All dressed up and no place to go

Carlos Correa

The Giants’ hesitation on sealing the deal sent Correa—the arguable best shortstop on this winter’s free agency market—into the Mets’ unhesitant arms for a twelve-year deal.

Well, now. A lot of teams this winter approached the free agency market like the proverbial children in the candy stores granted permission to raid the stock as they please until they can’t carry any more out. A lot of very wealthy ownerships have made a fair number of players of most ages very wealthy men going forward.

But at least one reasonably wealthy ownership, the group that owns the Giants, led by Charles Johnson but operated by his son, Greg, resembles Olympic hurdles champions who leapt and bounded their way to the gold medals without contact with even a single hurdle but tripped walking upstairs on their ways home.

They had erstwhile Astros/Twins shortstop Carlos Correa on board for thirteen years and $350 million. Then they didn’t. They had Correa in San Francisco, all dressed up and no place to go, instead of being at an Oracle Park podium ready to shoulder into a spanking new Giants jersey.

Over a week after the Giants and Correa agreed to the deal, the Giants quaked over a medical question and thus postponed the scheduled Tuesday introductory press conference. They said, essentially, “Not so fast.” The Mets, with single owner Steve Cohen bearing dollars unlimited and anything but shy about spending them, said, essentially, “Not fast enough.”

The Mets now have Correa for a mere twelve years and a mere $315 million. The Giants blinked. The Mets pounced.

The Giants pleaded a “difference of opinion” over Correa’s physical exam. Correa’s agent, Scott Boras, pleaded that the Giants got edgy over ancient medical issues, not present or coming ones. Enter Cohen, with Correa unexpectedly back on the open market, once Boras worked the phones and tracked Cohen down in Hawaii, where he and his wife are spending the Christnukah holidays.

Exit Correa from San Francisco. Enter Correa to New York. What began in San Francisco and continued with Boras and Correa over lunch probably telling each other, “Relax, brah,” ended at fifteen minutes past Simon & Garfunkel time.

That’s the time Correa agreed to become a Met, with his only immediate issue likely to have been jet lag from such a short turnaround in back-and-forth bi-coastal flights. Also pending a fresh physical, but without any apparent paranoia on Cohen’s or his organisation’s part over . . . just what, precisely?

“You’re talking about a player who has played eight major-league seasons,” Boras said. “There are things in his medical record that happened decades ago. These are all speculative dynamics. Every team has a right to go through things and evaluate things. The key thing is, we gave them medical reports at the time. They still wanted to sign the player and negotiate with the player.” Until they didn’t.

“It sounds as if there was a very old Correa injury—pre MLB—that was raised as a potential issue. It has not cropped up again,” tweeted Susan Slusser, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Giants beat writer. “None of Correa’s other physical issues have required medical intervention or ongoing treatment.” She added that if it became cold feet, that’s usually on the owners and not their front office.

Last winter, the Twins signed Correa as a free agent to three years and $105 million, with an opt-out clause enabling Correa to terminate the deal after the 2022 or the 2023 season, his choice. He chose to exercise it after the 2022 season. They whispered about back issues last winter, until Correa had himself checked by one of the nation’s top spine surgeons, Robert Watkins, M.D.

“He said, ‘This dude is as stable, as healthy as he can be’.” Correa said then.

Hearing that from the best back doctor in the world, it was reassuring. I knew that already because I’ve been feeling great. But to get that expert opinion, after an MRI and the work I’ve been putting in . . .

This is what I tell people. There’s no way you can go out and win a Platinum Glove if your back is not right. There’s no way you can put up an .850 OPS if your back is not right against the elite pitching we’re facing nowadays. There’s no way you play 148 games—and I could have played more, but the COVID IL got me—if your back’s not right. There’s no way you sign a $105 million deal for three years, go through physicals for insurance and for the team if it’s not rightthere are a lot of people who make decisions when it comes to the Giants.

