Mets manager Buck Showalter walks back to the dugout after...

Mets manager Buck Showalter walks back to the dugout after making a pitching change in the eighth inning of a baseball game against Atlanta, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Atlanta. Credit: AP/John Bazemore

ATLANTA — It came up because Buck Showalter brought it up via a sudden subject change, his go-to move when he has something to say but isn’t getting asked about that topic. 

This time, amid the Mets’ continued mediocrity, he posited a theory: Maybe the World Baseball Classic is partially to blame. 

“I think as we get away from this,” he said of the preseason international baseball tournament, “we will see some of the effects of it.” 

He mentioned that in the context of Omar Narvaez’s return Tuesday from a two-month stay on the injured list because of a left calf strain, suffered a week into the season. He played for Venezuela in the WBC in March. 

Also relevant, to Showalter, is Francisco Lindor’s middling offensive performance, including a .709 OPS that qualifies as slightly below-average relative to the rest of the majors. He captained Puerto Rico’s squad. In the past, Showalter consistently has defended Lindor against the notion that he has had a slow couple of months, usually citing his RBI total (his 42 are tied for sixth in the National League). 

“I think you see it a little bit even with Lindor having to start that competitive, championship thing in February as opposed to April,” Showalter said. “I think we saw that a little bit with Omar. That’s a whole different clock they got. 

“I can’t tell you how much it meant to Omar and Francisco to be vital cogs in their country’s pursuit of that championship. It’s good for baseball and I’m glad they did it, but I think it’s got some residual too that we’ll probably look at as the season ends.” 

 

The natural counterpoint is, of course, Pete Alonso. After representing the United States, Alonso has once again been the Mets’ best hitter, leading the majors with 22 homers and leading the NL with 49 RBIs. His average has dipped to .231 but his .872 OPS is about the same as last year. 

“I think it’s worked out well for him,” Showalter said. “Pete starts his motor about Nov. 2. He’s a guy that’s got all the cylinders moving 24 hours a day.” 

The only tangible impact of the WBC on the Mets is the absence of Edwin Diaz, who badly injured his right knee while celebrating a Puerto Rico win. Without their closer, the Mets have leaned heavily on their other highest-leverage relievers, David Robertson and Adam Ottavino, who largely have been very good. But the trickle-down effect has exposed their minimal bullpen depth, leading to scenarios involving lesser relievers pitching in big spots. 

Lindor and Narvaez, for their part, didn’t buy into Showalter’s theory. 

“He talked to me about the same thing,” Lindor said. “That’s his point of view. But I don’t see it that way [because] I felt like the WBC helped me to get more experience. I understand his point of ramping up in February and March. But I think that the WBC was great. It was great. I talked to him about it, I understand where he’s coming from. But I don’t want to blame my slow start or my start [on the WBC] . . . It was going to happen, WBC or not.” 

Narvaez said: “I don’t think so. The injury would’ve happened (either way) . . . I’m really not concerned if he thinks that.”

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