Star shortstop Francisco Lindor evaluates Mets second-half collapse, including own failures

·4 min read

BOSTON — There are some ball clubs in late September that have already clinched a postseason berth. Those teams are gearing up to compete in the Fall Classic, with the most meaningful baseball they will play this year yet to be showcased.

The Mets are not one of those teams. They haven’t been one of those teams in half a decade. When Francisco Lindor signed a 10-year, $341 million contract with the Mets in April, he thought the 2021 Mets were built to be one of those clubs that could enjoy a somewhat restful September and save their energy, their best baseball, for October.

Instead, the Mets are somewhere between believing they still have a chance, knowing they’re not particularly close, and evaluating what went wrong. They entered Wednesday seven games behind the division lead and 8.5 games behind the final wild-card spot with just 11 games to play.

“The really good teams come on top late in September, and the OK teams are fighting, and the bad teams, they don’t even compete in September,” Lindor said Wednesday at Fenway Park. “I feel like we had a really good team coming into this year. It has collapsed and we haven’t performed. Especially, I know, if I had played a little bit better, I know we could’ve won at least 5-7 more games, then we would’ve been fighting for first place right now.”

Lindor missed a chunk of the season, 36 days, on the injured list with an oblique strain. When he landed on the IL, the Mets had a 3.5-game advantage in first place. But, to anyone paying attention, it was already clear the wheels were falling off. Jacob deGrom was shut down from throwing, the losses were piling up, and the team’s $341 million shortstop was watching the season crumble from the dugout.

When Lindor came back from the IL on Aug. 24, the Mets had collapsed. They’d already dropped to third place for 10 days when the hyped-up vision of Lindor and Javy Baez at shortstop and second base finally took the field. The club hasn’t been able to climb out of their third-place hole since. The Mets’ stretch of 90 straight days in first place, beginning on May 8 and ending on Aug. 6, was unrepresentative of the team that is now, in late September, gasping for air as it feebly fights for the playoffs.

Lindor was asked if he blames himself for the Mets’ collapse. He paused and considered it for a few beats. He said he really wants to think about how he answers that question before saying: “I put a lot on me. I do. I put a lot on me.”

The 27-year-old shortstop underperformed in his first year as a Met. In the first half, he batted at a clip of .225 with a .698 OPS. He clobbered 11 home runs and collected 36 RBIs. Across his first 87 games in Queens, Lindor recorded a below-league average 95 OPS+. His second-half numbers have certainly improved, particularly in September. This month, Lindor has a .959 OPS in 19 games. He has a .373 on-base percentage. In the second half, his OPS+ is 121.

Lindor said if he played all year like he is in September, the Mets would be right up there atop the NL East, competing with the Braves and Phillies for a postseason berth.

“It’s frustrating. We still got a couple of games left. We would love to be in the playoffs,” he said. “How realistic am I? I really don’t know. But I know we’re not close.

“But we’re not going to quit. We’re going to continue to play the game as hard as we can to try to come up with some Ws and see what happens at the end of September and early October. But yeah, I came here to win. It sucks that we’re not in that position where we are in first place. That sucks for sure. But I still think we got a little bit of a fight left in us.”

Time is not on the Mets' side. Fighting alone won’t get them into the playoffs. The Braves and Phillies, at least, would need to dramatically collapse in the final weeks of the season.

Like Lindor said, the Mets are just an OK team. His dreams of winning, and winning big, will have to wait. He has until 2031 to flip the script of these underwhelming and deeply disappointing Mets.

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