Pete Alonso, compared to last year – stop right there because as soon as anyone says that – Polar Bear is unjustifiably doomed to fail.
Pete Alonso had a definitive and unparalleled rookie season with the New York Mets in 2019. His 53 home runs topped a cross-town rival’s (Aaron Judge) record for the most ever by a rookie, and his 120 RBI far outpaced any of his teammates.
Pete Alonso made the All-Star team that descended on Cleveland, with an advanced warning from New York media – watch out for this guy.
And so it was that Polar Bear, a nickname affectionately bestowed on him by fellow All-Star and teammate Jeff McNeil, blew away the competition and a national television audience in the Home Run Derby.
From there on, it was Pete Alonso ‘s coming home event that ultimately led to a stunning Mets run from ten games under .500 (40-50) before the All-Star Game to a run that culminated with a three-game sweep of the Braves in the final series – bringing the Mets to a finish six games over .500.
Pete Alonso: The Ingredient The Mets Needed
Camaraderie and swagger, all led by Pete Alonso, replaced the doldrums of a Mets clubhouse befit with the effects of a misfiring and dysfunctional front office.
In the end, though, the Mets (and Pete Alonso) won nothing, finishing out of the postseason and nowhere to go but home.
Alonso went home, but he never let go of losing in the midst of all he won as an individual.
Sometimes to the point of bravado, Pete Alonso put himself out there during the offseason, with a declaration that he was confident in his teammates and himself, and the results this year would be far different.
Mic me up; I don’t care, Alonso urged as MLB was testing the use of “live talk” from the playing field. Anything to make baseball and its players more accessible, then Pete Alonso is all in.
The Sophomore Jinx – Bah Humbug
Too much, too soon? Who can say? Though, we can surmise this much.
Pete Alonso took a lot on himself then, and he continues to do so now with less than a desirable outcome for both his team and himself.
The so-called Sophomore Jinx is often attributed to a player’s failings after an outstanding rookie season. But for every player affected by the virus, you can find two more that sloughed it off without a hitch.
Pete Alonso’s Appointment With Reality
I suppose at this point we should take a look at the numbers for Alonso this season.
For W.A.R. true believers, there’s a decline from 4.9 to negative 0.3. A meager three home runs to go with 11 R.B.I. and a .214 batting average adds to a stunning sub-par 94 +OPS, a stat measured by 100 for the MLB average.
But these are the results of a player and a team looking for a cause or reason that lies beneath the numbers.
Pete Alonso is a far better player than he is now, and nary a soul disputes that.
Pete Alonso: Too Young To Remember Yogi Berra?
Yogi Berra may be the most oft-quoted ballplayer to observe that baseball is ten percent physical, but the other ninety percent is mental. Still, he gives plenty of resonance among ballplayers today and yesterday.
Pete Alonso is still the same person and player he was last year. To date, the Mets are the same team they were at this point in the season last year.
But there is one difference. The Mets are losing games they should win, and Pete Alonso is trying to hit a six-run home run to prevent that. It’s a losing proposition on both ends.
Alonso is not a “head case” in the same way Yoenis Cespedes proved to be with the Mets and three other teams. He is also not Steven Matz, who is well beyond his Sophomore year with the Mets, and still struggling not to shoot himself in the foot.
What Pete Alonso is, though, is a man on a mission that defies the odds of succeeding in a shortened sprint of a season, and not the marathon typical over baseball’s six month season. He is also a man who (forgive him) tries too hard.
With twenty or so games under his belt, Alonso is only a ripple in the pond of struggling All-Stars (Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Cody Bellinger, etc.) still trying to find their way as if it was the end of April, and not closing in on the final month of this season.
While Jacob deGrom quietly goes out there, fulfilling his legacy as one of the best pitchers to set foot on a major league field, the undeclared but still unanimous consent is that Pete Alonso is the man upfront for the Mets.
It’s a role that by design will have its ups and downs – ask Aaron Judge. Pete Alonso is working his way through a decidedly down period.
He may or may not come out of it to lead the team in 2020, and there are undoubtedly other fingers to point at for the team’s decline, but one thing rings true. Pete Alonso is not Superman, and last year was not a barometer, only the pinnacle of all he needs to be.
Think the Mets wouldn’t take .280, 101 RBI, and 32 home runs from Pete Alonso in a regular 162-game season? Or a pro-rated split to cover 60 games this year.
Pete Alonso: 2021 Will Mean A Helluva Lot More Than 2020
It’s ironic because it’s Pete Alonso, who has chosen to put the spotlight on himself. And to the Mets goes the idiocy of allowing him to do it in the face of a team with no identity and no culture to draw from.
Forever seeking a hero to replace the departed David Wright, a legitimate face of the Mets when he was healthy, the Mets are doing Alonso no favors by their self-promotion of a kid who is – essentially – still trying to find his way in the big leagues.
You can’t say the season is young – it’s not. I’d be the happiest of baseball fans to see Pete Alonso and the Mets recover what is fast becoming a lost 2020 season – but I’m afraid I’d be a fool to believe so.