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The Mets didn’t just land themselves a perennial All-Star and a potential Hall of Famer on Thursday. In Francisco Lindor, they just might have themselves a face of the franchise.
After all, he’s already a face of the sport.
“He will be great,” Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller, who spent two-plus seasons with Lindor in Cleveland and a season and a half with the Yankees, told The Post on Thursday in a text message. “Frankie is a superstar and he works his tail off. Combine that with his talent and there’s no reason he can’t be great anywhere.”
You never know whether a guy can handle baseball’s challenging Acela line of Boston-New York-Philadelphia, which stands out for its collective intensity and media scrutiny, until he gets there. Maybe both Lindor and the Mets will get off to a slow 2021 start and won’t be able to recover. That has to rank as the underdog scenario, however. Lindor has shown too much skill, too much poise and too bright a smile to bet against him.
“There are many players that you watch and you appreciate. There are other players you watch and you smile. That smile is not just a function of appreciation, but also kind of an empathetic reaction to how they play the game,” Mets president Sandy Alderson said Thursday in a Zoom news conference. “I think Lindor’s the kind of player that makes one smile.”
It’s his grace, his athleticism and his enthusiasm that has made Lindor stand out. That compelled Major League Baseball to send the Indians to Lindor’s native Puerto Rico for a 2018 regular-season series. That should open the door for endorsement opportunities should Lindor forgo the free agency he can enter next winter in return for a long-term commitment at Citi Field.
Alderson has long embraced the notion that baseball must be regarded as entertainment as well as competition. He built an A’s team in the ’80s that featured the “Bash Brothers’’ Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire as well as all-time hot dog Rickey Henderson, and his 2015 Mets established themselves as fun and colorful as they were good. Lindor’s star power “was a factor” in this transaction, Alderson acknowledged, continuing, “I don’t know that it was the most significant factor, but look, any time a player brings an extra dimension in terms of personality, in terms of how they present themselves, how the fans will react to that player, that all has to be taken into account.
“He’s obviously done lots of things over his young life. We expect that he’ll continue to do them in New York. … That was definitely not a huge consideration but at the margins a great benefit for us.”
It’s not believed that Lindor, a slam dunk to leave small-market Cleveland once he approached free agency, has been angling for years to play in New York. Actually, the Blue Jays made more sense as they are managed by his countryman Charlie Montoyo and run by team president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins, who drafted him for the Indians. Nevertheless, he should fit with the Mets.
“Very charismatic player, high-energy player,” Mets GM Jared Porter said. “I think his teammates feed off of that. I think he feeds off of it too. I think he likes playing and performing in the biggest moments as often as he can. He never stops looking to get better, to improve.
“When I called him today [for an introduction], it sounded like he was in the batting cage hitting, in the background. He’s a very hard worker. He’s a great teammate. He’s someone who leads by example and can be a part of the core of our club.”
Furthermore, Lindor is said to be accountable during the bad times and approachable and accessible at all times.
The Mets already employ a high-energy leader in Pete Alonso, who like Lindor experienced some statistical slippage during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, and Dom Smith is trending that way as well. Lindor could join them to energize the Mets fan base. To sell tickets, eventually, assuming the vaccinations go smoothly enough.
Lindor has his big stage. All he must do now is be the same guy who instantly energized his new fans.
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