“Almost all of the small [decisions for the Giants] are no doubt made by [team president] Farhan Zaidi and/or [chief executive officer] Larry Baer,” writes Craig Calcaterra at Cup of Coffee.

When things get big—and a $350 million commitment is pretty big—I would guess that a lot more people have a say in that and I can’t help but wonder if there was some buyer’s remorse re: Correa on the part of the partnership at large in the past week. If so, it would not be hard for someone in-house to suggest, order, or otherwise put out there in the ether the notion that Correa’s medicals are scary as a pretext for scuttling things.

“The owners didn’t want to pay the contract,” Slusser added. “All this ‘we almost got Bryce [Harper] we almost got [Aaron] Judge’ is just cover for the owner to pretend he wanted to spend. He didn’t. He’s a cheapskate. How pathetic.”

Some think Cohen is channeling his inner George Steinbrenner, minus that George-bent toward turning the Mets’ atmosphere into a hybrid between the Mad Hatter’s tea party and a psychiatric ward. Those owners to whom spending is about as agreeable as a colonoscopy may think Cohen’s ignited a new, slow-burning slog liable to culminate in a future owner-provoked stoppage that translates, almost as usual, to a demand someone else (namely, the players) stop the owners before they overspend, mis-spend, or mal-spend yet again.

But then there’s the thought of a secondary method to Cohen’s apparent madness. While he puts a major league product on the field that glitters while going for the gusto, he has room aplenty to continue his oft-proclaimed intent to remake/remodel the Mets’ entire system.

Be reminded, please, that it’s not as though Cohen just went nuts on the sales floor when he went to market. He locked down incumbent relief ace Edwin Díaz to the largest deal ever for his Díaz’s line of work. Then he lost Jacob deGrom to free agency and the Rangers but replaced him with (so far) ageless future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. He locked down incumbent center field centerpiece Brandon Nimmo and signed Japanese pitching gem Kodai Senga.

Now, pair Correa with his longtime friend Francisco Lindor on the left side of the infield, Correa slotting over to third, in a combination not alien to either player in other places. Thus, too, Cohen bumped the Mets’ offense up a few more rungs (they were good at working counts last year and Correa gives them extra there, too), behind a solid pitching staff and with a reasonable bench behind them.

The expectations now will be the Mets going deeper into the postseason next year than a round-one disappearing. Not to mention becoming first in line to shop at the booth of a certain unicorn wearing Angels silks until he reaches his first free agency next winter. The expectations for the Giants, by comparison, may only begin with a wisecrack from The Athletic‘s Giants writer, Tim Kawakami. “[L]et me suggest,” he writes, “that the Giants probably need a crisis manager as much as they need a general manager these days.”

They once said that almost annually about Correa’s new employers. But these are not your grandfather’s Mets. Sixty years ago, the Mets’ original owner told a writer that their maiden season of 120 losses begged for serious improvement. “We are going to cut those losses down,” insisted Joan Payson. “At least to 119.”

One of their fans was a Long Island kid named Steve Cohen. With the financial power to support it, he now behaves as though the Mets have just got to get the wins (regular and postseason) up at least to 119. (That’s a joke, son. Sort of.)

What the Mets should ask if they want Showalter managing

Buck Showalter

Showalter still has some splainin’ to do over Zack Britton’s absence when the 2016 AL wild card game was squarely on the line . . .

If you want to keep your minds off the lockout for awhile, you can find plenty of issues with which to do that. One coming to mind almost at once is New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro waxing, as his column’s headline said Friday, on why the Mets should hire Buck Showalter as their next manager.

“The truth is,” Vaccaro wrote, “the team [new general manager Billy] Eppler and [owner Steve] Cohen have already cobbled together — and the one that seems destined to emerge from the lockout — is a team custom-designed for Showalter’s particular talents.”

There will be plenty of veterans, and Showalter likes having vets he can trust in his clubhouse. There will be plenty of intriguing players of younger vintage—think Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo—whose experiences as major leaguers have largely been shaped by the stone hands of [former manager] Mickey Callaway and the inexperienced ones of [former manager Luis] Rojas . . .

