Wilmer Flores jogged out to the shortstop position prior to every game of the 2015 Fall Classic. Yes, he hit .059 in the World Series. And yes, if Ruben Tejada hadn’t been taken out by a slide that still outrages me until this day, Wilmer would not have been starting.
Flores signed with the Mets as an international free agent out of Venezuela on his 16th birthday. He played in two futures games for the World team and appeared on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list three times. I doubt he ever thought he would be playing captain of the infield on baseball’s biggest stage only a few years later.
Wilmer cracked the starting roster in 2015 and started at shortstop on Opening Day. His career as a starter didn’t start as he hoped; he was proving the critics right.
He couldn’t play shortstop. On April 30th, the Mets had a 2-0 lead with deGrom allowing no hits to the first ten batters. With a man on first, Flores booted a routine double-play ball, which lead to three Nationals runs and a Mets 8-2 loss. I was at that game, and I remember thinking about how the Mets trusted him and how he proved them otherwise.
At the bottom of his game, and with the whole world against him, the one party who had his back had betrayed him. The New York Mets had traded Wilmer Flores together with Zach Wheeler to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Carlos Gomez.
Just like that, everything Flores had grown with since his teenage years, everything he knew and loved, was gone. Just like that, in the middle of the July 29th game, his world was collapsing. Just like that, all of his emotions poured out into a powerful weep that caught the baseball world by storm. Jogging onto center stage, in the biggest city in the world, with the harshest media, he wept. Baseball twitter was in a frenzy. If he was traded, why was he still on the field?! Why was he still playing?! And why was he crying?
This point in Flores’s season was parallel with the Mets’. It was the low point in Flores’s career, and the low point in the Mets’ season. Flores’s cathartic response could be analogous to the downpour during the Mets 8-7 loss to the Padres. Everything was coming down for both parties.
Oh, the luck of the Mets. It’s interesting, because while the collapses of ’07 and ’08 may point otherwise, the Mets have had some luck in their history. Had it not been for the Bill Buckner error in ’86, the Mets would not have been champions. If the Mets traded for Carlos Gomez rather than Yoenis Cespedes, they would not have been playing in the World Series.
Baseball is amazing. The things within the game that occur are many times unexplainable. The events that followed the trade were just incredible.
Following the game, Sandy Alderson just confuses everyone more during his press conference, when he announces there is no trade. Have you ever, and will you ever, see such a thing? The trade that never happened, that resulted in tears on national television.
Wilmer Flores was, to his solace, still a Met. And to Met fans, the crying on the field was inspirational. Flores wanted to be a Met. To see the extent of his love for the team was amazing.
Friday night, just two days after the trade-that-never-happened happened, the Mets were playing an extremely critical series against the division rival Nationals. This series would be a good indicator of who might go on to take the division crown. The Mets were three games back, and had three games to play against the Nats. As expected, the unexpected happens.
Bottom of the twelfth inning. No outs. The game is deadlocked at one, and as Wilmer Flores approaches the plate, the crowd applauds again. He’s been applauded through every at bat of the game.
To even further complete the Flores fairy tale, Wilmer crushes a Felipe Rivero pitch over the fence. That was it. He did it. He walked us off. As he rounded the bases, his clenched fist grabbed the center of his center and pumped, as if to say, “I AM A MET, AND I AM PROUD.”
It was the feel-good moment of the year for Mets fans, if not for the whole league.
Yet, just six months later, he who seemed like the future of the franchise at shortstop, is now being neglected. Not because of a major signing or trade, but because of a guy named Asdrubal Cabrera. Is that what we’re okay with? Just pushing Flores to the side for a mediocre player?
I am of the belief that playing Flores as a super-utility player will stunt his growth and potential as a major leaguer. Doing so for Asdrubal is not the right call.
This is a guy who has already been through a lot, who cried when he thought he was being betrayed by the team. Yet, the Mets are betraying him again.