Michael Conforto, He Didn’t Give Up
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.