Michael Conforto has arrived just like the Mets always said he would. His is a story of patience, hard work, and evolving confidence set on fire.
It’s conceivable that Michael Conforto looked with amazement at his Mets teammate Pete Alonso record-setting season last year, only to pause and ask himself – Why didn’t I do that in my first year, or second, or third, or my fourth season?
Wasn’t it me, Michael Thomas Conforto, who was drafted by the New York Mets in the 1st round (10th) of the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft from Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR)?
And wasn’t it me (Conforto) whom the Mets sent back to the minors on three occasions for a “tune-up” after failing miserably with the big club?
Yes, all of it is true. But Michael Conforto never gave up, and despite a lot of head-scratching, the Mets never gave up on him as well.
Michael Conforto: An Evolution, Not An Explosion
Not every ballplayer is Pete Alonso, whose breathtaking season last year will live in the annals of baseball forever. But as we also know, Polar Bear is back on earth this season, and like Michael Conforto of yesteryear, Alonso is wondering – What’s happening to me?
Jacob deGrom labored in the Mets farm system for all or parts of four seasons before landing a permanent spot in the Mets rotation in 2015 when he blossomed with a 14-8 2.54 ERA. season.
In 2019, Michael Conforto registered the first clue that the breakout season was close. Conforto cracked 33 home runs and drove in 92 while appearing in 153 games for the Mets.
In 2020, Conforto is reaching for an even higher plateau as the Mets’ most reliable and productive hitter. A run through the numbers demonstrates:
Michael Conforto is currently seventh in the league in Batting Average (.331), eighth in Offensive War (1.5), sixth in On Base Percentage (.386), tied for fifth in Games Played (38), fifth in Hits (44), and fourth in Times On Base (66). (All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference)
Michael Conforto: The Game That Changes Everything?
In 2020, Michael Conforto has earned and therefore is the Face Of The New York Mets.
That title comes when a team is on the skid with a five-game losing streak and faced with being buried in the race for a spot in the expanded playoffs – and the team needs a player to step-up, providing his team with a sorely needed lift.
And so it was that Michael Conforto stepped on it and the Baltimore Orioles going 4-5 with a home run and five RBI, accounting for six of the Mets nine runs to break the losing streak.
Ironically, it’s a game like that caused Mike Vaccaro in his column today for the New York Post to pause and wonder if too much pressure is due to be placed on Conforto, risking the chance he will revert to his old ways of trying to do too much.
Vaccaro writes: (FULL DISCLOSURE: I have been one of those who’ve judged Conforto, throughout his career, by those impossibly high standards and, truthfully, that’s never fair for any player.)
It’s okay, Mike Vaccaro. Others had done the same thing dating back to Terry Collins, who couldn’t help himself from gushing, “That swing,” Collins said five years ago, when Conforto first showed up at Citi Field, “is a thing of beauty.” (Video)
Yes, and it still is. But Michael Conforto is five years older and wiser now, and when asked to reflect on yesterday’s game, he replied:
“I’ve always felt like I’m a guy who could spray the ball around and be a tougher out,” Conforto said. “In this game, you have to stay hungry, have to stay humble, have to keep working, and try to get better every day.”
Michael Conforto: Tested By Failure
Michael Conforto is a product of failure in a game where the best players in the game, now residing in Cooperstown, fail seven of every ten times they step to the plate.
They say old habits never die, but for those who have followed the career of Michael Conforto, it’s not hard to miss the self-confidence we see in his body language – even with his self-professed need to “stay humble”.
Steve Cohen: What To Do With Michael Conforto
One of Steve Cohen’s first challenges as the new owner of the Mets is deciding on what he’s going to do with Michael Conforto.
Conforto has reached the plateau of arbitration, and his current salary of $8 million is due for a substantial increase based on the numbers he is producing.
Eligible for free agency in 2022, Michael Conforto is set up to play 2021 as his walk year.
A client of Steve Boras, Steve Cohen can opt to let the string run out – or engage in talks with Boras regarding a multi-year extension that provides Conforto with a peace of mind, as well as an opportunity to finish out his career with the Mets.
Today, it seems like a no-brainer that Cohen will opt for the latter choice, but we still don’t have a grasp on who the hedge fund mogul is as it relates to leading a baseball franchise.
Much like Zack Wheeler, who was never shy about his desire to remain with the Mets, Conforto appears to be cut from the same cloth. Wheeler eventually reached the point of no return with the Mets and chose to sign with the Phillies as a free agent, where he is enjoying a stellar season.
Eventually, and especially with Boras as his agent, Michael Conforto may be forced to cross the same bridge as Wheeler.
If Conforto does so, though, it will be at the peril of Cohen’s allowing it to happen, and as a new owner, Cohen may not wish to raise the Mets fan base to that level of rage.
The Mets David Wright of the 2020s
For now, that’s all speculation. The one thing that is not, though, is that Michael Conforto has arrived in full splendor.
He’s a player who has paid his dues, to become an integral part of the Mets, and someone who can proudly say – It’s payback time, in spades”.
Mets fans rejoice – here’s your David Wright for the 2020s.
It’ll be up to Steve Cohen to see if it lasts.