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The Pete Alonso Dilemma: games in April count as much as games in September

2019-03-15

PORT ST. LUCIE — Pete Alonso is the type of slugger Mets fans would pay to see from Opening Day to the end of his tenure.

The reality is, if the Mets hold Alonso in the minors until a few weeks into the regular season, the team gains an extra year of control on the first baseman. The outcome of this disconcerting scenario relies on finding common ground in the best interest of both Alonso and the team.

It’s a good thing Alonso has the full support of Tony Clark.

“One game in April is the same as one game in September,” Clark said. “It can make a world of difference as to whether you’re shaking hands in October and excited about the postseason or you’re not. Therefore, having the best players on the field to start the season if they’ve earned that opportunity makes sense — makes sense for all involved.”

The 46-year-old Clark is a former All-Star first baseman and the current executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. He wants Alonso to break the recent trend of teams keeping young athletes down, regardless of star potential, due to service-time manipulation.

If the Mets decide to choose Alonso in the minors for three weeks, the team will control him for seven years instead of six. This line of thinking does not bode well with general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s well-known “player’s first” mantra, so the Mets’ final decision will be an interesting one.

“Being able to say that you have the best players in the world on the field at all times is something you would like to be able to say,” Clark said. “In the current climate at this time we can't say that. And that's not even taking into account the free agents that are still at home that help teams win during the course of this year and moving forward."

Pete Alonso's performance could be for naught because of service-time manipulation. (Jeff Roberson / AP)

The approach for teams to gain an extra year of control is a strategy the Blue Jays are currently adapting with their top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The extra year will go a long way for organizations, especially if clubs have a limited shot at playoff contention. It’s causing debate in the industry and Clark made it clear which side of the table he’s on.

“We believe it’s hurting the industry,” Clark said.

Alonso has worked his way toward being one of the Mets’ best 25 players on the team. The 24-year-old first baseman leads the team in home runs (3) in 13 Grapefruit League games. He’s batting .368 with six RBI, four doubles and six runs scored.

Alonso’s power bat is far from surprising to anyone that follows the first baseman’s journey. He hit 36 home runs across two of the highest levels in the minors last year and added 119 RBI in 132 games.

The Mets did not call up Alonso likely in September so the team could gain an extra year of control on the slugging first baseman (though it cited poor defense as the reason).

“I hope that Pete continues to do what Pete has always done,” Clark said. “And I hope that he has an opportunity to break the squad as a result of the production that he's offered in spring training. And I say that despite the fact that I'm a little impartial to first basemen."