Indians fans felt an all-too-familiar sting Sunday as the league got the first official looks of star SS Francisco Lindor taking to the diamond in his new colors. Lindor was the centerpiece of the blockbuster trade in early January that sent him along with veteran RHP Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets in return for several prospects. The four-time All-Star joins other young stars like 1B Pete Alonso and RHP Jacob deGrom on a Mets team with very high potential heading into the 2021 season.
The trade had been expected for much of 2020 as Lindor would be entering his final contract season in 2021 and it was repeatedly made public that he and Indians’ owner (and notorious low-baller) Paul Dolan were on far different pages in talks of an extension. The Indians are no strangers to shipping off star players, but Lindor’s ever-increasing potential paired with his apparent passion and excitement for the game of baseball made his loss one of the hardest to stomach for Indians fans in recent years.
Recent comments made by Lindor, though, suggest that his passion and fire began to wear off during his final games with Cleveland in 2020, per WKYC’s Nick Camino.
Lindor: "I just got tired. I didn't give my best in the weight room. It showed."
— Nick Camino (@NickCaminoWKYC) February 23, 2021
Lindor posted career lows in batting average (.258) and slugging percentage (.415) during the shortened 2020 season. At the time, this performance seemed justified; the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 paired with the growing tension between him and the Cleveland front office certainly seemed to create a recipe for disaster in Lindor’s production. Despite these factors, there never seemed to be any question of Frankie’s toughness and hard-working mentality on and off the field. Lindor openly admitting that he didn’t put in the work he needed to in 2020 is not only very uncharacteristic of what fans and teammates had come to expect from the shortstop but sends a very poor message to his new ballclub, who undoubtedly expect to see the fire in Lindor that he showed during his first five seasons in Cleveland.
As a lifelong Cleveland fan, Lindor’s comment is both frustrating and disappointing, especially in the context of the Indians’ early exit from the 2020 postseason. As an athlete, though, I cannot entirely fault him for having this mindset. Why should he put in the work for an owner who blatantly undervalues the impact he has had on their team for five-plus seasons? Paul Dolan’s actions and statements continuously insult the players on his team and the fans whom he expects to buy tickets and merchandise. Why would any rising star want to even consider coming to a team with a front office that prioritizes bargaining over success when they can play for an owner like Steve Cohen who treats them with the respect they deserve? And for the few stars still left on the team, why should they try their hardest when they will see no reward for it for as long as they continue to put on the Indians jersey? These are the questions Indians’ front office members must ask themselves as they move forward if they ever hope to establish their team as a legitimate contender in years to come.
I wish Francisco Lindor the best in New York. His loss will certainly continue to hurt, especially as the Indians prepare to enter their next phase of mediocrity in 2021, but at least he may finally get to play for a team that treats him as the star that he is.
(Photo via Newsday <https://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/mets/francisco-lindor-luis-rojas-mets-spring-training-1.50160755>.)
(Stats via https://www.baseball-reference.com/)