Pete Alonso being named to his third All-Star team in five years on Sunday provided a much-needed morale boost after a brutal June for the Mets’ slugging first baseman.
But the fact that he’s the only Met headed to Seattle? That’s an indictment of everyone else on this underachieving $377 million roster, a group that easily could have a half-dozen if the Mets were playing anywhere close to expectations.
“Super-proud,” Alonso said of his All-Star nod. “But also, as cool as it is, this game isn’t easy. It’s a really, really tough game and I’m just really happy that I’m able to perform at a high level.”
But happy is a relative term lately for Alonso, who found another reason to smile Sunday night after his 25th homer provided some insurance in the Mets’ 8-4 victory over the Giants, which clinched their first series win in a month. He’s been visibly frustrated by the mounting losses, and as one of the longest-tenured Mets, he knows how hard it can be to power through challenging times at Citi Field.
So does J.D. Davis, the former Met now flourishing after being dealt to the Giants a year ago (with three minor-league pitchers) in the ill-fated deal for Darin Ruf.
I asked Davis before Sunday’s game what he thinks might be sabotaging the Mets’ playoff aspirations, based on the perspective from his own rocky time in Flushing, and while he praised Steve Cohen’s ownership, he knows how things tighten up when stuff goes sideways here.
“I haven’t been in that clubhouse and talked to that many guys over there,” Davis said. “But there’s a sense of, I wouldn’t say panic, but definitely a sense of walking on eggshells over there.
“ I got on first base twice [Saturday] and tried to talk to Pete and Pete was very mumble-mouth and said only a few words. That’s not Pete-like.
“Pete is very jubilant, a very joyful guy in the clubhouse and on the field. A great guy to play with. As a guy I played with for four years, just to have a 30-second conversation and have a sense that he wasn’t himself. So it definitely takes a toll on you, especially when there’s so much high expectations for that team.”
Davis can be considered an expert of sorts when it comes to Mets dysfunction, both for himself personally and the way the franchise has operated in the past. It’s no secret that general manager Billy Eppler and manager Buck Showalter never seemed to figure out how to deploy Davis before ultimately trading him to San Francisco. He is hitting .284 with 10 homers and an .817 OPS in 78 games after going 1-for-5 with a double Sunday night.
Davis suggested that the frequent turnover in the management ranks made it nearly impossible to establish any consistency and difficult for anyone other than the regulars to thrive on a daily basis.
“We want to put our best foot forward and perform at our best,” Davis said. “And if you have the ability to help us prepare, I’m a big preparer . . . But there was a lot of times over there with the Mets, lineups were sent over at 4 p.m. So unless you’re [Francisco] Lindor, unless you’re Pete, and have a staple position, you don’t even know if you’re playing that day. So it was kind of that anxiousness.”
Davis said that doesn’t exist with the Giants because manager Gabe Kapler distributes the lineup the night before, providing a “sense of security” that helps him feel “stable” and “confident.”
Is that the reason why the Giants entered Sunday at 46-37 with a wild-card spot and the Mets were nine games below .500 (37-46)? It takes more than communication for that much of a swing.
But what Davis mentioned in the pregame conversation at his locker had more to do with the fractured culture in Flushing during his 3 1⁄2-year stay and how those underlying issues could have laid the groundwork for the current crisis (even after a 101-win season). He recalled how the firing of hitting coach Chili Davis a month into the 2021 season had a destabilizing impact that the team’s core never recovered from in staggering to a 77-win finish, evidence of how a club’s swagger can erode.
“It felt as if the front office had all that pressure on themselves and that had kind of a domino effect on the clubhouse,” J.D. Davis said. “We know that New York is the mecca, we know it’s the media [capital]. But if you feel a sense of urgency with the front office, as a player, you feel like you’re gonna be in survival mode.”
The Mets’ first-half nosedive has put Eppler and Showalter in the crosshairs, and despite Cohen’s assurance that both will stay put this season, the trade deadline is less than a month away.
Alonso, as a face of the franchise, seems to be putting that duress on full display. And Sunday’s All-Star selection can mask it for only so long.