But Showalter’s teams, in addition to almost always being of a superior collective baseball IQ, also take care of their business properly . . . The Mets, under Showalter, would be a Showalter team. That may mean they’re a couple of degrees less flamboyant, maybe a few layers less fun-loving . . .

So far, so good. And Showalter’s supporters include his former Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, who acknowledged Showalter still has to go through “the process,” meaning proper vetting. “[F]olks don’t have any idea of the real impact he can make on a ball club,” Jones tweeted Friday. “And I’m not just talking players. The Franchise. He made everyone better and accountable!”

How about Showalter making Showalter himself accountable? Say, for not making the move he should have made in the bottom of the eleventh of the 2016 wild card game? Vaccaro’s Post colleague Steve Serby tried in a September 2020 interview. And Showalter failed.

“Your Orioles controversy in [that game] when you didn’t call on Zack Britton and lost in the bottom of the eleventh in Toronto,” Serby presented. “You just have to wear some things, and I can sit here and tell you ten things you may not know about that situation, but nobody wants to hear it. I’m at peace with that,” Showalter replied.

The obvious followup—In fact, Buck, people would love to hear about the ten things that stopped you from bringing in your best relief pitcher, who also happened to be the best reliever in baseball that season, despite there not being a quote save situation, unquote, despite the Blue Jays with first and third and one out in a tie ballgame—didn’t come from Serby’s mouth.

Showalter stayed with Ubaldo Jimenez, normally a starter, but working in relief of Brian Dueseng, after Dueseng opened the inning with a strikeout . . . and despite Jimenez’s prompt surrender of a pair of base hits on four pitches. And Edwin Encarnacion hit Jimenez’s first pitch to him for a three-run homer.

It wasn’t as though Showalter didn’t have a very recent precedent by which to go. Just two years earlier, then-Cardinals manager Mike Matheny made the same mistake—with his Cardinals one game from elimination, Matheny left his best relief option, Trevor Rosenthal, in the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game . . . because that, too, wasn’t a quote save situation unquote.

The Giants then had first and second and also one out. Matheny left in Michael Wacha, still rusty from late-season injury idling. And Travis Ishikawa hit Wacha’s second pitch to him for a three-run homer. Showalter was luckier—Encarnacion’s blast into the second deck merely sent the Jays to a division series; Ishikawa’s launch to the top of Levi’s Landing had a National League pennant attached to it.

Matheny reminded everyone what Showalter would forget a mere two years later: the time to bring your absolute best relief pitcher into a game is when it’s squarely on the line, previously designated “role” be damned. Especially when postseason advancement or a trip to the World Series depends on it. That’s not purely a thought from the school of analytics. It’s what they taught in Common Sense Elementary School.

If the Mets take Vaccaro’s suggestion seriously, they should be mindful of Jones’s reminder to put Showalter through the full vetting process. That vetting must include Showalter telling them, at least, what he wouldn’t deign to tell Serby over a year ago.

The Mets should damn well want to know why else—beyond no “save situation”—Showalter left his best relief option to rot when that option just might have sent the game to a twelfth inning giving his team one more chance to win at minumum. Accountability neither begins nor ends with the players.

If Showalter says only and again that nobody wants to hear those ten things you may not know about that situation, the one that sent his team home for a winter too soon, the Mets’ proper reply should be, “Way wrong answer! Thanks for coming, Buck, and don’t let the door knob goose you on your way out.”

The Mets bet Max (the Knife)

Max Scherzer

Shown pitching against the Mets in New York in late August, Max the Knife is a Met now . . . and lucratively.

Lose a shot at bringing a solid pitcher back to the Mets? Lose a followup shot at luring a pitcher who resurrected himself in San Francisco? Go forth and sign a three-time Cy Young Award winner to what might well be his final major league deal—at a record average annual value for pitchers, future Hall of Famers or otherwise.

