With the Mets on the verge of elimination from postseason contention and the team’s collective goals reduced to an afterthought, individual pursuits are virtually all that is left in the final week of the season.
Pete Alonso went into Tuesday’s game against the Miami Marlins with 50 home runs, more than any previous Mets player. But if he could manage three more over the final six games of the year, he would break Aaron Judge’s major league rookie record.
That, and Jacob deGrom’s final start of the season on Wednesday, may be all that is left for fans to cheer.
Alonso, at least, has maintained some enthusiasm. He noted on Tuesday that more than 19,000 players have suited up in Major League Baseball, but none of them managed to hit 53 home runs as a rookie. He said he struggled to find words to express what achieving the record would mean to him, but he eventually found a few.
“Super, incredibly amazing, awesome,” he said.
Unfortunately for the Mets, those words do not accurately describe the team’s season.
Alonso’s search for history comes within the context of sad ending — the Mets’ all-but-guaranteed failure to reach the postseason. In contrast, Judge’s 52 home runs in 2017, including 15 in the final month of the regular season, came amid a remarkable run by the Yankees that did not end until the final out of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
Judge added four home runs in the postseason, including three in the A.L.C.S. Alonso, almost certainly, will not get that opportunity.
“Let’s say, if we don’t make the playoffs,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. But I think there’s a lot of positives and I feel like that’s going to have some building blocks and momentum going into next year.”
Still, it was a harsh reality that a team with a clear leader for the National League Rookie of the Year Award — who is also expected to get votes for the Most Valuable Player Award — and the leader for N.L. Cy Young Award winner in deGrom, was on the verge of elimination from the playoffs Tuesday. They went into the game trailing the Milwaukee Brewers by five games for the second N.L. Wild Card spot.
But Alonso remained as positive as always when assessing the season, and preached patience for a team that is showing signs of improvement as it heads into the off-season.
“I wouldn’t say it’s bittersweet at all because this has just been a miraculous year for me,” he said. “Everyone in this locker room has been awesome. We have an awesome team, a great group of guys and I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened for the world.”
Alonso has been remarkably consistent throughout the season, hitting nine home runs in his first 29 games, then 10 in May and nine in June. After a mild drop-off to six in July, he added eight in August and has matched that total in September, with six games still remaining including Tuesday’s contest. He had 24 home runs at home and 26 on the road.
On Monday, he singled in the third inning, giving him 335 total bases to break David Wright’s franchise record of 334, set in 2008. Alonso’s 50 home runs are the most in baseball, and his 82 extra base hits were tied with Cody Bellinger for most in the N.L.
Martin Prado, the Marlins second baseman and a 14-year major league veteran, does not expect this season to be a fluke considering what he’s seen of Alonso’s consistency and maturity.
“The guy has a really short stroke to the ball,” Prado said. “But he’s a big boy, and every time he hits the ball, it sounds different from anybody else. When you have that much power and you are direct to the ball, it’s hard contact somewhere and you are more likely to succeed in this game.”
Alonso, of course, still has goals for the future: Make fewer outs to raise his on-base percentage (it was .363 in 155 games), and improve his defensive proficiency and his base running to become a more complete player.
Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said that Alonso had succeeded Wright, who retired last season, as the face of the Mets, and indicated he would afford Alonso every opportunity to break Judge’s record.
“It would mean a ton,” Callaway said. “There’s a lot of special things that have gone on this season and Pete is definitely one of those things. What he’s already done is spectacular. I would love for him to break that record and win an M.V.P.”
Alonso stressed on Tuesday afternoon that the Mets were still focused on trying to secure an unlikely playoff berth. But for a player whose only goal going into spring training was to prove that he was good enough to play in the majors, Alonso has gone far beyond that.
“This year has been unforgettable for me,” he said. “The most fun year I’ve ever had playing baseball. It’s been extremely special. I’m going to remember this season for the rest of my life. It’s been miraculous.”
The Mets will retire JERRY KOOSMAN’s No. 36 during a ceremony next year. JEFF WILPON, the Mets chief operating officer, made the announcement on Tuesday, the 50th anniversary of the Mets clinching their first National League Pennant. Koosman joins TOM SEAVER (41) and MIKE PIAZZA (31) as the only Mets players to have their numbers retired. Wilpon said he expects more number retirements in the coming years. He did not say it, but DAVID WRIGHT’s No. 5 is an obvious choice.