The Cleveland sports world went crazy this week after former Indians’ shortstop (it still pains us to say that) Francisco Lindor’s first press conference at the New York Mets’ spring training camp.
As we are sure you have all heard by now, Lindor said he didn’t work as hard as he normally would have in the weight room toward the end of the shortened 2020 season. Of course, many people stopped listening before he said “weight room”, so the narrative by many in Cleveland is than the four time all-star quit on his team.
We watched pretty much every game a year ago, and at no time did we feel Lindor didn’t give his best effort.
He didn’t have his best season, that’s for sure, hitting just .258 with 8 home runs and a 750 OPS. The batting average and OPS figures were career lows. But many other stars didn’t have good seasons in the 60 game sprint.
Christian Yelich, the NL MVP in 2018 and the runner up in 2019, hit just .205 with a 786 OPS. Jose Altuve, a lifetime .311 batter, hit just .219. What would Jose Ramirez hit in ’19 if the season would have ended after 60 games? His average was .207 (617 OPS) at that point in that season.
Perhaps if a full 162 season was played, Lindor would have come close to his average season, that being a .285 batting average, 29 home runs, and an 833 OPS. We will never know.
But back to Lindor’s comment. It has been extrapolated to mean the shortstop was dogging it in games, he checked out on his teammates, he wasn’t giving a full effort for his salary, which by the way was not the $17.5 million he was awarded in arbitration because it was pro-rated. And yes, we know he was still making more money than most.
We don’t recall Lindor do anything but putting out his best effort on the field in 2020. And for those who will point out his batting average with runners in scoring position, his poor record in that category could be the result of trying to hard instead of “dogging” it.
We felt he went out of his strike zone in those situations, and we believe he felt he had to because of the Indians’ struggles offensively a year ago.
We also may have been affected by his contract status as well. Athletes are people too, they aren’t robots. Is it possible Lindor knew the Tribe wasn’t going to come up with the money he wanted to remain in Cleveland?
Think about how you would feel or do feel because you don’t think you are being paid enough to do your job.
Look, we know baseball players make a lot of money, more than most of us will ever see in our lifetime. However, it’s not a stretch to see how Lindor could’ve been tired from the way the season played out.
No fans, a short year, impending free agency, etc. Some players rise up and perform to extraordinary levels when coming up on their first shot at free agency. Others play well once they have the security.
And while we have been frequent critics of the Dolan ownership, we aren’t taking a shot here. Lindor wants to be paid like one of the best players in the game, that’s his right. The Indians’ ownership didn’t think he was worth that kind of money, and that’s their right.
Lindor had five great seasons here and maybe he would have recovered in a full season last year and made it a sixth. We should be appreciative of that. We are. But accusing him of not trying his best? There’s no need for that.