The Mets are currently off to a good start.
They've come up clutch and made a number of come from behind wins, including a 7 run return from the dead.
So what's the problem? Why are the fans sounding the alarms already?
Is it because we've seen this story before? Including last year?
The Mets are off to a 24-14 start and all some of the fanbase seems to do is dwell on the past collapses and past Mets teams to point to the fact that this team is still the Mets. But are they? After coming back to win more than a couple times this year, and a bench clearing "brawl," this team is different. After new owner Steve Cohen endeared himself to the fanbase and put real money into making them better, this team is different. Expectations are different.
And with expectations, come the corner of the fanbase out of the woodwork that joins the rest of the MLB fanbases in downing the Mets team after every loss. They call for the heads of players who slump, call for trades of players who have a bad couple games, or they call for big moves to be made in the smallest of sample sizes.
One example to this is Francisco Lindor. The former All-Star, Gold Glove, shortstop was traded to the Mets with an absolute pop of approval from the fanbase. Finally, the days of Ruben Tejada, an uneven Amed Rosario, an aged out Jose Reyes, Omar Quinatanilla, and Wilmer Flores manning the position were over. Lindor brought legitimacy to the position. He brought a solid bat, a solid glove, and a great smile and hairdo. The Mets finally made a splash and didn't break the farm system in order to achieve it.
In his first year on the Mets, Lindor hit 20 HR's, with 63 RBI's, to the tune of a career low .230 batting average on the year. He also struck out 96 times, which was around his normal amount in a full season. The problem was that he only played in 125 games, which makes that 96 strikeouts a little more glaring. The pressure to overproduce for your new team will make a lot of players swing at everything in order to deliver. It rarely works. The new contract that Lindor signed soon came into the line of fire for angry Mets fans that he didn't overproduce in the first season in Queens. It was also not helped by short term addition Javy Baez and Lindor, "booing the fans," as the team started to stall the engines down the stretch when they absolutely could not stall the engines.
Then you have the start to 2022, Lindor started off hot. Then suddenly, he wasn't. We're barely two weeks through May and people are calling this the worst deal in Mets, if not MLB, history. His play in the field has been good, but not great. His bat has been hot, but then cold. His on base percentage leaves a lot to be desired. But we are only 38 games into a 162 game season. There's no real reason to believe Lindor won't get hot again.
It's not unreasonable to expect better from Francisco Lindor. Even he probably knows that. But to expect that the best shortstop that the Mets have seen since arguably the peak Jose Reyes years, should immediately be the second coming of David Wright, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, and Gary Carter all wrapped into one is beyond ridiculous expectations. It's way too soon into his decade deal to determine this as such a horrible trade. Despite his shortcomings and slumping lately, Lindor is the best option for the Mets. Hitting is down across the entire MLB, but we expect players to be extremely hot for the entire season?
New York is not an easy place to play in any sport, and that includes baseball. It's a huge market, and one that demands instant gratification and results without any leeway in that regard. For a fanbase who had to sit through the agonizing defeat in the 2015 World Series, and hasn't tasted World Series success since 1986, it seems peculiar to immediately attack players for slumping. We were all on board with getting rid of Robinson Cano. His slumping was beyond prolonged dating back to the initial trade that brought him and Edwin Diaz here. Add on the suspensions, and complete lack of hustle to do anything when it came to even running out plays, and the fanbase turning on him was 100% warranted.
But look at Diaz. Diaz started off slow in his time in New York, but turned it around and has looked pretty phenomenal. In that time where he started off slow, the fanbase immediately started to have issues with him. Will Lindor not get that leash because of the big contract?
What about this scenario: the Mets sign Juan Soto.
It's a dream signing for a lot of fans out there, it's one that would immediately add to this team. He's in line for a huge contract, but what if he started off slow? Are we going to treat him the same way a portion of fans turned on Lindor? All these players need are time. Baseball is a game of failure, which often seems to be forgotten by a corner of the fanbase who want to see those immediate results and act as if 162-0 is a realistic scenario. It's not. Lindor won't be going anywhere, any time soon. All Mets fans can do is hope that he finds his April form again.