When you say it that way, it sounds so simple that a refugee from the Delta Quadrant could have done it, despite knowing about as much about baseball as a veterinarian knows about astrophysics. But this is baseball, these are the Mets, that’s Mets owner Steve Cohen, and this is Max Scherzer.

Never mind that Cohen first found an immediate way to atone for squandered time after his particular (and not yet detailed at this writing) rift with former Met Steven Matz’s agent dovetailed with Matz signing a nice four-year deal with the Cardinals.

Signing Starling Marte (center field with a big bat), Mark Canha (just about any outfield spot and an on-base machine), and Eduardo Escobar (solid third baseman who can play second, solid batter) turned Cohen almost overnight from a sad gag to a definite big-market player. Even if it means moving Brandon Nimmo to a corner outfield slot and saying goodbye to a Michael Conforto whose walk-year collapse didn’t look great for himself or the Mets.

Never mind, too, that Cohen and/or his designated hitter couldn’t quite close the deal with righthanded pitcher Kevin Gausman, who turned a career year with the Giants into a nice five-year deal with the Blue Jays—who lost Matz to free agency—that’s the second most lucrative in their franchise history. (George Springer’s five/$125 million beats Gausman’s five/$105 million.)

Signing Scherzer qualifies thus far as the largest, loudest splash on this off-season’s open market to date. Maybe even louder than the ten-year/$325 million the Rangers handed now-erstwhile Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager the day before. In two swell foops (as the lady once said on the radio) the Mets swept up both the single best center fielder available and the pitcher whose 5.9 wins above replacement-level player in 2021 led all free-agent pitchers this time around.

It may also be the least expected. Remember: Scherzer’s conditions for being traded from the Nationals to the Dodgers last July included that he go to either a west coast contender or those guys in his native St. Louis who just bagged Matz. New York was thought to be near the bottom of his baseball bucket list. The Yankees weren’t even a topic, really.

Remember when Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson said he signed his first free agency deal with the Yankees because George Steinbrenner “hustled me like a broad?” Cohen and his minions must have hustled Scherzer like ten ladies and their ladies-in-waiting.

Landing Scherzer means the Mets bring aboard as respected a clubhouse figure as exists in today’s game, a guy who does his best to keep the dysfunction away and also serves as a kind-of de facto second pitching coach, sitting with younger arms while they review video of their past performances and helping them analyse and prepare.

It also means the Mets just landed the guy who led the entire 2021 Show with the lowest walks-per-nine innings rate (1.8), the lowest walks-and-hits-per-inning pitched (WHIP) rate (0.86), posted a better than splendid 2.97 fielding-independent pitching rate, and mostly looked better than his usual self after becoming a Dodger at the 2021 trade deadline.


Max the Knife isn’t quite a kid anymore. At 37, it’s very possible that he’s just signed the final big contract of his major league career; it could even be his final major league deal, period. He pitched mostly like his classic self until his final two starts of the regular season, when he got pried for five runs by the Rockies in Coors Field (23 September) and then for six runs (five earned) by the Padres at home (29 September).

Scherzer recovered from those to pitch well enough in the postseason until former Dodger Joc Pederson yanked a two-run homer off him in the fourth in Game Two of the National League Championship Series. With his shoulder and arm feeling exhausted, Scherzer would have been that set’s Game Seven starter—if the Braves hadn’t yanked four runs out of Game Six starter Walker Buehler while the Dodgers had no answer past two runs off Braves starter Ian Anderson and reliever Luke Jackson.

Nobody would have counted Scherzer out for the seventh game that never came. Just two years earlier, he shook away a terrible neck issue to start Game Seven of the World Series, keep the Astros in check enough despite having nothing left in the tank otherwise, and leave the Nationals room to win the Series with a record fourth road win in the set. He really has been one of those pitchers who can survive on will when the stuff deserts him.

The Mets must be hoping that Scherzer has enough left in the tank to help yank them back into the races to stay. Either that or that he still has that iron will to survive on the mound when the repertoire goes from Kind of Blue to Milli Vanilli.

