher. Keep in mind, he plays a position that is among the most pressure filled in all of pro sports.
There were high expectations based upon what he did with the Seattle Mariners. In some ways, it was on his shoulders to try to justify the dumb and ill-received trade to acquire him and Robinson Cano.
As we all know, Diaz faltered. It was easily the worst season of his career. The common refrain from that season from fans was Diaz could not handle New York. The corollary to this was never would’ve been able to do it here.
It’s been a crutch for New York fans. The common explanation as to why players thrive elsewhere is they can’t handle New York. It’s a convenient catch-all, which helps overlook the real reason why players failed.
Justin Turner didn’t thrive in Los Angeles because he continued the launch angle approach taught to him by Marlon Byrd. No, he couldn’t handle New York.
Jason Bay wasn’t an outfielder dealing with absurd outfield walls and concussions. No, he couldn’t handle New York.
Travis d’Arnaud wasn’t an injury prone catcher at a time Jeff Wilpon was meddling with medical decisions. No, he just couldn’t handle New York (also apparently, 2015 never happened).
There are countless examples through Mets history. All of those examples and the narrative is being proven absurd this season.
The funny thing is Diaz admitted he struggled with New York. In many ways, he was the epitome of can’t handle New York. In reality, he needs to adjust.
Diaz is not unique in this respect. Players struggle coming to new teams sometimes. For some reason, that does seem to apply to the Mets more than others.
Carlos Beltran needed a full season to get comfortable and return to his Hall of Fame form. It appears Francisco Lindor is going through the same transformation.
For that matter, Curtis Granderson struggled when he first came to the Mets. Keep on mind, Granderson played the previous four seasons with the New York Yankees.
That brings us back to Diaz. Yes, he struggled with New York. However, he mostly struggled with his mechanics. Back in 2019, the Mets just couldn’t get that right.
Jeremy Hefner was hired as pitching coach, he’s been vital for Diaz. He’s gotten his mechanics right, and now, Diaz is having a great season.
It’s at the point where Mets fans love him and await his entrance into games. Narco and the trumpets are a major feature at Mets games. It’s now at the point where the Mets have invited Timmy Trumpet to games.
That’s not bad for someone who can’t do it in New York. It’s almost as if that narrative was always a poor excuse, and Diaz proved it was nonsense all along.
With the return of the Old Timer’s Day, we are going to see some of the most beloved Mets in history return and play a game in front of adoring fans. We will once again get to see beloved players like Cliff Floyd, Daniel Murphy, and Robin Ventura return for the day. It is going to be a great and emotional experience.
Those are players forever in Mets lore. We will always love them for what they did on the field. Not all of them had the biggest personalities. There are, however, some Mets who had the innate ability to become fan favorites without so much as dominating.
One player all over the baseball news is Tsuyoshi Shinjo. The formet Met was hired as the manager of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Sorry, as Shinjo says, he isn’t the manager, but he is rather the “Big Boss.” This is just Shinjo being Shinjo. No one has better understand the great theatre baseball can be in the moments outside of the action. After all, he used to name his homers and orchestrated his own epic retirement ceremony
Baseball needs that type of theatre, and the Mets are the perfect frachise to embrace it. Shinjo can create a spectacle which could garner attention and interest. Really, teams pay a lot of money to hire people who try to figure out the things Shinjo just does on his own, and it comes naturally to him. Whether as a part of the coaching staff, televsion, or just as a team ambassador, Shinjo would make Mets games that much more entertaining.
In recent history, Mets games have probably not been as much fun as they were in 2015. A large part of that was the Mets winning the pennant. Another component of that was the force of nature that was Juan Uribe.
Uribe was the perfect addition to that Mets team. First and foremost, he was the real stopgap third baseman the team needed. He would quickly ingratiate himself to Mets fans with a walk-off hit in his second game with the team. He would then become a larger than life character for needling David Wright, objecting to football being played on TV, and for declaring he doesn’t wear a cup in the field because there isn’t one big enough for him.
