Francisco Lindor’s empathic nature a perfect fit for what Sandy Alderson’s Mets are building

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Andy Martino
·4 min read
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Francisco Lindor treated image intro news conference Mets hat
Francisco Lindor treated image intro news conference Mets hat

The first place that Francisco Lindor’s mind appeared to drift on Monday, after he was asked about the pair of Cleveland teammates who broke health and safety protocols last season, was toward empathy.

“Those two guys that broke the protocol, they’re great guys,” Lindor said of pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac, who snuck out of the team hotel in Chicago last summer, triggering a dramatic series of events that led to a heated team meeting, demotions to the minor league site, and finally a trade of Clevinger to San Diego.

“They’re fun to be around. They’re caring people. It’s just at that moment they decided to break it. They made a bad decision.”

I’d asked about the incident because Lindor’s response to it last summer seemed to offer a key to why he might be a perfect fit for the culture Sandy Alderson is trying to build as president of the Mets.

To be sure, Alderson traded for Lindor primarily because of his talent and production. This is a baseball team before it’s a club for nice humans. But he might be especially incentivized to keep Lindor above other top-shelf options because of the empathic nature he has displayed.

Empathy has been a concept central to the Mets and their search for new personnel since Alderson took over. In seeking a general manager, Alderson was not interested in a person who merely checked the resume boxes of the Ivy League-bred executives so prominent in today’s intellectually homogenous game.

His ambitious goal was to find a GM who could innovate by listening to, respecting and ultimately breaking new ground in uniting the old and new school factions that persist inside baseball front offices.

As the godfather of analytics in baseball, Alderson knew he had unintentionally contributed to that divide, and he wanted part of his final act to involve healing it. In Jared Porter, he might have found the right person to help with that.

And now, Alderson and Porter have traded for the superstar who has a similar ability to care for and about people.

When Clevinger and Plesac committed their violations in August, Lindor’s public comments struck many as preternaturally empathic for any 26-year-old, let alone a star athlete.

“We have to sit back and look ourselves in the mirror,” he said then. “And it’s not about the person we see in the mirror. It’s who’s behind you. The other people: The coaching staff, (cancer survivor Carlos) Carrasco, all the players on teams that are high-risk.

“We’re in a time right now with Covid, with racism, with everything -- this is a time to be selfless. This is when we have to sit back and understand this is not about one person specifically. It’s about everybody. It’s about your neighbor and your neighbor’s neighbors.”

This is not the sort of message one typically hears from a young ballplayer, especially one as famous and successful as Lindor. His has a job that tends to breed a myopic focus on the self.

That’s why I wanted to ask him about the roots of his impressive comments.

“When I said it’s not about us, I truly meant it,” Lindor said Monday. “It’s not about the person, it’s about my neighbor. It’s about caring about the person next to you. That’s what it’s about.

“I have family members that are high-risk. I have friends that are high-risk. Maybe if I get the virus, I’ll be fine. But if I spread it, they might not be fine. So then you start processing that it’s not just me, it’s somebody else.

“At that time, my fiancee was pregnant, so also, like, I didn’t want to come home -- I’m working. I’m trying to bring money to the house, and I didn’t want to bring something where I could give the virus to the little baby. So that’s why I was thinking like that. I’m still thinking like that.

“That’s the only way we’re going to stop this whole thing, is by caring about others, and not just ourselves. And people do. People care about others. At some point they're like, ‘I’ll be fine, I won’t get sick.’ You probably won’t get hit as hard, but somebody else will.”

That’s not merely a helpful statement to bring to a baseball team. The last paragraph in particular offers a way forward out of Covid generally, which has tested our willingness to look after the common good. Too often in the past year, we have failed.

Alderson’s boss, Steve Cohen, is eventually going to sign a superstar to a massive contract. In Lindor’s first act as a Met, he showed how why he might be the right person in whom to invest.