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Justin Verlander was supposed to put the finishing touches on the New York Mets’ 2022-2023 offseason.
The 40-year-old pitcher was coming off an outstanding season with the Houston Astros, with a 1.75 ERA and another World Series win. To pair with Max Scherzer, Steve Cohen and the Mets gave Verlander a 2-year, $86 million deal with a player option for a third season.
Yet just a few months after signing, Verlander was back in Houston, after a disappointing 16 starts in Queens.
There’s been any number of “what went wrong” stories about the 2023 Mets, but one of the latest revolves around why Verlander in particular may not have been the best fit in New York. According to Mike Puma and the New York Post, Verlander was a “diva” that didn’t fit in with his teammates.
He also reportedly believed that the Mets’ analytics group wasn’t as good as what he’d become accustomed to in Houston. And that disconnect and his attitude was part of the reason the two aces never really got along.
But does that fully explain why the Mets season failed so spectacularly?
Would Winning Have Helped Verlander’s Relationship With Teammates?
There are any number of explanations for why the Mets season got off to such a slow start. Injuries, poor performance, and perhaps a bit of clubhouse culture.
Francisco Lindor said that a brawl last season helped bring the team closer, something that didn’t happen this year.
“It made us closer, but we really haven’t had anything like that this season,” Lindor said. “I’m not saying we should have some, but that is part of it.”
Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner had a more pragmatic point of view, saying that the team struggled in key pitching metrics.
“We weren’t getting first-pitch strikes, we weren’t getting two strikes before two balls, and then our [swing-and-miss] numbers were down,” Hefner said. “Those are the things that I really pay attention to because they signal to limiting damage — staying ahead, getting strikeouts, limiting balls in play.”
And that’s the problem with trying to dissect clubhouse chemistry issues. When teams are winning, everyone gets along. When you start losing, especially with big salaries and high expectations, things deteriorate.
Verlander may well have been a “diva” in the clubhouse, demanding better analytics. But he was likely a “diva” for the 2022 Houston Astros too. And they won the World Series.
Clubhouse chemistry almost certainly matters to some extent, but at the end of the day baseball is an individual battle; hitter against pitcher. And on both sides of those matchups, the 2023 New York Mets were unsuccessful far too often.
No matter what Justin Verlander was saying behind closed doors.