Mets 1B Pete Alonso and RHP Marcus Stroman have the production, voice, age, and confidence to be on- and off-field leaders for their team in 2020.
Both players are capable of motivating teammates. Both are capable of intentionally and unintentionally antagonizing opponents and members of the media. And both have, and will continue, to fire up fans.
Respectively, for all of the above reasons, both have become appointment viewing -- not just because they might say something colorful or act in bold way, but because their talent and work ethic outweigh their words and personality.
In high school, Stroman played multiple positions and different sports. As a pitcher, though, baseball scouts that watched him expressed concern that he was just 5-foot-8.
"I've been in the presence of Mike Trout and Anthony Rizzo, and Stroman was the most competitive of any prospect I ever came across," former Dodgers scout Frank Bodner once told Newsday. However, he added, "A lot of scouts pulled back because of his size and that he would break down long term."
Historically and statistically, height for a big-league pitcher has proven to be irrelevant to success and health. Nevertheless, it's a believed fact, meaning Stroman had no choice but to use it as motivation.
"I've been hearing all my life that I was too short," Stroman once wrote for MLB.com. "All that talk has ever done is motivate me more, made me hungry for more, made me angry and made me say, 'I'm going to do everything I can to prove these people wrong.'"
That said, just in case sports didn't pan out, he was required to spend equal time studying and reading the news as he spent shooting a basketball or throwing a baseball. As a result, in addition to being a legendary local athlete, Stroman was also in the National Honor Society.
"I wasn't allowed out or able to go to party if I wasn't going to put in the work," Stroman explained.
This combination of laser-like focus, intellect, self and social awareness and All-Star talent has created for him a mouth and mind that are as quick as his arm... and both are great to see in action.
The same unabashed confidence and honesty he uses as a mantra and to motivate himself on the field is also clearly used by him when expressing himself off it...
For instance, Stroman was a hot commodity at the July trade deadline last summer. The Yankees were interested, but he eventually got dealt from the Blue Jays to the Mets.
"We were interested in Stroman, but we didn't think he would be a difference-maker," Yankees GM Brian Cashman later told reporters. "We felt he would be in our bullpen in the postseason."
Stroman quickly took to Twitter and wrote...
It's this sort of comment that led the Toronto Sun to once say, "Stroman is brash," and, "bordering on cocksure."
I prefer to call it confident, determined and inspiring, which comes across perfect in this tweet published by him earlier this week...
I'm going to be great in all facets of life and there's nobody/nothing that can stop me.- Marcus Stroman (@STR0) January 28, 2020
"Marcus has an intensity and focus that pushes him to be one of the best, and it can inspire his teammates as well," Stroman's former teammate in Toronto, Curtis Granderson, told me earlier this week.
"He has always had a competitiveness and an energy that was contagious," Steven Matz added.
And then there's Alonso...
Before hitting 53 home runs, before dominating his class and winning Rookie of the Year, before even stepping on a big-league field, Alonso among other things wrote and said:
"Every time I take the field, it's personal. ...It's either going to be me or you; and it ain't going to be me. ...I wouldn't want to pitch to me. I'm not saying that to come off as cocky or anything. ... Listen to Baseball Tonight, listen to some people talk, it's asinine what they say about hitting."
In addition to being honest and bold about what happens on field, Alonso also has a knack for lightening the mood and changing the narrative by being funny, such as these quotes said last season:
"This past month has been rough, but ever since mercury came out of retrograde, I think I'm OK," and, "It doesn't matter how much jelly's in the jar, it matters how you spread it on your English muffin."
Naturally, after each of the above odd remarks, fans and reporters fixated on Alonso's words as opposed to how or why the team lost earlier in the night.
At just 25 years old and with one year of experience under his belt, Alonso has -- in almost a child-like, naive way -- become a trendsetter and leader with his actions...
Among other things, he gained attention for his big and loud reactions to his and the team's success this past season -- his shirtless post-game celebrations and creating the colorful #LFGM hashtag among them.
The topper, though, was when he had made custom, commemorative cleats for Sept. 11, bought pairs for all of his teammates, and defied MLB by wearing them on field. He did this, he said, not for the publicity -- or the predictable, positive response -- but because it was the right thing to do for the team, fans and the city...
It's moves like the cleats that has Mets manager Bobby Valentine believing that -- regardless of his age and experience -- Alonso is going to do just fine in New York.
"He showed last year physically and mentally that he's right on top of the game," Valentine told me. "He's a bright kid, he has good instincts, he knows what he's doing and I don't think he'll have any problem at all."
The key for guys like Stroman and Alonso, David Wright explained to me, is to always focus most on winning and performance, and less on your words and what you can attain off the field.
"New York embraces winners, not just individual effort or who you're dating or what you say to reporters," Wright told me. "They remember you and they embrace guys that do everything they can to help the team win."
It's the above comment by Wright that has me confident in believing that Stroman and Alonso will have a major influence on the Mets' 2020 season. They want to be great, and they have both repeatedly written and said that it's the best way to help the Mets be great.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is a senior writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime.