Jon Heyman

Jon Heyman


Francisco Lindor showing signs of being $341 million man Mets need him to be after struggles

LOS ANGELES — If the Mets are going to confound the critics and ace their 2024 season of supposed transition, they are going to need star shortstop Francisco Lindor to be himself. They are going to need more than half of him, which is exactly what he was through the first three weeks. 

The Mets’ 9-4 victory over the World Series favored Dodgers here late Friday was nice, but perhaps even better was seeing Lindor’s possible breakthrough from the left side. Batting left-handed, the switch hitter Lindor provided the winning blow, a two-run homer to right-center field off right-hander Daniel Hudson to quell the Dodgers’ sudden and fleeting momentum, break a tie game and send the Mets to their fifth straight victory. 

Lindor’s seventh-inning shot and the Mets’ blowout victory made everyone forget the team’s unpalatable 0-5 start, and better still, he signaled that he may be getting past whatever was preventing him from living up to his status as a $341 million player, at least from the left side. Lindor took a 5-for-55 batting record as a lefty swinger into that at-bat, and he obliterated the baseball and perhaps even the bad feeling about his confoundingly bad beginning. 

Francisco Lindor launches a home run during the Mets’ win over the Dodgers on April 19, 2024. Getty Images

“There’s a lot of things I’m doing very well right now from the right side right now that I haven’t been able to accomplish from the left side. But I’m there. I’m there. Now it’s just a matter of staying consistent,” Lindor said in the afterglow of the biggest win against baseball’s best roster. 

Lindor later singled, also from the left side, against Dodgers righthander Ryan Brasier as the Mets poured it on against a suddenly struggling Dodgers team that’s going the other way, losing six of eight games. Lindor stole second and scored as the Mets are seemingly turning from slow starters to world beaters overnight. 

Historically, Lindor is somewhat better from the right side (.289 as righty hitter compared to .265 from the left side), but nothing like this. It got so bad one NL scout suggested the unthinkable Friday, that at 30 he may be “regressing.” It’s early for that talk but the homer was his first extra-base hit from the left side. 

Francisco Lindor celebrates during the Mets’ win over the Dodgers on April 19, 2024. Getty Images

“I try to be the same hitter from both sides. I try to help myself from the right side to the left side, and from the left side to the right side,” Lindor said. “It’s a blessing and a curse at times, because when I’m locked in on one side, I try to bring it to the other side. But I guess I get a little mixed up. Sometimes I have to think as two different hitters.” 

We are all a little mixed up watching the Mets’ head-turning start to a 2024 season that was supposed to be something of a step back. They don’t call it a rebuild, and that’s fair. When you’ve committed $345 million on players, which is close to what they spent in their record-setting spending spree in 2023, it’s no rebuild. 

There are enough players of pedigree to make you think the playoffs are possible. But they are going to need their stars to be what they can be. 

There’s certainly reason to hope. The depth is better. The defense should be improved (although they rank near the bottom in DRS — defensive runs saved). 

Starling Marte is looking like some semblance of himself after his injured 2023. Brett Baty is shaking rookie jitters and playing great. D.J. Stewart, the solitary guy on the roster who outperformed last year, is appearing like 2023 was no fluke for him and establishing himself as the best option to hit behind star cleanup man Pete Alonso before JD Martinez arrives, hopefully next weekend. 

The starting rotation looks more solid than it ever did when it contained two future Hall of Famers. And the bullpen has been masterful. 

But they are going to need Lindor. Their 30-30 man is going to have to deliver more. 

One great thing about him is that his positive outlook remains even when he isn’t hitting. He has the type of personality that helps everyone around him, and ultimately helps him. 

And he keeps smiling through the pain of his .167 overall start. When he was asked how he does it, characteristically, he laughed. 

Francisco Lindor scores during the Mets’ win over the Dodgers on April 19, 2024. AP

“Man, rely on my teammates. Rely on my wife. Rely on my daughters,” Lindor said in answer to how he does stay upbeat in the wake of a slow start and the bad reaction of some overheated fans. “The world is a beautiful place. It can get nasty at times. But it’s a beautiful place.” 

There’s a strategy to his sunny disposition. 

“Understanding, it’s an uphill fight, you’ve got to stay the course no matter what,” Lindor said. “I’ve got to continue to compete day in and day out, and be myself. At the end of the day, I’m not going to be somebody else. I’ve got to be me.” 

Even when his batting average goes south, Lindor keeps his winning attitude. They don’t call him Mr. Smile for nothing.