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Mudville: June 23, 2024 1:45 pm PDT

Statue Strikeout

BY KEVIN KERNAN

I really did not want to write about the Mets today.

I really didn’t.

Then came Francisco Lindor’s give-up at-bat in the seventh inning Saturday, taking a third strike on a 3-2 breaking ball. Lindor’s body language was clear as he stood in the box, batting left-handed. He was not swinging.

He was not even going to fake it.

Bat on shoulder he just stood there to take strike three.

The Mets had just pulled ahead, 2-1, on a solo home run by Brett Baty. Tyrone Taylor stole second base to put the Mets in position to add to their tiny lead. Lindor batting in the leadoff spot came to the plate against San Francisco Giants right-hander Randy Rodriguez at Citi Field. The count moved to 3-2. Lindor had swung and missed at two breaking balls out of the zone and made the command decision he was not going to swing again.

After the strikeout a startled Gary Cohen exclaimed: “What was that? That was odd.’’

Keith Hernandez, who is never at a loss for words, was at a loss for words.

“I don’t have an answer for that,’’ Hernandez said.

The Mets would go on to give up the tying run in the ninth and lose the game 7-2 in 10 innings to the Giants, another blown lead and the Mets fifth straight loss.

After the game, Lindor told reporters in the Mets clubhouse he had great difficulty seeing the baseball from Rodriguez. The shortstop recently talked about using prescription glasses instead of contacts.

“He went ball one, ball two, 2-0, slider, I swung and missed and it was a bad pitch,’’ Lindor said. “Then ball three and then 3-1 slider, swung and missed again. I wasn’t picking it up, the spin. And that pitch, I felt, I’m not picking it up, I got a better chance right now of like seeing something, seeing something and since none of the pitchers were strikes, I just took that pitch and I got to live with it. I wasn’t picking up the pitches. He hadn’t thrown a strike, I made every pitch a strike for him, I was helping him out.

“Yeah, I felt like my best bet was to just take a pitch and it just so happened it was the one strike he threw in the at-bat.’’

I can honestly say I never heard or saw anything like that before from a major league hitter.

The Giants scored six runs the last two innings, five in the tenth, so they were not having trouble seeing the baseball and if they were they battled through it.

Just spitballing here but maybe if Lindor was having such trouble picking up the baseball, don’t wear tinted glasses.

If there is a vision issue, get a complete checkup.

Perhaps call timeout, make believe there is something in your eye and tell Carlos Mendoza, “Skip, I can’t pick up his pitches.’’

At the least go into battle mode, crowd the plate, choke up and do your best to try to put the ball in play or just spoil the pitch.

Fake it, until you make it.

Be a Warrior.

But no.

And so we have the latest chapter of “Only the Mets.’’

To just stand there and to be a limp statue was the perfect representation for how the Mets are playing baseball in 2024. They are 9-22 over their last 31 games and have become adept at blowing leads, this was Edwin Diaz’ third straight blown save.

In the ninth, after the second straight game the Giants tried to give the game away by muffing an easy double play ball late in the game, Lindor had the chance to be a hero with runners on first and second and the game tied, 2-2. He could have made the seventh-inning “give up’’ at-bat a distant memory with a base hit but he grounded into a force out for the second out and then Pete Alonso flied to left.

Francisco Lindor #12 of the New York Mets reacts against the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning at Citi Field on May 24, 2024 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Luke Hales/Getty Images)

The Giants scored five runs in the tenth with Mike Yastrzemski’s two-out triple being the three-run nail in the coffin for the Mets. Yaz battled and hit the ball the other way and now the Mets are nine games under .500. Their $341 million shortstop, their leader, decided to not only not swing in the seventh on a 3-2 pitch, he sent the message he was not about to swing. He then had the chance to win the game in the ninth. He also had the chance to save Alonso from a crushing throwing error in the tenth but did not catch Alonso’s looping throw to second base.

“I didn’t come through,’’ Lindor said of that at-bat and then of the play at second, “and I didn’t catch the ball.’’

For Francisco Lindor there is no lower place to go.

This is the bottom.

When you are at home in a one-run game and you sit in the box with the bat on your shoulder, hoping for a walk like some over-matched Little Leaguer who can’t hit a lick but may grow up to be a major league general manager because he will go to an Ivy League school and take a saber-metrics course, it is as low as it can go.

“Only the Mets.’’

Mets fans know it can always get worse, I know that, but this to me as a competitor, this is the bottom of the barrel.

Lindor needs to get his act together. If there is something physically wrong that has to be checked, do that, take a few days off, but to not even try to hit in a pivotal part of the game, to not even try to cut down your swing and just spoil the pitch, is beyond belief.

This used to be the major leagues.

To walk away and say, “I couldn’t pick up his breaking ball,’’ is the weakest excuse out there and if I’m in the same clubhouse with Mr. Lindor I’m having a serious conversation.

Get your act together.

You’re hitting .209. You’re hitting .208 with runners in scoring position. What is going on?

The Royals 34-year-old catcher Sal Perez is hitting .479 with runners in scoring position leading the baseball world.

A few years ago, Lindor famously gave Mets fans the thumbs down, and orchestrated such a disheartening approach to the fans who give their heart and soul to the team, yet here he is, bat on shoulder, just standing there taking strike three without a fight. How can any Mets fan respect that approach?