Another example of the fanbase having patience issues? Pete Alonso.
Pete Alonso has done a lot in order to improve his defense, and his plate vision. But in the 4th game of the year, Pete made a few crucial errors and bad throws and suddenly the Mets weren't going undefeated. The cries for Dom Smith to be the everyday first baseman grew louder and louder. The calls for Pete to only be the DH, in part because he was hitting so well as a DH, grew louder and louder. There were arguments to be made that Dom Smith should've been in the line up more consistently, and occasionally Pete opened that door. But thus far, Alonso has been solid, holding off any legitimate talk of Dom Smith taking over. So far this season, Alonso is hitting right around his career average and has shown a better approach at the plate outside of a few situations. The power hitting first baseman hasn't been able to hit HR's as quickly as we're used to, but that can be partially chalked up to the alleged change in baseballs the MLB has put into play. Balls aren't flying like they usually do, and it's been showing.
Smith still occasionally platoons Alonso at first, giving Pete the chance to DH and Smith a chance to see the field in a full capacity. Smith finished 145 games in 2021 with a batting average of .244, 11 HR's, 58 RBI's, and 112 strikeouts. Compared to Alonso's 2021 season (a batting average of .262, 37 HR's, 94 RBI, and 127 strikeouts), Smith isn't a huge step down in production as far as average or strikeout rate, but the power Smith has doesn't manifest itself the same way that Alonso's seems to do. Pete Alonso is a threat to hit one deep any time he's up there, Smith is capable of hitting them deep but is less of a threat unless the circumstances are right. Smith is also only hitting around .200 thus far in 2022, while Pete is around his career average of .256, so the timing for Smith to take over Pete Alonso's standing as the starting first baseman is fully on the back burner. Outside of a small handful of bad plays, bad pitch reads, and bad swings to match, Pete has been what everyone hopes that Dom Smith would be in the line up.
The last example is Eduardo Escobar.
Escobar is hitting just around .217 with only 2 HR's, it makes sense that there would be some patience issues as he seems to fall into this category for good reason this year. But Escobar getting off to a slow start is at the expense of J.D. Davis not getting time at third, with most of J.D.'s playing time coming as a DH.
The difference is that Davis is hitting under .200, and his defense isn't a plus over Escobar. Escobar is more of a free swinger but still hits at a decent average when he's able to get going. He just hasn't. But the spots where J.D. has been able to see the plate (or field), he hasn't done much of anything minus a clutch hit during one of the Mets' rallies this year.
Escobar's taken a more patient approach to the plate, but it still seems to swing a little too freely with 39 strikeouts in 36 games. There seems to be a lack of patience that he could even start to hit again, and at age 33, it's not completely ridiculous to believe that he's on the decline and could take a step back. He hit 28 HR's last year across 2 teams, with 35 in the full season before the pandemic, if the Mets can get somewhere around 20-25 HR's out of him with an average close to his career average of .255, it should be considered a good return on investment.
The Mets haven't won the World Series since 1986, it's no longer going to hold the fans back just to make the playoffs, let alone just an appearance in the World Series. When Cohen took over, so did new expectations after they signed Marte, Canha, Scherzer, and Escobar. They looked poised to make a statement, and that statement is that they're contenders. With those expectations should be patient, every player is going to slump at some point this year. Better early, than late.
This isn't the same Mets teams that fans have seen in the past 5-10 years. The team that was first place last year and collapsed never looked like a first place team, they just looked like a place holder. If that team was down 8-1 or 7-0 early on, they never would've even tried to come back. Things have changed, this team is willing to fight for 27 outs. And possibly willing to fight you if you throw pitches at them, something that's actually refreshing to see.
Maybe Lindor won't snap out of it, the patience will continue to wash away.
Or maybe Lindor is just enduring a slump and all of it's blown out of proportion because people with big contracts can't slump?
Maybe Pete Alonso will eventually lose his job to Dom.
Or maybe Alonso is the best option to stay at first base and Smith battling lefties while playing the field is the best option?
Maybe Escobar is on the decline and won't return to the form the Mets thought they signed.
Or maybe he's just off to a slow start?
All it takes is a little patience.