Assuming both a healthy Scherzer and a healthy returning Jacob deGrom, the Mets in theory would have a 1-2 punch at the top of their starting rotation equal to none today but comparable to several of the past. Sandy Koufax/Don Drysdale. Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling. Heady and three-out-of-four Hall of Famer company to keep.

In theory, too, it could be enough to cause division-rival Nats general manager Mike Rizzo, now navigating a rebuild on the fly without even thinking about tanking, to rub his head with sandpaper (since he has no hair to tear out) and mutter loudly, “If I’d known he’d end up a Met, maybe I wouldn’t have traded Scherzer at all.”

But . . .

“Scherzer could outperform 95 percent of pitchers his age through MLB history and still underperform relative to the contract,” writes Smart Baseball author Keith Law at his usual stand for The Athletic.

Good for him for getting paid, but the idea in free agency is to pay for expected future production, not past production, and the base rate for pitchers his age is not promising. They either lose effectiveness, or they get hurt. Maybe Scherzer is an outlier, just like the race isn’t always to the swift or the battle to the strong. That’s just the way to bet.

The Mets are laying a $43.3 million a year average annual value bet. As Law points out, no pitcher 37 or older has had a 5-WAR season since Bartolo Colon at 39 for the 2013 Athletics; only three since World War II (Hall of Famers Johnson and Phil Niekro, plus Roger Clemens) have delivered 7-WAR seasons at 38+; and, only twelve times have 38-year-old-plus pitchers posted 5+ WAR seasons since the turn of the century.

They’re banking on Jenny Diver, Suki Tawdry, Miss Lotte Lenya, old Lucy Brown, and company forming that big line on the right now that Maxie’s coming to town. For every Met fan and observer wondering if their boy Cohen’s done something else rash, there may be ten counting on Scherzer to become the kind of outlier the Johnsons and Niekros were at his age.

They might even be banking on Scherzer spinning a third no-hitter, this time for them. He has two already, both in 2015, the second of the two against the Mets. When he nailed his 3,000th lifetime major league strikeout last August, bagging San Diego’s Eric Hosmer in the second, Scherzer also took a perfect game into the eighth—when Hosmer exacted revenge by breaking it up with a double to deep right.

Assuming next season won’t be compromised or delayed by any coming lockout, (and it sure feels as though enough of the owners are landing their free-agent signings in a big hurry and rash to secure themselves further before any lockout—a rash which also puts the big lie to any claims of financial ill health), there’s something else to consider.

The Mets are scheduled to open against the Nats. How delicious would it be to see their next manager have to decide whether to open with deGrominator or Max the Knife? Already the National League East would look many things with boring not even close to being one of them.

Great Scott! You thought it couldn’t get worse?

Zack Scott

Zack Scott speaking to reporters earlier this year. Waking up stewed in White Plains isn’t the best look for an acting GM already in a seat hot enough to pass for the electric chair.

Did you think the boo birds and the boneheads fuming over the Baez-Lindor-Pillar thumbs-down to fans would suddenly look upon that nostalgically? Wasn’t it a kick when Lindor and Jeff McNeil had a presidential-level debate over . . . whether that was a rat or a raccoon on the Citi Fields grounds?

Don’t be shocked if that’s exactly what they’re feeling, after the Mets’ acting general manager Zack Scott drove and then parked himself right into a drunk driving charge early Tuesday morning.

This is what we know: White Plains (New York) police found Scott asleep in his car near a federal court house. Scott spurned a breathalyzer but flunked a field sobriety test. Apparently, he got tanked up in the first place while attending a charity fundraiser at Mets owner Steve Cohen’s Connecticut spread not far from there.

Already I’ve seen social media slugs demanding Cohen’s head on a plate over Scott’s inebriation. Guess what. If I’m at a party at your place, the booze is flowing freely enough, and I get that bombed out of my trees, that’s on me for not knowing my limits. You didn’t hold me hostage refusing to release me until I made Jim Morrison resemble a Prohibitionist.

