Five months after an automobile accident that could have ended so much worse for Pete Alonso, an accident that had his truck spinning through the air, Alonso is having one of the great seasons any Met slugger has ever had. You want to fully appreciate what he’s doing? That’s as good a starting point as any. Maybe the only one. A week after the accident, he stood on a spring training field in West Palm Beach, and said this to me:
“One moment you’re driving your truck, basically on your way to work and the next moment you’re turning over in the air, and completely helpless. And not knowing what’s going to happen next.”
What happened next, after that accident when he was on his way from Tampa to Port St. Lucie with his wife of four months (at the time) watching from the car behind him, is this up-in-lights season Pete Alonso is having, one in which he is as valuable to his team as Aaron Judge — even with Judge playing in another league and occasionally another world — is to the Yankees.
On the weekend of Old Timers’ Day for the Mets, just know that Alonso is carrying the Mets the way Mike Piazza once did. Not just carrying them, but leading them, well on his way to being one of the great stars the team has ever had. He hits a big two-run homer against the Rockies Thursday night. Friday night, bottom of the 9th, 6-all game, two outs, he wins another game with a single to left. Another big hit in a season full of them for the guy they call the Polar Bear. His 105th RBI. A young guy making a weekend that’s supposed to be about the old guys about him instead.
Again: Judge is sucking up a lot of the baseball oxygen in our city because of the way he is hitting home runs, maybe on his way to hitting more homers in a season than any Yankee ever has. He deserves all of the attention he is getting, all of the headlines he has generated, mostly for creating excitement like this for the Yankees before he can become a free agent at the end of the season.
But on a Mets team that came into the weekend with a better won-loss record than the Yankees have, Alonso has been the Mets’ star, even with the way Max Scherzer has pitched and the way Jacob deGrom is pitching; even with Francisco Lindor looking like the best all-around player the Mets have ever had.
Here are some things Alonso’s manager, Buck Showalter, was saying about him on Friday afternoon, because it never takes much to get Buck going when the subject is his first baseman:
“Pete approaches every game, and I mean every game, like it’s his first game of Little League. Some people, even in New York, can run away from the responsibility of being who he is on our team. Not him. Some people would rather be in the lounge or the shower. Not him. He gets that being present is part of the job description. This is a young man with an abundance of common sense, and someone who treats people well. I’ve said this before about him: He’s country strong.
“Only people on our team appreciate how hard he works at this game. This is someone who started the season surviving that car accident. This is someone who’s been hit in the head this season, and in the neck, and has gotten right back up, every time, and stuck his nose right back in there. He refuses to give in, on anything.
“He wants to be a Gold Glove first baseman. He wants to be regarded as a great baserunner, even if other guys are faster. In that way, he reminds me a lot of Donnie [Mattingly]. You know why Pete runs the bases as well as he does? Because he tries, that’s why.
“He leads by example. Your best players can’t be moody, and he never is. He’s the same guy every day. Sometimes he just plops himself down in my office, just to see how I’m doing. He’s checking on me, not the other way around. Again: He gets the job description of being a big guy in New York. He posts up every day, the way our shortstop does. The way [Brandon] Nimmo does. The way they all do.”
It occurred to me, listening to Buck extol Alonso’s virtues, that he sound exactly the way Dennis Braun, Pete’s coach at Plant High at Tampa, always has when talking about what he saw from Pete Alonso as a high school kid.
“Nothing surprises me with him now, because I know him,” Braun said Friday. “It’s not just ability that he’s got. It’s not just his heart. It’s what he’s got upstairs. They talk about five-tool guys? What players like Pete have upstairs is the sixth tool that no one talks nearly enough about.”
Braun paused and then added this: “He’s special. But I always thought he was special. I’m glad the whole world is seeing what I feel like I saw first on a ballfield.”