Uribe was great in the clubhouse keeping the team on an even keel and upbeat during their first real pennant race. He was also a leader who helped the team reach their full potential that season. In some ways, his presence was missed the following season as he helped a Cleveland team get to the next level. Certainly, you want to believe there is room for him to do the same again for the Mets in some capacity.
Finally, there is Curtis Granderson. Aside possibly being the best human being to ever don a Mets uniform, Granderson was as fun a player as there was. He was not just terrific on the field, but he was also the genius behind the We Follow Lucas Duda Instagram account. Granderson didn’t just understand how to make baseball fun on the field, he knew how to do it off the field as well. The fact he is a great person on top of it makes it all the more important to get him to return in some capacity.
Overall, the Mets franchise has had a number of colorful characters. From Roger McDowell to the hot foots to Pete Alonso with the fake hitting coaches, you need a certain personality to handle and thrive in New York. While the Mets do need to honor their greats, they also need to find a way to better incorporate those players who made the Mets the fun team they are and hopefully always will be.
In 2005, after signing what was the largest contract in New York Mets history, Carlos Beltran couldn’t have had a worse season. He went from an All-Star and postseason hero to a below average hitter with a 2.9 WAR. Things were so bad, he even would even have a horrific collision with Mike Cameron in the outfield. He was literally bloodied and broken from his first year with the Mets.
On Opening Day the following season, there was a smattering of boos for Beltran. That seems odd considering the Mets actually had some postseason aspirations for the first time since the 2000 World Series. It turned out to be outright stupid given what Beltran would do in 2006.
That 2006 season could very well be seen as the best individual season a Mets position player has ever had. Beltran had an astounding 8.2 WAR. He hit .275/.388/.594 with 38 doubles, one triple, 41 homers, and 116 RBI. The numbers almost don’t do it justice. It was a season of Gold Glove caliber defense in center and clutch homers. It is difficult to go through that season and choose just one highlight.
It was that season where Beltran put himself on a Hall of Fame path. Over a three year span, he had a 20.6 WAR. There were Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, and All-Star appearances. He did all he could do in that stretch to get the Mets to the postseason and win the World Series.
Certainly, Beltran isn’t unique in those first year struggles with the Mets. Mike Piazza was actually booed before becoming one of the most beloved players in team history. Curtis Granderson went from massive disappointment to a team leader who brought the Mets to the doorstep of the World Series, and in the end, became one of the most respected men to ever don the Mets uniform. The examples are countless with this franchise.
That includes Francisco Lindor.
Lindor came to the Mets with much fanfare, and he signed a historic 10 year $341 million extension. Essentially, Lindor said he wanted to be a part of the Mets for the rest of his career, and more to the point, he wanted to be the first player to truly sign on to what Steve Cohen is going to bring to the Mets franchise.
It just didn’t quite work out in the first year. He hit .230/.322/.412 with 16 doubles, three triples, 20 homers, and 63 RBI. He was slightly better than 2005 Beltran with a 3.1 WAR. He was still Gold Glove caliber with the glove, but ultimately, this isn’t the player Lindor has been throughout his career. That said, there were some flashes:
That’s the thing with Lindor. The talent is still there. Just like with Beltran in 2005 or Piazza in 1998, we knew it was there. We just didn’t see it partially because those players were trying to get comfortable in an extraordinarily difficult place to play. Assuredly, the booing didn’t help any of these players.
Lindor is cut from the same cloth as Beltran and Piazza. He’s a Hall of Famer. He’s a truly great player. He just needed that first year of New York under his belt to get comfortable. He is going to succeed here because he’s a great player. He’s going to have a great year because he’s a great player. Ultimately, we saw the flashes from Lindor in 2021, and we’re going to see him put it all together in 2022.
One of the more coveted free agent outfielders at the moment is Starling Marte. He really stands out among a very thin crowd due to his speed, his ability to play center, and his not having a qualifying offer attached.
Marte is coming off a season where he had a 4.7 WAR while hitting .310/.383/.458 with 27 doubles, three triples, 12 homers, and 55 RBI. He led the majors in stolen bases while being successful in 47 of his 52 stolen base attempts. Marte had a career high 133 wRC+, and he had a 3 OAA in center.
