Mets: Examples of long slumps and how they build character

New York Mets pitcher Anthony Young reacts after loading the bases in the fifth inning 08 June against the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by MARK PHILLIPS / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK PHILLIPS/AFP via Getty Images)
New York Mets pitcher Anthony Young reacts after loading the bases in the fifth inning 08 June against the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by MARK PHILLIPS / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK PHILLIPS/AFP via Getty Images) /

A long slump may do damage to a player’s statistics. As many New York Mets players have shown, it can help build character on and off the field.

Baseball can sometimes be a cruel game. Many ballplayers have expressed being humbled by it. Baseball tests a player’s mental and physical capacity to cope with failure. For example, New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto went 8 for 75 during a stretch in 2016. What kind of a challenge does a player face when mired in the midst of a batting slump, and what is the key to digging out of it?

Conforto, who burst onto the scene with nine home runs in 56 games with the Mets in 2015 was mired in a prolonged slump, batting .107 over the course of an entire month early in the 2016 season. In a June 25, 2016, ESPN article entitled Mets demote slumping Michael Conforto, then-GM Sandy Alderson said: “I think in talking with the coaching staff and the manager, we just felt that, look, this is counterproductive and what we need to do is get him to Las Vegas, get his swing back, and then hopefully get him back here within a relatively short period of time”.

Conforto conceded getting out of the spotlight to clear his head may be beneficial. “It will be good to get away from the craziness of everything going on right now, just to try to simplify things and just work on getting back to who I am – who I know I am at the plate… It’s been tough. It’s been very tough. It’s upsetting not having the success that I know I can have.”

He never used injury as an excuse.

That perspective is directly correlated to one’s outlook on life and also belief in himself. He was confident in his ability to break out of his slump by pointing out that he has been hitting the ball hard but with no results. That fact actually helped him climb out of his struggles early on as a new member of the team.

Let’s now take a look at a different perspective. MLB’s longest hitting slump is held by former Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis who went 0 for 54 spanning the end of 2018 into the 2019 season. Davis, who hit 53 home runs in 2013 and another 47 in 2015, did eventually decide to stick with it, but as reported on February 18, 2020 “…Davis was so despondent last September about his prolonged woes, the slumping slugger considered drastic action: He thought about walking away from…the game of baseball and a rich contract.”

Another infamous MLB record is held by former Mets pitcher Anthony Young, who lost 27 consecutive decisions during the course of the 1992-1993 seasons. When something like this happens to a player, he can’t hide nor afford to despair. At the time, Young was replacing the injured John Franco in a relief role for a team that had a hard time scoring runs, to say the least. He didn’t always pitch badly, but luck was not on his side. He once wore a T-shirt that read “If I had any luck at all, it would be all bad”.

Nonetheless, a New York Times editorial on June 14, 1993 entitled “A Noble loser” had this to say: “Mr. Young endures all this with remarkable dignity, acknowledging the pain of his predicament but never giving in to it by whining”.

What are the takeaways from all of the above?  It’s not the challenge that we face but how we choose to respond to it – that is what builds resilience whether it be in baseball or in our daily lives.

Alexandra Fleksher, in her Mishpacha Family Magazine article dated October 28, 2020 entitled
“Growing Our Resilient Muscles” writes that “pain allows us to make meaningful choices…shakes us out of our apathy…pushes us to achieve and accomplish in a way that we otherwise never would”.

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 40% of Americans struggle with mental health issues associated with COVID-19.  The circumstances are both cruel and complex for many who are suffering.  It almost seems as if we, as a community, are weighed down in this long slump.

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On a slightly brighter note, perhaps we can all take a page out of the books of the Mets players mentioned above and draw inspiration from them, that when we find ourselves challenged with nothing going right, to find the way to get going when the going gets tough.

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