What is your first reaction when you hear something negative about someone you care about? Do you instantly believe it, or are you skeptical? In the case of Pete Alonso, too many people were all too eager to blindly believe reports that the New York Mets had a toxic clubhouse, and that Alonso was the root cause.
Before you ask, hell yes I care about Pete Alonso. The man is the best Mets power hitter in history, and everything about him bleeds blue and orange (and not just because he's also a Florida Gator). He's always understood and accepted the expectations placed on him from one of the most demanding fanbases in the world, and he has embraced his role as a leader within the organization.
Pete Alonso is everything Mets fans could want in a player.
He plays hard, he has fun, and he cares. Don't take that for granted. As Mets fans know, a contract extension has not yet been worked out, and there have been numerous reports that the Mets could look to trade him instead of making him a Met for life.
The rumors circulating that Alonso is to blame for the Mets' clubhouse woes have led many fans to support the idea of trading him this offseason. Thankfully, Mark Canha, whom the Mets sent to the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline, came out this week in support of the Mets' first baseman.
Canha is a respected veteran in the league, and now that he's on the Brewers, he has no reason to cover for his former teammates in New York, especially while he's in the midst of wrapping up a division title. The fact that he came out in support of Pete says a whole lot more than vague reports from WFAN personalities that Alonso is a clubhouse cancer.
Canha wasn't alone in his support of Pete. Tommy Pham, now on the Arizona Diamondbacks, called out many on the Mets for their lack of work ethic, but he singled out Alonso, Francisco Lindor, and Brandon Nimmo as players whose work ethics he admired.
The players that Pham mentioned have done their jobs this year. Lindor and Nimmo have put up numbers similar to last year when the team won 101 games. Alonso's average and on base percentage are down, but he has six more home runs this year, with games still to play. If he had a more fearsome hitter than Daniel Vogelbach hitting behind him most of the year, I'm sure he'd be right on par with last season.
The Mets offense is scoring .33 runs per game less than it did last year. Most of that can be attributed to down years from Starling Marte and Jeff McNeil, plus a lack of production from Brett Baty at third base compared to what the Mets got from Eduardo Escobar last year.
The real culprit for the Mets nosedive this year, though, is pitching. Last year's team had a 3.62 ERA, good for eighth in the majors. This year's number? 4.33, nearly 3/4 of a run higher, which places the Mets 19th in the league.
Kodai Senga has been phenomenal in his rookie year, and even for all the criticism they endured, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer were not the problem, either. Jose Quintana has quietly been very good since returning from injury, but the back end of the Mets rotation has been putrid. Carlos Carrasco had the worst year of his career. David Peterson and Tylor Megill were never able to hold things down, and with the departures of Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt, and Taijuan Walker, there was no one around to pick up the slack.
Even more egregious than the decline in starting pitching was the drop in productivity in the Mets' bullpen. Anchored by Edwin Diaz, the 2022 Mets posted a 3.55 bullpen ERA. This year that number has ballooned to 4.43.
Diaz's freak injury during the World Baseball Classic was a crushing blow to a team with preseason title aspirations, but his loss doesn't fully explain the bullpen being nearly a full run worse this year. Like the Mets starting staff, the bullpen lacked any meaningful depth this year behind David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, and Brooks Raley, which is why the Mets have blown 35 leads this year, compared to only 21 a season ago. Seth Lugo leaving the Mets bullpen to join the Padres rotation didn't help, nor did Drew Smith taking a big step backwards.
If the Mets can stock up on pitching this offseason, there's no reason to believe they can't contend in 2024. Finding some protection for Alonso in the lineup will also help, but it's abundantly clear that in Alonso, Lindor, and Nimmo, the Mets have a core that can take them places. They just need the rest of the roster to be competitive.
Alonso's contract status and future with the Mets will be one of the biggest offseason stories in baseball, but I have faith that Steve Cohen and new president of baseball operations David Stearns will cut through the noise and figure this out.
Don't believe the narrative, and don't look to move on from the player that's well on his way to being one of the best Mets ever. Pete Alonso isn't the problem. He never was.