Alonso is at the core of a young lineup that the Mets’ new manager, Carlos Beltran, will inherit next season, but his breakout campaign was somewhat delayed.
Despite hitting 36 home runs as a Class AA and AAA minor leaguer in 2018, along with 119 runs batted in and a .975 O.P.S., Alonso did not receive a call-up to the majors that September, when the Mets were long out of the playoff race. Alonso’s agents made it known publicly that Alonso was frustrated by the decision.
But Brodie Van Wagenen, who was hired as the Mets’ general manager shortly after that season, made a point of meeting with Alonso at the Fall Stars Game, a showcase of top prospects, in Arizona. To Alonso, the conversation that came with his order of lamb adobo was an “olive branch” from the organization.
Van Wagenen vowed that the Mets would give him every chance to prove himself, and Alonso promised to force the team’s hand, in part by improving his defense at first base.
In his first spring training game, Alonso hit a home run on the first pitch he saw, and throughout the spring outperformed Dominic Smith, a first-round draft pick by the Mets in 2013 who was the main competition at first base. Before the final exhibition game in Florida, Alonso prepared for how he would react to officially starting his rookie year in the majors.
“I might cry if they give me a thumbs up,” Alonso said. “To get that, that’s surreal.”
Tears followed when he received the official nod, and Alonso left no doubt that he was the best Met for the job. He proved to be an adept fielder, and teammates took to his earnest approach in the clubhouse.
Still, Alonso maintained that he was not satisfied with personal accomplishments when the team had missed the postseason. He also expects teams to approach him differently now that he is a known slugger.