Francisco Lindor loved the moment last week when his base hit gave the Mets a walk-off win. Fans loved it too. But he will never be beloved.
Francisco Lindor is a cut above most major league position layers. But he is not exceptional, even though he offers the look of being extraordinary. His smile is broad and engaging, often displayed on the field.
In a nutshell, Francisco Lindor draws attention to himself. But in a town like New York, that is risky because if you present yourself that way, you had better deliver something truly memorable.
Shudder at the thought of what might have happened to Joe Namath if he didn’t lead the Jets to a Super Bowl win after “guaranteeing” a victory. Or, to Reggie Jackson if he never hit three home runs on consecutive pitches for the New York Yankees in a World Series game against the Dodgers after advertising himself as “the straw that stirs the drink.”
Francisco Lindor’s Albatross
The trouble for Lindor, though, is he’s being paid like a superstar. Signed in 2021 for $341 million, Lindor is now linked to the Mets until age 37. It’s highly debatable whether or not the Mets would make the same deal today, but remember; his signing was the first salvo fired over the bough when Steve Cohen bought the Mets, and it was primarily seen as a statement by Cohen to dismiss the stingy Wilpons from the scene.
For that kind of money, it is not wrong to expect greatness. However, what we get from Lindor are good but not exceptional numbers, and Lindor, cannot escape the fact that his career stats are padded by and stem from his time with the Cleveland Indians, not with the Mets.
To illustrate, consider these lesser-known career stats for Lindor. With two strikes, be bats .192. His strikeout rate is nearly twice the number of walks. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Lindor bats .239.
Not bad when you consider most batters struggle these days, but also nowhere near worthy of the $34 million the Mets are paying Lindor this year and each of the eight years remaining on his contract.
It’s About More Than The Money Though
But with Lindor, it’s about more than the numbers that prevent him from being beloved by New York fans.
When MLB announced the rule change preventing dramatic shifts in the game, Lindor’s reaction was Good; that’ll give me a chance to show my athleticism at shortstop by making the great plays I used to make. Revealingly, not; That’ll give my team a better chance of winning more games.
So too, we have the recent outburst from Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis and his “no leadership” charge, presumably directed toward Francisco Lindor. Or as least Lindor’s wife took it that way, finding it necessary to declare, “My husband is such a classy person, would never say what a bully Kipnis was in the clubhouse. Sounds like a true leader vs. the opposite of a leader.”
When reminded that he played with Lindor in Cleveland and asked if the shortstop was a leader, Kipnis responded: “I’m gonna repeat it, all those veterans and no leadership.”
Kipnis might also have a chip on his shoulder, but for Lindor, he should consider himself fortunate to play on a Mets team of mostly low-key players.
Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo are players who bring their lunchpail to work every day, ready to contribute in any way they can to the Mets. Pete Alonso also overextends himself with a workmanlike approach to the game while being full-bent on winning.
These types of teammates cause Lindor to stand out even more.
Having said all that, Francisco Lindor is what he is. His personality is ingrained and not subject to change. While he will never be loved in New York, nor will he ever be hated.
Except for a moment here and there (like last night), unlike Alonso and Nimmo, Lindor will never hear wild cheers from Mets fans when he comes to bat.
Over time, that may eat at him if he doesn’t make himself aware of that fact, and as the years go on, he could wind up as a pathetic and disgruntled star, merely playing his time out while collecting a big check (think Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, and Mo Vaughn).
Mets: Facing The Enigma Of Francisco Lindor
At the rate he’s going, Francisco Lindor will continue to have decent, though not exceptional, seasons for the Mets. It’s doubtful he will make an appearance as an All-Star with the Mets (he had four with Cleveland), and it’s even more doubtful he will ever seriously make a challenge for the NL Most Valuable Player award.
At the same time, Lindor does not hurt the Mets with his play. What does hurt is that he is the fifth-highest player in all the major leagues.
That will continue to haunt him for the remainder of his time in New York, where, according to legend – you need to work hard while showing results to endear the heart and soul of the Big Apple.