There are a lot of factors one can point to in identifying how the Mets have forcefully re-emerged into the playoff race in recent weeks. We can look at the incredible offensive outputs of Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, and J.D. Davis, all of whom have a wRC+ of over 150 in the second half thus far. We can point to the starting pitching staff, as the recent addition of Marcus Stroman and the revitalized performances of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz—each of whom is pitching as well as they have all season, deGrom to the point of clawing his way back into the Cy Young conversation—make the rotation as strong as it has ever been. We can even point to the improved performance of the bullpen—even if it remains team’s weakest link, and even though it is mostly Seth Lugo carrying the rest of the relievers on his back.
All of these areas of the team are firing on all cylinders right now. The one person who has not been contributing to the success as much as he potentially could be is Pete Alonso. After a dream-like first half in which he provided a power threat the likes of which the Mets have never had in their lineup, the rookie first baseman has struggled in the first few weeks of the second half. After posting a 160 wRC+ and .354 ISO in the first half, his second half numbers have dramatically decreased from those lofty figures (a 95 wRC+ and a .213 ISO after yesterday’s games). He’s been striking out at a much higher rate (33% of his plate appearances compared to 24.5% in the first half), and while his walk rate has also gone up (from 9.8% in the first half to 16% in the second), he has nevertheless been a pale imitation of the offensive juggernaut he was for the first few months of the season.
Still, it was Alonso who provided the most exciting moment of the doubleheader yesterday, as his seventh inning bomb capped off a thrilling sequence in which the Mets hit three solo homers in the inning to overcome a two-run deficit and retake the lead against the Marlins. And the reaction to that hit—from the fans, from the team, from Alonso himself—demonstrated a level of jubilance that has mostly been absent from Citi Field this year. In his post-game interview with Steve Gelbs, Alonso was asked what he thought about the fans’ energy during the game, to which he had a simple response: “L. F. G. M. Let’s go!” He was, of course, referring to the now-famous rallying cry that he himself coined on Twitter in an impassioned message to the fanbase last week.
All of these factors—the clutch home run, the infectious enthusiasm, the rallying cry—are perfect reminders of the remarkable impact that Alonso has had on this organization in his still relatively brief tenure. The Mets have had their share of special players over the years. But in Alonso, they have someone who offers a dynamic both on and off the field that is largely unfamiliar to us. He provides a level of energy, excitement, and—-perhaps most importantly—hope that very few players are capable of providing.
Alonso gives us that energy, excitement, and hope in virtually every game in which he takes the field. Even in these periods where he is not hitting as well as he normally does, he still possesses enough magic in his bat to potentially turn the game around with just one swing anytime he comes up to the plate, which is exactly what we saw occur last night. And even as it pains us to watch him struggle, we also maintain the knowledge in the back of our minds that he remains capable of breaking out at any moment and going on a tear in which he carries the offense on his back for a lengthy period of time. Knowing that he is capable of that makes it easier for us to believe that the Mets themselves are capable of maintaining their current level of success and going on the type of run that will be necessary for them to make the postseason.
But even beyond his on-the-field performance, we can’t deny the extent to which he has awoken this fanbase through the simple act of being his joyful and optimistic self. Plenty of players will offer platitudes about the importance of the fans showing up for the team and of the confidence they have in themselves to go on a run of success. It’s impossible to watch Alonso make those same kinds of statements, however, and not come away feeling that he sincerely believes every word of them. That’s why #LFGM has become the mantra of every single Mets fan on the Internet. That’s why his teammates have been matching Alonso’s pumped-up enthusiasm with their own. And that’s one of the reasons why the baseball world at large is looking at the Mets very differently then they did just a few weeks ago. Alonso is not the only player who is capable of putting up lofty numbers, but very few players can inspire and excite people the way he has.
Alonso still has some things to work out at the plate. But Mets fans should have every confidence in his ability to do so. And they should be incredibly excited at the thought of what a postseason run will look like once he is back to hitting the way he is capable of hitting. If we think last night was thrilling, we should just imagine the kind of energy that the team will be exuding if they are still in the race come September and Alonso is blasting bombs at the same rate that he was during his historic first half. And that is to say nothing of the idea of how incredible it would be to watch him take swings during the playoffs. It’s been hard to imagine such a scenario for most of this season, but it’s become much easier recently, and we can in large part thank Pete for that.