NY Mets: Don’t follow in this guy’s footsteps, Francisco Lindor

Apr 30, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) reacts after striking out against the Philadelphia Phillies in the seventh inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Kam Nedd-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 30, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) reacts after striking out against the Philadelphia Phillies in the seventh inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Kam Nedd-USA TODAY Sports /

Are we being set up for more heartbreak, New York Mets fans? Perhaps, given the recent reports concerning the lack of leadership in the Mets clubhouse.  And especially given Francisco Lindor’s presence as the superstar veteran who had, to use his words, “341 million reasons for me to go out there and play the game the right way.”

Could it be New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor is on the road to being the next unlikeable, overpaid, underperforming New York baseball superstar in the mold of Alex Rodriguez?

Let’s hope not, but there are several troubling parallels between the two. Let’s compare:

The (Mega)Contract

Both A-Rod and Lindor share, at a minimum, the obvious: multi-year, record-setting contracts. But the financial comparison doesn’t end there as, with any good asset, there is the intangible asset of goodwill, i.e., treating each player as a living, breathing asset to their respective franchises.  For A-Rod and Lindor, their goodwill translates to the “extras” they bring to their respective teams.

A-Rod came to New York packed with impressive numbers and a high baseball IQ. But we soon learned about the other baggage: the bush league play (slapping of Bronson Arroyo’s glove to knock the ball loose during the 2004 ALCS; shouting “mine” to distract Blue Jays third baseman Howie Clark from catching a pop-up); his whining about how Derek Jeter and he grew apart like friends who no longer had “sleepovers” and then slighting him during the World Baseball Classic when he said he wished Jose Reyes was leading off for the Yankees.

And let’s not forget former Yankee manager Joe Torre’s comment in his book, “The Yankee Years,” where he claimed teammates referred to A-Rod as “A-Fraud.” Yikes!

We can only hope this animosity never comes to pass with Lindor; but he has only been in a Mets uniform one year, and we already have several “A-Rod” type controversies.

To rehash:

  • The ridiculous “it’s a rat, it’s a raccoon, it’s a possum” drama following the on-field shift miscommunication between Lindor and Jeff McNeil allowing the Diamondback’s Nick Ahmed to get on base.
  • The excessive public praise Lindor heaped on friend and former World Baseball Classic teammate, Javier Baez, before and after the Mets landed up trading for him– slighting McNeil, who would eventually be displaced and relegated to the dark corners of left field.
  • The infamous “Thumbs Down” controversy, which only served to piss off Mets fans, and embarrass mainstay teammates Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto, much to the dismay of ownership.

In the context of getting what you paid for, we can only hope Steve Cohen and the fans get their money’s worth.

The Overeagerness

A-Rod and Lindor came into town eager to show their wares, electrify the fan base, and lead a team to perform better because of their presence.  In addition, many consider them to be two of the most astute professors of the game (though Baez’s baseball IQ has been far more impressive except concerning his approach to the strike zone). In their zealousness to show the world how much they know and how well they can impart the same to their teammates, it somehow seems to get in the way. After all, can one be a lightning bolt without burning some folks along the way?

A true leader doesn’t care about rubbing folks the wrong way because, in the end, it’s all about winning. That being the case, there is a distinct impression that both A-Rod and Lindor share a sense of wanting their cake and eating it too.

They each sought praise for all the intangible advice (unsolicited or not) on how to best approach playing the game, but then lead their teammates on a rocky, bumpy, 162 game road along the way. Given such, we should not be that surprised by the comments about the lack of leadership in the Mets clubhouse.

While it’s a given there was no Jeter on the Mets when Lindor came to town talking about his eagerness to lead, no one can argue with the fact that Pete Alonso and crew were nonetheless a tight-knit group who, while looking forward to playing side-by-side with their new stud teammate, did not necessarily want to hand over the reins right away.

Add Lindor’s contract, hitting struggles, early season run-in with McNeil, and the “thumbs down” incident, and Lindor’s ingratiating himself to his teammates as a leader could not have gone worse.

It is disconcerting how these two men came to New York with the same intention to lead, only to precipitously fall flat on their faces by their hand. While we can give each of them the benefit of the doubt assuming they meant well, it is eerie how quickly their eager proclamations of leadership went from being the “go-to guy” to the “goodbye guy.” To quote The Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want/ But if try sometimes, you just might find / You get what you need.”

We can only hope that this past season was an abrogation for Lindor, that he learned his lesson about playing in New York, and his late season performance against the hated Yankees propels him into Mets’ stardom.  Otherwise, the fans are certain to double down and give Lindor what he needs.

The Humble Advice

In the end, I think we can conclude Francisco is not A-Rod. He is a great family man, loves the game more than his ego, and plays the game the way it should be played. He just needs to stop trying so hard to lead his teammates and please the fans. Put another way, it’s going to be lonely at the top, Francisco. Do yourself the favor and simply learn how to deal with it. Especially in New York.

If I could point to someone whose footsteps you should follow, it’s The Captain. No, not that captain. I mean Keith Hernandez, who struggled at first playing in New York (didn’t even want to be in New York), but played the game tough and smart, gave only solicited advice to his teammates and did so for one purpose and one purpose: to win.

Mex didn’t seem to be out to make friends with his teammates unless you shared his vision of winning. He could care less about being loved, following the Al Davis approach to baseball: Just win, baby, win.

But that is the rub for guys like A-Rod and Lindor. Wanting to be loved while leading your teammates to glory. Take Sonny’s advice from “A Bronx Tale,” Francisco:  “It’s better to be feared than loved.”

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Just go ask Jesse Orosco after that Game 6 mound visit from Mex in Houston.