Scott was already on a hot seat close enough to the electric chair, when the only thing he did to fortify the injury-addled Mets at the trade deadline was to bring aboard all-but-washed-up veteran pitcher Rich Hill and the slick-fielding but too-free-swinging Baez. (Where was Cohen—who called out the Mets’ undisciplined hitting, albeit kindly and gently—when Scott made the Baez deal?)

“But the Braves quietly got much better at the deadline,” writes Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post. The Phillies upgraded. So, of course, did the Giants and Dodgers and, let us not forget, the Yankees. Maybe [Mets [resident] Sandy Alderson can shoulder some of the blame; Alderson, an old target of Met-fan angst, probably deserves as much.”

Scott also threw his wounded under the proverbial bus, saying it was pretty much their fault for getting hurt and not getting with whatever the Mets’ health program is. He was blissfully unaware that such a call-out meant his own administration looks like a group of nincompoops playing Operation and pronouncing themselves credentialed medical experts.

Which one of them kept getting buzzed removing the funny bone?

Most likely, Scott would have been gone after the season ends. He might have been moved into a benign advisory role before his rude awakening in White Plains. Now the Mets can’t afford even to put him in charge of a Citi Field cleaning crew.

Alderson still has some splainin’ to do, though, about why he was so hot to pursue the known misogynist Trevor Bauer so hard last winter. The most narrow escape of Alderson’s career was losing out to the Dodgers on Bauer—who turned out to be too much more than a mere misogynist, as he now awaits whether a district attorney will file sexual assault charges against him and he won’t likely pitch again in 2021 . . . or beyond.

The Mets under .500 and five and a half games back in both the National League East and the National League wild card chase—that’s what a 9-19 August did to them in an eleven-game free-fall out of the NL East leadership—may actually be their smallest problem. The toxicity in the organisation needs to be cleaned out.

Waking up stewed in front of the federal court in White Plains is entirely on Scott. But so are a few other things that indicate it’s time for Cohen—who’s had, mostly, the patience of Job in his first year owning the Mets—to flip the switch on the Hoover and clean the Mets’ house. Beat, sweep, and clean it out.

It begins with Alderson, alas. For all his distinguished baseball service past, including a term in the commissioner’s office, the Mets’ president has earned impeachment and removal. The articles against him only begin with that fan-their-behinds statement about the thumbs-downers that he probably carried in his pocket for a couple of weeks before the idiot brigades going cray-cray last Sunday gave him his excuse.

They continue with having hired and elevated Scott in the first place—after former Mets GM Jared Porter had to be purged over his hot-pursuit unwanted sexting aimed at a Cubs employee when Porter ran that team’s scouting apparatus. At that time, it looked as though the Mets were caught with their proverbial pants down, but now it looks as though Alderson’s facility for due diligence abandoned him long enough ago.

Because Alderson is also the Mets’ chieftain who hired Mickey Callaway to manage them, then endured two seasons in which Callaway was in deeper over his own head than a submarine beneath the ocean surface. And that proved the least of Callaway’s issues.

Alderson learned the hard way—when the Angels first suspended, then fired him as their subsequent pitching coach, and baseball government banned him through the end of 2022—that Callaway had a too-pronounced penchant for texting, sexting, sharing shirtless images, and pushing for hot dates with unwilling media women, one of whom called his predatory style baseball’s worst-kept secret.

“What exactly is the Mets’ definition of due diligence when pursuing players and executives?” asks The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal with appropriate snark. “Seeing whether they can spell their names correctly?”

How the hell did Alderson—who built three straight pennant winners and one world champion in Oakland, then called the old umpires union’s chief Richie Phillips’s bluff and accepted mass umpire resignations after the umps balked over one MLB attempt to mandate umpire accountability—devolve to this?

And what the hell was Scott not thinking, considering, as Rosenthal writes, that after “the Callaway and Porter fiascos, he needed to conduct himself impeccably.”