Thumbs down, Francisco.

Francisco Lindor #12 of the New York Mets gives a thumbs up during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on September 21, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

How can the tortured Rocco Constantino, co-founder of BallNine, and a huge Mets fan, continue to root for the shortstop.

At this stage and with this performance, the Mets need to be broken apart as soon as possible.

Where is this team going?

Where is the fight?

The image of Lindor standing there with bat on shoulder is the image of the 2024 Mets and only he can change that image by playing better, by being a warrior and not an excuse maker. I have respect the Mets coaching staff and for them to see this, it must be difficult knowing that Lindor, who has always had the owners’ ear, is the biggest example of what is wrong with these Mets.

Steve Cohen and David Stearns did not help matters by not doing anything substantial in the off-season to make the Mets true contenders.

Their “leadership’’ is a perfect example of management on the fringe.

This is a team going backwards and it is plain to see. If I’m Pete Alonso, I’m hoping for a trade to the Cubs asap. The Mets are wasting good starting pitching outings with their inept play. It’s the classic: “How are we going to lose today’’ syndrome that destroys teams, especially teams with bullpen issues. Going into the season it was clear the Mets bullpen was going to be an issue and to believe that Edwin Diaz was going to be 2022 Edwin Diaz after suffering a knee injury that destroyed his 2023 season was naïve and amateurish.

It harkened back to the Mets days of “if.’’

“If (fill in the name) bounces back, if the team stays healthy, if Alonso gives us another big year. If the young catcher reaches his potential.’’

The Mets are a franchise that constantly lives in the “If World.’’

That is so exhausting on a fan base that has seen only two World Series victories in franchise history with the last one closing in on happening 40 years ago.

The Mets are the baseball equivalent of “If frogs had wings.’’

Steve Cohen came in with a song and dance of three to five years for a championship but reality is a much different teammate.

So far the Mets have shown no grit in 2024 and Lindor’s seventh inning at bat is the poster child for the failures of this team.

In May they are 5-10 in one- and two-run games.

Information gathering mode is basically a way of saying, “Don’t blame me.’’.

After the latest collapse the Mets are 15 1-2 games back of the first place Phillies in the NL East and it is not even Memorial Day. They are already five games back in the wild card behind so many teams.

Earlier in the week David Stearns made these comments on SNY, “Right now we don’t have to make any decisions about this team. We’ve got another couple of months before we really have to make concrete directional decisions about how this season is going to shape out so we are still in information gathering mode … We are going to have to play better to have the type of season that we expect to have.’’

Information gathering mode is basically a way of saying, “Don’t blame me.’’

What did you do all winter and last year, as a spectator, you had the chance to watch the Mets every game if you wanted to pick up some “concrete’’ intel.

Ironically, as Stearns was talking, there was Francisco Lindor, this time from the right side, swinging at a high fastball out of the zone for strike three.

Juan Soto went to the other side of town and the Yankees are tearing it up, with Soto being the perfect wingman for slugger Aaron Judge.

Soto is getting better pitches to hit because opposing pitchers are fearful of Judge and Judge is getting better pitches to hit because Soto is on base so much disrupting the opposing pitcher.

Who is the wingman for Alonso?

Judge is where he should be batting third, a true slugger’s spot. The Mets had Alonso batting second on Saturday with Lindor at leadoff. Brandon Nimmo, who is really a leadoff hitter, was batting third. He is hitting .216. The Mets signed J.D. Martinez in the off-season, a solid but aging bat, and their lineup does not have near the depth of the Yankees lineup.

The Mets are once again a mishmash.

Wasn’t that supposed to change when Cohen took ownership from the Wilpons. Stearns is watching the same thing I’m watching and he can’t make any “concrete directional decisions.’’

Are you kidding me?

If all goes right the Mets can at best contend for a wild card. That’s if all goes right. To pin your hopes on being the 2024 version of the 2023 Arizona Diamondbacks is ludicrous, a team that snuck into the watered down postseason and got hot. That was a much younger team than these Mets, by the way.

The Mets are the classic team that thinks it is a much better team than the record shows. You hear that after every loss out of the Mets clubhouse and you’ve heard that 12 of the last 15 games with only three wins over that span.

Luis Severino seemed to add some reality to the Mets world when he said after Saturday’s loss, “We have to focus on what’s in front of us.’’

In other words, stop with the constant refrain of “We are a better team than we are showing.’’

Bill Parcells is forever right: You are what your record says you are.

The Mets are 21-30. Their once superstar shortstop is having trouble seeing the baseball and had so much trouble Saturday seeing the spin he decided to just stand there with the bat on his shoulder. Alonso is hitting .234 to go along with some of the Mets other putrid averages.

The top two batting averages in the game, belong to the Dodgers Shohei Ohtani at .340 and Mookie Betts at .338.

As a team, the Mets are 18th in batting average at .236. They are 17th in runs and 19th in slugging at .378. They are 18th in on-base percentage at .308 and 18th in OPS at .686. They are also 18th in walks.

On the pitching side the Mets are 17th in ERA at 4.10.

Put all that together and you have a pretty good idea on “concrete directional decisions.’’

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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