The New York Mets’ acquisition of superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians earlier this offseason was described by many as one of the largest trades executed in franchise history. One that was being described alongside the mid-season blockbuster 23 years ago that brought Mike Piazza to Queens.
Of course, those comparisons are incredibly hasty considering Lindor has yet to play a regular-season game with the Mets while Piazza catapulted the franchise to a legitimate contender in the late 90s, becoming one of the greatest players ever to wear the blue and orange (and black) over his eight years with the club while donning the interlocking “NY” in Cooperstown.
But the nature of Lindor’s arrival in New York is a tie that does bind him and Piazza together. Lindor is coming to New York with the expectations of contending for a World Series title while his contract is set to expire at the end of the season, possibly allowing him to test free agency.
Those were the exact parameters Piazza had when he joined the Mets in May of 1998 with free agency looming at season’s end. So, needless to say, these are somewhat familiar waters to Piazza that Lindor is currently wading.
Piazza and Lindor were able to meet down at the Mets’ spring-training facilities in Port St. Lucie on Monday as the Hall of Famer visited as a special advisor for a few days.
“He has such a good head on his shoulders,” Piazza said of Lindor via Zoom. “He’s a great player. My only advice to him is to go out and play. Players play, coaches coach, managers manage, writers write. Just do your job.”
Lindor has given the Mets a deadline of Opening Day, April 1, to work out a long-term contract extension; repeatedly stating that he does not want negotiations during the season to potentially distract him from his product on the field.
Of course, it’s still something that will be thought about. Even Lindor said he thinks about it.
“Try not to get too wrapped up,” Piazza warned. “All of us are human and we all want to know where we want to be and have some control… I just think there’s a spiritual component. I think he has to go out and get comfortable. The fact that he has such a good team around him is important.
“Put your numbers up and if it’s meant to be, he’s going to be here… When the energy is good, the team is good and the atmosphere is good, things kind of fall into place.”
Piazza was thrown into the middle of the culture in Queens due to his mid-season acquisition from the Marlins, just one week after he was dealt away from the Los Angeles Dodgers. But even one of the most beloved figures in franchise history wasn’t immediately sold on the Mets.
After initial struggles and even some boos, Piazza managed to find his groove with the Mets, revealing that it wasn’t until August of his debut season that he decided he was going to commit long-term to the club. Though it helped that he had a talented supporting cast around him that made two playoff appearances and won a National League pennant in 2000.
“There are some factors in terms of teammates, management,” Piazza said of Lindor’s looming decision. “You have to have a good support system, people around you who know their role. I had great teammates here. I had John Olerud and Rey Ordonez and Edgardo Alfonzo and Al Leiter and Dennis Cook and we had fun.”
With that fun — as much as this Mets team looks it — there comes pressure, especially in New York.
“You have to enjoy the people you work with and that translates to success on the field. You have to deal with failure,” Piazza said. “Invariably we all struggle. He’s going to have to know how to get out of those situations… once you kind of deal with it here because there will be scrutiny and media and stay off the roller coaster, keep it even-keel and consistent… your luck gets better.
“Positive things happen to positive people. That’s part of the challenge of being here. That’s what makes it unique. It’s a wonderful place to play when you’re winning.”