For this toxic cleanup, Cohen’s going to need the Hoover, the Roto-Rooter, truckloads of Raid, and a hazmat team.

Lindor gets his lucre

341 million more seasons to smile than Lindor already had making himself a Met.

The night before Opening Day, Francisco Lindor went from prospective off-season free agent to a Met for life. The morning after Lindor became a $341 million Met, the anticipated enough Opening Day duel between Jacob deGrom and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer got postponed thanks to five Nats players and one team staffer testing positive for COVID-19.

Lindor was already the catch of the offseason when the Mets reeled him in from the Indians with pitcher Carlos Carrasco in exchange for Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, and two prospects. That one showed things stood a fine chance of being far different under the Steve Cohen regime than they were under the former Wilpon government.

But would the gigarich Cohen be willing to open the vaults deep to keep Lindor beyond his walk season? Turns out that he would, after a little tussling and a few hiccups. Especially after Lindor turned spring training into his personal coming-out party as a Met.

All Lindor wanted, it turns out, was for someone—preferably his new bosses—to acknowledge that, sure, Fernando Tatis, Jr.’s hot stuff and liable to stay that way, and sure, the Padres weren’t stupid to lock him down and make him a Padre for life, but there was someone else playing shortstop on the baseball street who’d shown and proven a little bit more (well, a lot more) than Tatis had just yet.

When the Mets first offered Lindor $325 million, Lindor—whose smiling style can provide alternative power in the event of a major blackout—said nice, but not so fast. He’d have had to be willfully blind not to notice the Padres invested $340 million in a shortstop who’s played just shy of a full season’s worth of games in two years. He wanted just a little bit more—$1 million more as things turned out.

A little nudge here, a little tug there, a little bump yonder, and Lindor got what he wanted. Just $1 million more worth of evidence that he’d done already what the Padres hope Tatis continues doing. Even if the tradeoff for getting just that much more acknowledgement meant Lindor also looks at $50 million deferred money.

“When it came to negotiating his contract, Lindor was comparable to Tatis only in the sense they play the same position,” writes Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. “Lindor, 27, was one year away from free agency. Tatis, 22, was four years away. And in terms of career accomplishment, Lindor had produced five seasons of at least 4.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs, and Tatis had yet to produce one.”

The thing they have in common otherwise is how much plain fun both Lindor and Tatis are to watch. They’re studies in controlled incendiaries at the plate; they’re studies in acrobatics at shortstop. So far. Barring catastrophic injury or other unforeseen unforced troubles, they’re likely to be that for a long enough time to come.

Lindor’s played six Show seasons; Tatis has played 143 Show games so far. This is how they compare in terms of my Real Batting Average metric: total bases (TB) x walks (BB) x intentional walks (IBB) x sacrifice flies (SF) x hit by pitches (HBP), divided by total plate appearances (PA):

Francisco Lindor (6 yrs, per 162) 732 319 59 27 8 5 .571
Fernando Tatis, Jr. (143 games) 629 325 57 2 4 10 .633

Tatis is equivalent to the hot first-season wonder. Lindor’s a six-year veteran. If Tatis after six years shows an RBA of .571 or better, he belongs at Lindor’s level. But Tatis isn’t just going to have to keep it up at the plate. He’s going to have to step it up major bigtime in the field. For that equivalence of one season, Tatis has saved 18 runs below his league average. For six seasons, Lindor has saved 56 runs above his league average.

Tatis is the prodigy, the work in progress. Lindor’s the established positional model. If he’s aware that he’s proven himself a top-of-the-line all-around shortstop, you can’t blame him for believing the Mets—or his next employer, should he have chosen to play 2021 out and hit what might be a crowded offseason market throttled by dependence on the next CBA negotiations and outcome—should pay him just so.

