One year ago today, every Mets fan remembers where they were and what they were doing. After Steve Cohen purchased the team and vowed to make a change, the Mets made one of the biggest moves in franchise history when they traded for four-time All-Star Francisco Lindor. By the time the offseason came to a close, the Mets had inked Lindor to a 10 year, $341 million deal to (presumably) keep him in Flushing for the rest of his career. One year later, Lindor has had the lowest of lows and the highest of highs in a Mets uniform. He has been booed and cheered, ignored and celebrated, and everything in between, but don’t let this last season from Lindor truly be an indicator of what is to come for the next 10 years.
The Hitting Woes
Coming into the 2021 season, Francisco Lindor had more hype than almost anybody else in the sport. A superstar caliber player coming to the world’s biggest stage in New York City. After spending all 6 years of his career in Cleveland, this was a huge change for Lindor. With that in mind, Lindor had the worst start to a season of his career. Over the first half of the season, Lindor slashed .225/.325/.373 with only 11 home runs and 36 RBIs over 87 games. Lindor did not get his batting average above .200 until July and was just not himself at the plate. The second half of the season for Lindor was much more like himself. From July to October, Lindor had a 136 wRC+, which is even higher than his career 117 wRC+. While Lindor was not himself at the plate, he was still more than himself with the glove.
The Golden Glove
His fielding was as advertised coming out of Cleveland, bringing something the Mets have not had at shortstop in a long time. Lindor consistently made difficult plays look easy, while also making all of the routine plays without an issue. After years of Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores, and Amed Rosario, Lindor brought a defensive presence the Mets sorely needed. In taking the good with the bad, Lindor played great defense, but not great enough to make up his lack of production at the plate.
However, it was the non-baseball aspects of the season that defined Lindor in 2021. First was the rat-raccoon incident with Jeff McNeil in the tunnel of the dugout. It was revealed in November that Lindor grabbed McNeil by the throat in the tunnel after a buildup of frustrations in the first month of the season. Next was the injury. Lindor injured his oblique on a swing in late July, going on the IR for roughly a month. In that time, the Mets fell out of first place in the NL East and dug a hole in the standings that they would never be able to climb out of. Lastly was the “thumbs down” incident with Javier Baez. Lindor and Baez began flashing thumbs-down signs whenever either of them did something productive after the two were mercilessly booed by the home crowd. This sparked a lot of controversy and anger from the fans and was a really bad look for Lindor and Baez.
With all of the issues Lindor had in his first season in Flushing, there was one thing that became abundantly clear very early: Lindor’s leadership was immeasurably important to the Mets. Lindor was able to connect with other players on an extremely effective level and garnered respect from many of his teammates. As shown when he went down in late July, Lindor’s leadership really carried the Mets in a time when they needed it the most. Once Lindor went down, the team began performing worse and worse until he made his return.
2022 and Beyond
All tolled, Lindor had a bad 2021 season. His performance at the plate was subpar, his relationship with the fans was strained, and he missed more games in 2021 than he did in every other season if his career combined. With that in mind, there is still reason for optimism heading into the 2022 season and beyond for Lindor. His leadership quality is there regardless of his performance on the field. Lindor will continue to be a leader for this team for years to come. Lindor has now also seen the New York media for a whole year and handled them extremely well. Lindor was made for the spotlight, and now he is ready to shine in it after a year of adjustment. Mr. Smile will be just fine in New York, and the fans will see that starting in 2022.
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