The Mets have an opening for the position of Clubhouse Leader. It’s a job that few desire and the qualifications are steep. Who steps forth…
With the departure of David Wright, who was formally titled as the Mets Team Captain, a void exists in the Mets clubhouse for that one guy who can lead the team not only by example but as a facilitator in resolving internal issues within the team before they become problems which affect on the field play.
By definition, the major league clubhouse is reserved for the 25 players on a team’s roster at any given time. The door to the clubhouse is rarely open, and entrance is closely guarded when the door is left ajar.
Generally, managers like the Mets Mickey Callaway quickly learn to respect the space of his players, rarely entering their realm. If Callaway needs to speak to a player, he’ll call him to his office, or find him in some lonely spot on the field during batting practice.
For the most part, what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. Issues between players who are together nearly every day for six months under the stress of doing their jobs and the glare of the media, almost always arise. When they do occur, there needs to be a go-to guy who can gracefully intervene before the dispute goes public.
These disputes can be as mundane as so-and-so playing his music too loud, hogging the sauna, or taking all the cannoli left as a gift by a local bakery. On occasion though, issues arise of more importance, and these usually occur from lack of playing time, or when a player is thrown under the bus publicly by his manager, another team official, or in the worst case, another teammate.
It’d be too extreme to say the clubhouse leader acts as the cop, but he is there to encourage behavior that represents the good of the team. Of course, there are leaders, and then there are leaders. Too much, and the other players draw a line of resentment towards the leader, which negates the whole idea of having one.
So as we look at the Mets active roster, as it’s constructed today, is there anyone who can take on the responsibility as their clubhouse leader? Generally, we’re concentrating on the position players because pitchers tend to form their own group, and a leader emerges from there. Within the Mets staff, Jacob deGrom assumes the position de facto and based on the altitude of his pitching. A leader by example mostly, Mets pitchers will automatically gravitate to deGrom for advice and counsel as needed.
The Mets have some position players as candidates for the job, with good character who qualify, but they don’t have the number of years under their belt yet, and some are still finding their way themselves. Michael Conforto automatically comes to mind as someone who is perfect for the role shortly, but not quite now. Brandon Nimmo displays the kind of hustle and goodwill you want to see, but again, he’s still a ways away from making his mark in the league.
Robinson Cano has the resume of an All-Star, but apparently, there are character issues stemming from his suspension for using banned substances.
Which leaves the player I favor for the job – Todd Frazier. Coming off a disappointing 2018, in which he barely hit above the Mendoza line, punching only 18 home runs with 59 RBI, Frazier needs to up that production to fit more in the mold of a David Wright, Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, and Mike Piazza, all of whom can be counted as clubhouse leaders when they were with the Mets.
A young 32, Frazier still exhibits a boyish enthusiasm for the game, and is always on the top step of the dugout and usually parked next to Mickey Callaway when he is not in the lineup.
In 2017, when he was traded from the White Sox to the Yankees at the trade deadline, Frazier immediately lit up a Yankees team that was floundering to within a whisker of the World Series. He’s been around, and he knows the pitfalls that can arise within a team throughout a long season.
Most significantly, he appears to have the ability to tell someone they’re a jerk with a smile on his face, while still getting his point forcefully across.
It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. Todd Frazier, this is your mission should you choose to accept it…