Sunday, August 20, 2023

Newsletter Excerpt, August 20, 2023 -- "Thinking Inside the Box"


This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $79.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

Mets 13, Cardinals 2

               AB  R  H  BI
Lindor SS       5  3  4   1 2B, SB

Speaking of great seasons happening under the radar, Francisco Lindor is also on pace for a six-win season, which would be his second straight five-win campaign, his second in three seasons with the Mets.

Since being traded to the Mets before the 2021 season, Lindor is the 15th-best position player in baseball, coincidentally in a cluster with a bunch of shortstops. Lindor had the worst season of his career in 2021, his first in Queens, and was still a three-win player in 125 games. Last year, he was a great player who played in 161 games for a 101-win team and everyone but Lindor seemed to get credit. This year he’s played 122 of 124 games for a team on which everyone else has missed time. I’m not sure what he has to do to win the hearts of Mets fans, but the ones I hear from are pretty eager to see him traded. 

There’s a pretty obvious parallel here, coincidentally also from Puerto Rico. Before the 2005 season, the Mets signed Carlos Beltran, then one of the ten best players in baseball, to a seven-year contract. Beltran had an off year in ’05, still a three-win season but below expectations, and never really recovered his standing. A bounceback campaign worth eight wins in 2006, arguably an MVP-worthy season, is remembered only for a called strike three that October.

During his six-plus years with the Mets, Beltran made five All-Star teams, had six three-win seasons, and despite missing significant time to injury during the back part of that time was still a top-ten player in the league, producing more than 30 WAR, under the contract. Even in his departure he produced value, traded straight-up for Zack Wheeler, who would be worth nine WAR to the Mets before leaving New York as a free agent.

As best as I can tell, Lindor’s reputation in New York was set by that underwhelming debut, and like Beltran, his excellent second season was erased by a disappointing October. Beltran never was embraced by Mets fans despite being a superstar who out-performed his contract. I wonder if Lindor is going to be stuck on the same path.