Part of the career high 133 wRC+ were some big positives. Marte had a career best 8.3 BB%. The 39.6 hard hit percentage was also the best of his career. The 8.4 barrel percentage was also the very best of his career. Really, across the board, this was the best year of his career at the plate.
When you combine the bat with the base running and defense, it was an All-Star caliber season. In fact, by WAR, it was the fourth best year of his career. This should be the exact type of player you want to invest in during free agency. If you get him, your team should be thrilled.
There are some real red flags for Marte. First and foremost, with his turning 33 after the 2021 season was over, Marte is firmly, at least by age, on the outside of the prime seasons of his career. This may or may not be fair to Marte, but we have seen it several times.
For every Carlos Beltran with the Cardinals and Yankees or Curtis Granderson with the Mets, you get a lot of busts. The history of free agency is replete with them. When you sign players that age, it’s difficult to ascertain which way the rest of their career is going to go. That would be an argument to try to get Marte to a short-term deal, but with the amount of suitors, that may not be possible.
There are other issues beyond age. While there were some real standout numbers driving the career best 133 wRC+, there were some problematic numbers. While Marte has always had a higher BABIP, he had a .369 BABIP, a number which is going to drop precipitously. Even with the hard hit rate and barrels, Marte’s .148 ISO was the third worst of his career, and it was the second straight year his ISO dropped. It should also be noted his average exit velocity was one of the worst in the majors.
More alarming with Marte is his speed. Like with the ISO, he’s had a two year drop in sprint speed. With the drop in speed comes some problems because much of his value is wrapped up in his speed. His speed is behind his terrific base running. It is why his BABIPs have been traditionally high. It is a driving force of his defense.
Overall, Marte is a very good player. We don’t know how long he will be very good. We don’t know what his regression will look like. Perhaps, it will be gradual. Maybe, he will fall off a cliff. Standing here right now, it is very difficult to know how 2022 and the ensuing years will go for Marte.
In the end, if your team signs Marte, you should be very happy. Marte is a very good player and a real difference maker. That said, there are some real areas of concern, and no one should be surprised if he can’t replicate his 2021 season. No one should be surprised if he can’t replicate even an average Marte season.
Like 2015, Wilmer Flores was the last man standing between elimination and celebration. Once again, an umpire made a horrendous call.
Back in the 12th inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, Home Plate Umpire Alfonso Marquez called Flores out looking despite the Wade Davis pitch being well off the plate. Truth be told that call didn’t impact the series as the Mets trailed 7-2.
That’s not the case in Game 5 of the 2021 NLDS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the Dodgers leading 2-1 in the winner-take-all game. Kris Bryant represented the tying run at first, and Flores, the Mets all-time leader in walk-off RBI was at the plate.
Max Scherzer was up 0-2 in the count, and Flores entered the at-bat 0-for-17 against Scherzer. And yet, there was still a chance. That was until first base umpire Gabe Morales made a call which had even Don Dekinger shaking his head:
Umpire Gabe Morales eliminated the Giants from the playoffs with a blown check swing call to Wilmer Flores.#Giants #Dodgers #LADvSF pic.twitter.com/8LiUDSR6fo
— Umpire Auditor (@UmpireAuditor) October 15, 2021
As Jimmy Rollins said in the postgame, Morales is the only person on the planet who thought Flores swung. Curtis Granderson heavily inferred Morales choked under the pressure.
It wasn’t the only completely blown check swing call by Morales in this series. Going back to the Bryant fourth inning strikeout with five of six pitches out of the zone, it wasn’t even the only series changing blown call.
Put another way. MLB Umpires blew a call they can’t blow. It wasn’t close. It was an embarrassment to the sport. It needs to be fixed and corrected, but Rob Manfred and the Umpire’s Union has zero interest in that. Simply put, they don’t care AT ALL, and that’s why this garbage will continue to happen.
It was a very poorly kept secret back in 2017 if he had his druthers Sandy Alderson wanted to hire Kevin Long to succeed Terry Collins as the New York Mets manager. Long didn’t take anything for granted coming extremely prepared for the interview with binders of information. More than that, he had already had a profound impact on the Mets organization rejuvenating Curtis Granderson while transforming Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy.