Judge is doing what he’s doing, hitting balls out of sight. Scherzer and deGrom, the best pair of aces in the game and the best pair the Mets have ever had, are doing what they’re doing, and making you believe they can be the kind of 1-2 punch in October that another pair that Buck once managed, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, were in Arizona, the year before they pitched the Diamondbacks past the Yankees in the ‘01 World Series, ending the last Yankee dynasty.
It is Alonso, though, who is the beating heart of this Mets team. When they needed a big swing from him on Thursday night after having lost two tough games to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, there he was. On his way to having at least another season of 40 homers or more. Probably on his way to breaking the Mets single-season RBI record. And wouldn’t it be something, and some New York baseball dream, for him to be on the same field with Judge in a real Subway Series two months from now?
It all started with him getting T-boned on his way from Tampa to spring training, and walking away from that accident with just a scratch on his arm because of the grace of God.
“When you’ve been as lucky as I’ve been in my life, you don’t have to be told that every day is a blessing,” Alonso said to me that day in West Palm Beach. “But then [this accident] happens and you get proof about why you should treat every day as a blessing.”
He does. He keeps saying that his approach to baseball never changes, that he just keeps hammering on the door. “A special young guy,” his manager says. Having a special season, one the old guys at Citi Field this weekend must appreciate — and understand — better than anybody.
DEGROM IS DE-BEST, ONE OF THESE YEARS HAS TO BE THE YEAR FOR GIANTS AND JETS & NOVAK KNEW THE RULES …
At his best, Jake deGrom isn’t just one of the great pitchers the Mets have ever had.
He’s one of the best pitchers anybody has ever had.
The rest of the regular season might be gangbusters for the Yankees.
There still won’t be a rationale for trading away Jordan Montgomery, even though that decision is still being carried along by the roar of the crowd.
I hope Daniel Jones plays well this season.
I hope Joe Flacco plays like he’s young again, until young Zach Wilson is ready.
One of these years things have to turn around at MetLife Stadium.
That way the Giants’ last Super Bowl win really doesn’t feel as if it happened in 1912 instead of 2012.
That way, the Jets can do better for glory years — at least in the half-century since Namath — than the Rex Ryan years.
Somehow Gary and Keith and Ron just keep getting better.
But so, too, does the great Howie Rose.
If Aroldis Chapman isn’t hurt, why didn’t he pitch against the Mets?
If Aaron Rodgers can play football, Novak Djokovic should have been able to play in the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
But there is one difference.
Rodgers wasn’t required to get vaccinated to keep playing for the Packers.
Djokovic knew the rules, and still refused to get jabbed.
Stubbornness is one of the qualities that has made him a legendary tennis champion.
And stubbornness about vaccines, and thinking he knows more than the doctors and more than science, is why he has now missed two of the four majors this year, and might miss two in a row in January when it’s time to play the 2023 Australian Open.
These two things can be true:
He has honored his own beliefs, and is to be commended for that.
And still looks like a blockhead for not getting jabbed.
Jeff McNeil continues to be one of the coolest dirty uniforms to play baseball in New York lately, on either side of town.
Wait a second: The powers-that-be with “Law and Order SVU” are dumb enough to show Kelli Giddish the door?
“The Old Man,” with Jeff Bridges, just kept getting better.
If you’ve never read William Kent Krueger’s fine Cork O’Connor novels his new one, “Fox Creek,” is a good place to start.
This is Giancarlo Stanton’s latest chance to become a very big star around here, in more ways than one.
I love the notion that Aaron Boone slapping a table was some sort of game-changer for the Yankees.
Maybe in high school.
The good news, of course, is that Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is coming back for a 12th season.
And when that’s the good news, there really isn’t any bad news.
What this means is that “Curb” will have run three more seasons than “Seinfeld.”
I’ve always liked Donovan Mitchell’s game.
I love his local back story.
But I also don’t think that the Knicks need to cancel the season if they don’t make a trade for him.
My pal Barry Stanton says that the whole thing with Kevin Durant and the Nets ended up coming across like an especially bad episode of “The Bachelor.”
More big gains for Saquon Barkley.