Pete Alonso did not wait for the question. When reporters approached him following Thursday’s loss to the White Sox, Alonso spoke for a moment about his offensive slump. Then, unprompted, he brought up his fielding error that cost the Mets three unearned runs. The ball, Alonso said in defense of himself, was bounding toward him with difficult topspin. He could not decide whether to charge it or take a more passive approach.
It was a noteworthy moment of accountability for Alonso, despite the fact that his current spate of struggles doesn’t revolve around a singular error. It’s not necessarily about his 2-for-32 slump either, nor his nine-game home run drought, nor anything else that has plagued him in recent weeks. Instead, the combination of all those things is what Alonso must address if he intends to guide the Mets up the National League standings.
“Just overall, I haven’t played well,” Alonso said. “I haven’t played well at all.”
That hasn’t always been the case. On the morning of June 7, Alonso owned an .869 OPS with 22 home runs in 61 games -- a 58-homer pace that had many fans looking forward to a potential chase of 60. That night, Braves starter Charlie Morton struck Alonso on the wrist with a fastball, sending him to the injured list. Originally slated to miss three to four weeks, Alonso sat out only eight games.
Since returning from the IL, however, Alonso has hit .137/.252/.295 with four home runs in 26 games -- a 25-homer pace. He shrugs off the idea that his wrist injury caused his slump, and manager Buck Showalter corroborated that line of thinking. With Alonso, Showalter said, the issues may not be entirely physical.
“Everything -- especially in sports, but probably in all walks of life -- is mental,” said Showalter, who sat Alonso down for a 1-on-1 chat following a game earlier this week. “We all know how much Pete wants things. He has put so much emphasis on trying to play perfect defense when he’s not hitting. … What happens is you just get out of sync.”
What Showalter fears is Alonso’s offensive slump spilling over to the field. In addition to his error on Thursday, Alonso made an errant throw to second base on a potential double-play ball last Saturday against the Dodgers, allowing the go-ahead run to score in another loss.
“Caring and wanting something, it’s a double-edged sword,” Alonso said. “If you obviously care too much, then that leads to mounting pressure. That’s not necessarily good.”
Perhaps, though, things are slowly improving. In his final at-bat Thursday, Alonso poked an RBI single into right field -- the type of thing he did with regularity last season in batting a career-high .271, but that he has struggled to accomplish this year as his average has plummeted to .204. Alonso credited an approach adjustment, which basically means swinging at better strikes. He called it making “a meal out of a breadcrumb.”
The Mets will pay close attention this weekend to see if those breadcrumbs start combining into something more substantial. If Alonso’s issues are grounded in something mental -- in trying too hard, as the first baseman said while quoting the dad-rock band “38 Special” -- then the Mets hope those answers are coming.
“We trust Pete,” Showalter said. “We trust his track record. For us to get where we’d like to get, it’s going to include Pete doing what he can do.”