Does Bassitt Want to Be Here?


(Photo credit: Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

It wasn’t Chris Bassitt’s second-inning meltdown that stood out in the Mets’ 6-0 wild-card series finale loss to the San Diego Padres at Citi Field Sunday night. It was his comments about playing in New York on Saturday night after the Mets avoided elimination in their 7-3 Game 2 victory.

He mused there isn’t a more challenging city in this country to play a sport like New York. He mentioned it’s an absolute gauntlet every night. He congratulated himself for talking about doing well in New York. 

This was apparently on his mind when he was on the podium to talk about his start. Remember no one asked him about what it’s like to play in New York. He just said it of his own volition.

It’s interesting he brought this up before the biggest start of his career and the biggest game of his team’s season. One would think he would focus on getting ready for the game. He focused on something that shouldn’t be on his mind.

He must have been bothered about Mets fans booing Max Scherzer Friday night after Mets manager Buck Showalter took him out in the fifth inning. Scherzer was booed after he gave up four home runs and seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. Perhaps he was stung by the criticism that the Mets received for losing in September. There was no question he was triggered to say something about the fans.

I am not sure what Bassitt expected Mets fans to do. No one would cheer a starter from the home team for an awful performance, especially in a playoff game. Fans paid their hard-earned money to expect a competent performance at a bare minimum. It’s not just a New York thing. It’s anywhere in a pro sports market.

Give him points for his honesty. He scored big in the clubhouse by defending his teammate. But this was the wrong time to do it. He should have been talking about his start only and how important it is for him and the franchise to win that game and advance to the Division Series. It had to be about the moment.

Only he knows if New Yorkers bothered him in the second-inning meltdown. With fans on their feet to show their support after he got two outs and was ahead of the count against Ha-Seong Kim, he suddenly lost his command and was out of sync with Mets catcher Tomas Nido. He walked Kim and followed it up by walking Trent Grisham. Then, Nola fouled off three pitches after facing an 0-2 count at the plate with the bases loaded and he broke through by hitting a two-run single off Bassitt, scoring Josh Bell (he hit a leadoff single in that inning) and Kim for a Padres’ 2-0 lead.

It certainly did not present good karma. He had to be overthinking out there knowing one mistake could cause negative energy at the stadium. The pressure of being a guy at the right moment got to him there. It didn’t look good when he was frustrated in working with Nido.

Bassitt went unglued at the wrong time. That’s all fans will remember him by this season. It won’t be he was so steady and consistent as the No. 3 starter. That’s just the way it is here. Ask Tom Glavine. He was a fine starter here, but fans only remember him for floundering in the first inning against the Florida Marlins in Game 162 of the 2007 season, costing the Mets the postseason.

The Mets Game 3 starter allowed three runs on three hits and three walks in four innings.

Yes, the offense was terrible the entire night and for most of the series. The Mets went down meekly by only getting a hit in nine innings. But the story was that Bassitt never gave them a chance.

Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered the way the offense showed out there. But the Mets would ride and die with their starting pitching since their success is predicated on it. In the end, Scherzer and Bassitt failed them in the sense they imploded early in Games 1 and 3 respectively. The starting rotation is why the Mets fizzled out in the end.

I couldn’t help but think about Bassitt’s future during the game. His comments on Saturday night had me wondering if he really wants to be here. If fans booing the home team is on his mind, it’s fair to wonder if he really wants to be part of this gauntlet experience. Playing in New York is not easy, and it’s not meant for everybody. One has to be really tough to handle the grind and the whole package of playing in this great sports city.

We have seen players such as Roberto Alomar, Kenny Rogers, Sonny Gray, Javier Vazquez (twice), Randy Johnson, Javier Baez, Julius Randle and several others just lose it playing here, because they couldn’t handle the New York spotlight. It’s hard to teach someone to play in New York. Either he can handle it or he can’t. It could just be that Bassitt can’t.

It’s surprising to say this since he has always been cool and composed, but his last regular season start against the Atlanta Braves and this start where he imploded raises questions about his ability to play here. The Mets need to think long and hard about paying what he wants. That’s if he wants to even be here.

Let’s be quite frank. Replacing Bassitt won’t be easy. Starters like him don’t come out of anywhere. If he is gone, he will be hard to replace. He is good enough to win 10 or 11 games a year and go six or seven innings. The Mets need him more than he needs them.

But if he does not want to be here, there’s nothing the Mets can do.

Maybe pitching in Minnesota is Bassitt’s thing.

This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6

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