However, it wasn’t to be. Instead, Jeff Wilpon got it in his mind he wanted to have Mickey Callaway as the manager. Despite Callaway interviewing poorly, it was enough for Wilpon to hire Callaway after one interview because the Philadelphia Phillies showed interest. As Mets fans can recall, this went over about as well as when the Mets included Jarred Kelenic in the Robinson Cano trade because the Phillies showed interest in Edwin Diaz.
Since then, the managerial position has been a disaster for the Mets. Callaway proved to be an awful human being harassing female reporters. After him, the Mets hired and then were effectively forced to fire Carlos Beltran. In a mad scramble, they hired Luis Rojas while completely failing to give him any chance to succeed in the position. Rather that let him continue to grow, the team has decided they need to go in a different direction.
Now, there are many moving pieces before the Mets get to hire a new manager. The biggest is the need to hire a new president of baseball operations. Presumably, that is the person who will and should have the biggest input on who the Mets next manager will be. Whatever the case, the Mets have the right to correct the mistake they made in 2017 and hire Long.
For his part, Long served the world with a reminder why he was managerial material. During the National League Wild Card Game, he was sitting next to superstar Juan Soto, a player Long has helped get the most out of his ability. Soto was wearing a Trea Turner jersey (another player Long has helped immensely) while Long wore a Max Scherzer jersey.
Max Scherzer went over to high five Juan Soto and Kevin Long after the walk-off home run ? pic.twitter.com/HvV0s4FLzE
— Blake Finney (@FinneyBlake) October 7, 2021
In that moment, you saw everything you could have possibly wanted to see from a future manager of your team. He was standing there with his star player, a player in Soto he helped take from a 19 year old wunderkind to a bona fide Major League superstar. More than that, he showed the incredibly great relationship he fostered with his superstar player, the very type of relationship a manager absolutely needs to have any level of success.
We also saw the sense of loyalty he has for his players. He went out there to support both Turner and Scherzer. It was a moment which meant so much to them Scherzer made sure to go over to the stands to celebrate his team’s walk-off win with them. Keep in mind here, Scherzer is a free agent who should be on everyone’s radar.
When we look at the modern game and the current status of the managerial role, it is increasingly about relationships with the players and the ability to communicate. It’s no longer about Gil Hodges playing a hunch or Davey Johnson trusting his eyes over the data. Increasingly, it’s about taking the game plan prepared by the front office and not just executing it, but getting the players to buy in on the plan.
Putting aside what happened in the NL Wild Card Game, this is exactly what Long does. He helped transform Cespedes from a wild swinger to a player better able to identify his pitch and become a monster at the plate. There was also Murphy who went from gap to gap hitter to a legitimate threat at the plate. Murphy showed the 2015 postseason wasn’t a fluke by any means when he became an All-Star and MVP candidate with the Washington Nationals. It should be noted Long followed Murphy to Washington, D.C.
In total, Long is what you want in a manager. He can process data and translate it to players in a way where they can understand and execute it. We also see he is a coach who can foster great relationships with this players. He is also loyal to his players, and they love him. Short of being able to steal away the Bob Melvins of the world, you’re not going to find a better managerial candidate than Long.
Alderson knew it in 2017, and he can do what he wanted to do back then and make Long the Mets manager. If that is the case, we can expect the maddening Mets offense to finally click and for this team to reach the World Series potential we know they have.
In what may be the last time Michael Conforto plays at Citi Field as a member of the New York Mets, he would have a night to remember. He was 3-for-5 with a run, double, and two RBI. That double came in his final at-bat of the night:
Michael Conforto puts a cap on his day with a ground-rule double! 3 hits on the night! pic.twitter.com/nCyZEOc6k7
— SNY (@SNYtv) October 1, 2021
This night was the type of night we always expected from Conforto. He had clutch hits and terrific defensive plays in right field. The fans serenaded him and begged him to stay. It was just an emotional night with him at center stage:
Michael Conforto gets his ovation ? pic.twitter.com/XubI2SAWlr
— SNY (@SNYtv) October 1, 2021
If we look at just last night, it was a fitting end to Conforto’s time in New York, at least the Citi Field portion. However, expanding it out, it just doesn’t feel like Conforto would be leaving the right way. There is just too much unfinished business for him here.