Without Lindor’s presence the coming shortstop division of the next free agent class is going to be formidable enough. Unless one of these players lands himself an extension to his liking before the 2021 season finishes playing out, here they are, according to RBA so far:

Javier Baez 2708 1201 128 30 12 22 .504
Carlos Correa 2583 1089 272 17 27 15 .550
Corey Seager 2301 1034 207 15 12 16 .558
Trevor Story 2541 1228 213 10 9 21 .583
Francisco Lindor 3510 1531 284 27 36 25 .542

Story, of course, benefits from the Coors factor; neutralised and his RBA might be somewhere more between Lindor and Correa. Now, put them all in the field, see who’s saving runs how far above his league average, and it’s no contest:

Player TZR
Javier Baez +11
Carlos Correa +30
Corey Seager +23
Trevor Story +41
Francisco Lindor +56

With Lindor off the market, Story is the best all-around shortstop in the coming free agents’ class by the raw numbers, but that Coors factor may or may not factor likewise into whether his payday might come that close to Lindor and Tatis.

Tatis landing his Padres lifetime meant that Lindor’s market would take a big leap flying high. Now Lindor’s jumped the coming shortstop market up, of course. But—assuming the CBA negotiations don’t put any kind of crimps into the real market values of players—Baez, Correa, Seager, and Story may see better dollars than they thought they’d see without getting close to Lindor’s bank account to come.

Assume a fair market and intelligence to match coming for argument’s sake. Story and Correa should see larger lucre than Seager and Baez. But that’s only on assumption. We don’t know yet what the coming CBA will deliver.

The bad news is that I’m pretty sure of one thing the coming CBA won’t deliver. The Major League Baseball Players Association isn’t likely to even think about revisiting the player pension plan and giving a reasonable shake to the class that was frozen out of the plan’s 1980 re-alignment capriciously and unfairly: short-career major league players from 1949-80.

Those players include a small handful of one-time Mets. Players such as Bill Denehy, the pitcher traded to the Washington Senators after a single injury-disrupted season as a Met, so the Mets could bring Gil Hodges from Washington to manage them.

Players such as Bill Wakefield, whose lone major league season was as a Met reliever in 1964 when he set a team record for appearances. Players such as outfielder Rod Gaspar and infielder Bobby Pfeil of the 1969 Miracle Mets. Players such as 1970s outfielders George (The Stork) Theodore and Leon Brown. And more.

The 1980 re-alignment changed pension vesting to 43 days major league service and health care vesting to a single day’s major league time. But it excluded players with short careers who played between 1949 and 1980. Some who follow the issue believe one reason was that they were seen as little more than September call-ups, though most of the players frozen out made teams right out of spring training.

The sole redress those players have received since comes from a 2011 deal between then-commissioner Bud Selig and then-players union director Michael Weiner: they have the pre-1980 short-career players $625 per quarter for every 43 days major league service, up to four years worth. The bad news: it doesn’t allow the players to pass those dollars to their families upon their deaths. The worse news: Weiner’s own death, taking further chances for better redress off the table so far.

Cohen has shown he wasn’t kidding when he said he was willing to spend and invest reasonably in reviving the Mets and securing them as a competitive Show team. Perhaps if the players union continues refusing to do better by the short-career players frozen out of the full pension realignment, Cohen—like me, a Met fan since the day they were born—might think about doing something better just for his own former Mets.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: It’s worth considering, and doing. Think about the props Cohen would earn if he, an owner, starts with his own team what the union still won’t think about with all 614 remaining un-pensioned short-career major leaguers. Maybe he’d inspire other owners with comparable dollars and love of the game to do likewise for theirs.

Denehy, Wakefield, Gaspar, Pfeil, Theodore, Brown, and other such short-term former Mets were among the players who supported the union during their major league lives, walking pickets, surrendering small incomes otherwise, the better to see the days when a Francisco Lindor could count before taxes on $341 million going into the bank thanks to a far more fair and open market than that in which they played.

Someone needs to make a serious move. If the union can’t or won’t, why not an owner? Especially one who’s been as unapologetic in his love for his team and the game as Cohen has been?