The first month of the season is over. The New York Mets played a mere 20 games. And the man that the fans were asking…no…demanding that Mets management sign to a long-term contract after securing him in a trade…Francisco Lindor…is now being roundly and loudly booed. Here we go again?
History has told us, Mets fans, that when it comes to big trades and free agent signings, the Mets usually come up on the short end of the stick. While the Yankees were signing some pitcher named Catfish Hunter, the Mets answered with some pitcher named Tom Hausman. Hunter ended up in the Hall of Fame. Hausman? Do we even know where he ended up? When the Yankees were getting a star named Matsui…the Mets honed in on that too. But the Yankees got Hideki and the Mets…well…they got Kaz. We all know how that turned out. And when two guys were looking to escape baseball purgatory in Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Giants got Barry Bonds while the Mets, well, we got – and STILL HAVE – Bobby Bonilla.
There have been some exceptions. There was some guy named Mike Piazza whom the Mets acquired mid-season and then signed him to a long-term contract after that season ended. But Piazza was embraced immediately by Mets fans and was exalted as a larger-than-life person from the onset, coming through in clutch situations and providing big moments, and memories.
Some years later, the Mets made headlines by virtually stealing the biggest free agent on the market away from the Yankees with the signing of Carlos Beltran. Beltran was coming off of a big post-season performance and was one of the most dynamic players in the game – power, speed, spectacular centerfielder – all the tools needed to shine in New York City.
For some reason, Beltran did not hit it off right away with Mets fans, as he got off to an uninspiring, mediocre start. In his first month as a Met, he did hit .284 but had only three home runs and struck out 22 times in 95 at-bats (at a time when that many K’s was not so common). Beltran felt the pressure and finished the season with a .266 batting average, 16 home runs and 17 stolen bases while driving in 78 runs. Respectable numbers but not worthy of the mega-contract he was given.
Fans were relentless and never really let up on Beltran…never fully appreciating what he accomplished as a Met…and never forgave him after that fateful at-bat against the Cardinals Adam Wainwright in 2006. Carlos Beltran was one of the most talented and dynamic players to ever don a Mets uniform and, yet, Mets fans will never see it that way. They will always see him as falling short of those lofty expectations.
Francisco Lindor is hearing it from Mets fans
And now you have Francisco Lindor, clearly one of the most dynamic shortstops, one of the most dynamic players, in Major League Baseball. Twenty games, one month, into the season, under his new 341 million-dollars contract, and he is being booed and the social media trolls are already comparing him to Jason Bay.
Lindor has gotten off to a horrible start, batting below the Mendoza Line at .189 with one home run, three runs batted in, and he was caught stealing in his only attempt. Not exactly the kind of start that would endear a player to the fans after demanding, and getting, $300 million.
To be fair, the Mets as a team have been brutal offensively. With the exception of Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis, the Mets have looked overmatched and simply lost. And with every failed attempt to bring home a baserunner – and there have been a lot of them – the pressure just gets bigger and bigger.
The Mets were expected to have a lot of firepower this season. But the offense has been virtually non-existent. Lindor has been billed as the type of player to ignite that firepower. But he has not been able to get untracked offensively.
Lindor has a career average of .283 and has averaged 28 home runs with 84 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Over his last three full seasons – 2017, 2018, 2019 – he hit 33, 38, 32 home runs respectively. He is 27 years old.
There’s still a long way to go. Slumps happen. They go unnoticed in the middle of the season. Not so much at the beginning of the season when the stats are atrocious and up on the scoreboard for all to see. And not when a huge contract has been bestowed upon you. Fans aren’t very patient or forgiving.
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Lindor has a great attitude, a lot of energy, and infectious smile. If the production doesn’t come, and the fans continue to boo, how long before the smile disappears the way his offense has disappeared? The question remains, though, does he take the path of Piazza and the fans embrace him, or that of Beltran, where the fans never forgive him?