When Conforto was first called up, we saw a superstar. In his rookie year, he certainly delivered on that. Yes, we will always go back to the two home runs in Game Four of the 205 World Series, but it was much more than that. As an aside, the fact we don’t call that Conforto Corner is our collective failure.
He’d homer in Game 2 of the NLDS. He had a sacrifice fly in Game 1 of the World Series. In a moment forever burned in my memory, Conforto came up to bat in the bottom of the 12th inning in Game Five. The Mets were down 7-2, there were two outs, and he was down in the count 1-2 to Wade Davis. Conforto didn’t give up. In fact, he would single.
In many ways, that is what should truly define Conforto’s tenure with the New York Mets – He didn’t give up.
After that rookie season, he would come out and establish himself as the best player on the Mets at the start of the 2016 season. That was until he got hurt. Between the injury and changing positions, Conforto fought it all year long. Instead of acknowledging the impact of the injury, an unfair narrative emerged. They put the label on him he couldn’t hit left-handed pitching and that Madison Bumgarner broke him.
It seems dumb in retrospect, but Conforto wasn’t quite guaranteed a starting job in 2017. Conforto would force his way into the lineup, and he would emerge as a new style of lead-off hitter. He would become an All-Star. At the time, it seemed like the first of many. Unfortunately, partially because of a devastating shoulder injury, to date, it would be Conforto’s only appearance.
It was a downright miracle Conforto was ready for Opening Day in 2018. Actually, it was a miracle and downright malpractice by the Mets organization. Instead of giving him the time he really needed, they pushed him forward. He struggled early on leaving many to wonder if he would ever fulfill his promise; if the injury robbed him of his career.
Conforto would have a strong second half in 2018, and he would carry that forward into 2019. He’d do that while moving to right field to help the team, and he would do it while being a leader. Early on, the Mets knew Conforto was a true leader. It wasn’t that the Wilpons saw and pushed it like they did with David Wright. Rather, it was what the clubhouse themselves saw.
Players like Jay Bruce, Michael Cuddyer, and Curtis Granderson would take Conforto under their wing and help guide him. This would pay dividends later as Conforto would emerge as the true leader in the clubhouse. He was always front and center answering questions, and he made sure to quash any problems which could emerge in the Mets clubhouse as a result of the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal.
In the disaster that was the 2020 season, Conforto was one of the best players in all of baseball. While the Mets did falter, Conforto was truly great. By OPS+, it was his best year at the plate. He was that .300 hitter we all knew he could be one day. If there was an All-Star team, he would’ve been one. This is where his career should have springboarded.
With Conforto’s Job like luck, he’d get COVID entering Spring Training. Then, he’d suffer a hamstring injury. This really robbed him of the chance to get get up to game shape and speed. Like in 2016 and 2018, he would struggle. But this is Michael Conforto, he just wouldn’t give up.
Starting in August, we saw the real Conforto again. Over his final 57 games of the season (with three still to go), he hit .266/.367/.441 with 10 doubles, seven homers, and 28 RBI. That’s in a year where he had every reason to never recover or put up any good numbers. As discussed above, he would have one final great moment at Citi Field in a Mets uniform.
Now, Conforto is heading into free agency. Between the Mets front office in flux, his agent being Scott Boras, and the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, no one knows what this means for Conforto and his time on the New York Mets. In many ways, it would be unfair to him and the fans to see it end like this.
Conforto has more in him, and he has a destiny to fulfill here. Conforto deserves a World Series, and he deserves it with the Mets. If he stays, it can and will happen. After all, as we’ve seen throughout his Mets career, he just doesn’t give up, and he will keep coming back and doing great things. The Mets need to just keep him around longer to let him do that in right field in Citi Field where he hit the two homers in Game Four.