Mets first baseman Pete Alonso is on a self-propelled mission this season, and it’s not too soon to consider appointing him Team Captain.
The results have followed through the first two months of the regular season, as illustrated by Alonso’s 20 home runs and 46 RBI to lead the National League. He’s on pace to hit sixty home runs and possibly challenge Aaron Judge for the single-season home record of 62, set last year. But let’s not talk about that because, with Pete Alonso, it’s about way more than numbers.
Mets Fans: Growing Up With Pete Alonso
Still a relative newcomer playing in his fifth major league season, Alonso has matured far beyond his 28 years, and he is just entering what are considered to be a ballplayer’s “prime years” (28-33).
During his first season or two, Pete Alonso appeared to be a lug of a boy seeking to grow into a man’s body. Thanks to a self-imposed effort to lose weight and exercise to gain strength in all the right places, that’s all changed. Some will even say he moves like a gazelle now when patrolling first base for the Mets.
Just before the opening of the 2023 campaign, Alonso gave us a glimpse into his thinking:
“We fell short last year in the postseason, and I just wanted to do what I could to improve,” Alonso said. “If I could get better and contribute a bit more or evolve as a player, I feel like that could help the team.”
“I took it upon myself to work hard in the offseason, whether mentally or physically, and hone in on the stuff I could [to] get better offensively or defensively. I feel like I took a real deep dive, and spring training was a good place to try out those things, and now we’re going.”
Mets fans may recall that the sailing wasn’t always as smooth for Pete Alonso. In the early days, some wondered if he would do a Matt Harvey on us, falling prey to the temptations and distractions of being a star athlete in the Big Apple. In June 2021, I wrote about those times in this space.
In short, while Pete Alonso is demonstrative, driven, and self-motivated, he doesn’t come off as “fake” because, in many ways, he’s still the gawky kid playing a boy’s game that he loves dearly. He may not rip his shirt off anymore to celebrate a win, but the joy on his face, when he contributes to a Mets win – or better yet – when he sees a teammate contribute to a Mets victory, is self-evident and natural.
Alonso And Judge: The Ties Will Never Be Broken
If you follow New York baseball, you can’t help but notice the quiet but very real and ongoing competitive spirit between Pete Alonso and his cross-town hero, Aaron Judge – and the race is on to see which of the two will emerge as the home run champion of New York City if not all of baseball.
With that, we’ve also seen Judge plow through the drama of his free-agent year with the Yankees before agreeing to re-sign with the team for a $360 million contract that will take him through the next nine years and the end of his baseball career.
Pete Alonso is a year behind Judge, so next season will be his “walk-year” when he, too, will enter the arena of free agency. Thanks to MLB’s prehistoric arbitration rules, Alonso has labored through the process with bargain prices for the Mets and a salary of only $14 million for the 2023 season.
Unless the Mets wish to and can convince Alonso to follow suit with a long-term contract extension between now and then, it’s anyone’s guess what the value of Alonso’s contract will be as a free agent.
Fortunately for Pete Alonso, he has the mirror that reflects Aaron Judge’s experience with the process. Unless the Mets slam the hammer down, we can expect Alonso to take the same ride Judge took, tossing out the bait to all teams but knowing in his heart where he wanted to be from the get-go.
Mets: Oh Captain, My Captain
However, another matter in the Judge-Alonso marriage is equally challenging and essential. Judge is now the Yankees’ team captain, a spot that’s been vacant since the retirement of Derek Jeter in 2014.
Similarly, the Mets have been without a team captain since the departure of David Wright, and no one fits the bill of the Mets better than Pete Alonso for this role.
While the impact of a team captain on major league teams is often overestimated, the capital “C” on that player’s uniform means something, if only to single out that player as a team leader and a go-to person in the clubhouse for teammates with concerns and suggestions as to how to make the team better.
As team captains, Jeter and Wright were similar in maintaining a low profile, choosing instead to lead by example and not as an extension of a player’s union rep.
Aaron Judge appears to be following suit, and given what we see from Pete Alonso now, the Mets can expect the same from him.
In a sense, the Mets currently have two quasi-team captains in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, but these are two aging stars merely passing through Citi Field on their way to the Baseball Hall Of Fame.
More directly, Pete Alonso is the face of the Mets for today and tomorrow, assuming he follows the same path as Judge by remaining with the only team he’s known from beginning to end.
More than any other current Met, with the possible exception of Brandon Nimmo, we have been fortunate to witness the steady growth of Pete Alonso, not only as a ballplayer but as a person as well.
And that alone kind of gives you goosebumps.