On September 29, 2018, David Wright played his final major league game, and an era was brought to an end for the Mets. On March 28, 2019, Pete Alonso made his major league debut, and a new era began for them.
It may be difficult to remember now, but there was no guarantee that Alonso would be in the lineup on Opening Day last year. Indeed, there were questions about whether the team would be better off keeping him down in the minors for the start of the season to gain an extra year of control over him. But Alonso forced the front office’s hand with a dominant spring training, and once he traveled north with the team, he never looked back. What followed was one of the most impressive seasons in Mets history, both for the offensive prowess he showed at the plate and the energy and determination he added to the team’s culture.
It’s not likely that anybody needs to be reminded of Alonso’s incredible accomplishments in 2019—setting the rookie record for homers in a season with 53, putting up an excellent 143 wRC+ and 4.8 fWAR, and starting the now-famous #LFGM rally cry during the Mets’ second half hot streak. And in watching him take the league by storm and capture the hearts of fans everywhere, one couldn’t help but remember how it felt the last time a homegrown position player came along and quickly became the face of the franchise.
The Mets lost one of their greatest players of all time when David Wright retired. With Alonso, they may well have quickly gained a similar type of icon to replace him.
The comparison between the two has already been made by others, and it’s easy to understand why. Not that there aren’t meaningful differences between them, of course. Alonso is more of a pure power hitter, while Wright provided a more well-rounded offensive game. Pete is also confined to first base, a less valuable position than the one that Wright played (which may make it difficult for the former to accumulate some of the lofty WAR totals that the latter accumulated). And the Polar Bear is also a more boisterous personality, while the Captain was typically more calm, cool, and collected.
Still, the differences between the two are not nearly as meaningful as the similarities. Obviously, they both provided stellar right-handed bats in the heart of the Mets’ lineup, the kind that make you stand up and hold your breath every time they came to the plate. They’re both the guys you’d want up with the game on the line, and the guys opposing pitchers would dread having to face in such a situation. The value of having that type of anchor in your lineup on a daily basis certainly cannot be overstated, especially when the Mets have lacked it over the past few years.
But perhaps more than anything else, the way Alonso has carried himself from the very beginning—in his interactions with the fans, the media, his fellow teammates, etc.—has been very Wright-esque. Just as the Captain did when he came into the league all those years ago, Pete recognizes the responsibility that players of his caliber have with the spotlight being shined directly on his shoulders, and he strives to live up to that responsibility. His genuine hospitality towards the fans, his professional forthrightness towards the media, his unrelenting positivity towards his teammates—all of these qualities are what you hope to see from your franchise-defining players, and often it takes those types of players a while before they develop the ability to be that type of person (if they ever do). Alonso, however, had these leadership traits from the very beginning, just as Wright did.
Simply put, Alonso—like Wright before him—is a player who makes the baseball world take notice of a franchise that is often overlooked, and he makes Mets fans proud of a team that often gives them very few reasons to be proud.
The sky is the limit for what Pete can accomplish in his second year in the big leagues. He should continue to be an offensive powerhouse in the Mets’ lineup. He will look to firmly establish himself as one of the best first basemen in the game, if not the very best. Maybe he will even get the chance to defend his title as the reigning Home Run Derby champion. And with any luck, the Mets will be a strong enough team to give him his first October baseball experience.
But the most significant thing that he can achieve in his sophomore season is proving that he will be a consistent presence for the Mets for years to come. That is ultimately what made David Wright special: not just his incredible talents and his leadership, but the fact that he provided those qualities to the team year in and year out. Alonso has not proven that he can do that just yet, but this second season of his will be his first opportunity to do so. And if he does, then we can only hope that he will eventually join Wright as one of the few players to spend his entire major league career in the orange and blue.