Mets ‘reward’ Pete Alonso, raise salary to $652,521

Pete Alonso
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The Mets renewed the contracts of many of their pre-arbitration players on Wednesday. First baseman Pete Alonso was among them. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, the Mets wanted to “reward” Alonso for his highly productive 2019 season, giving him a 17.5 percent raise to $652,521. He earned $555,000 last year. The league minimum salary for 2020 is $563,500, for reference.

Alonso was “shocked and thrilled” with the pay raise.

Alonso, you may recall, won a $1 million first place prize in the Home Run Derby last year. He donated $50,000 to each the Wounded Warrior Project and Tunnel To Towers. Those two donations alone eclipse his pay raise from 2019 to ’20. His prize for winning the Home Run Derby is only $207,521 less than his combined salaries for 2019-20.

Frequent readers of this website will be shocked at where I’m going with this, but we have a problem here! The system is broken, as it allows teams to criminally underpay their best players and claim benevolence when they toss a pre-arbitration player what amounts to change found in between the couch cushions.

Last season, at the age of 24, Alonso hit .260/.358/.583 with 30 doubles, 120 RBI, and 103 runs scored in 693 plate appearances. He led all of baseball with 53 home runs, obliterating the Mets’ single-season home run record of 41 previously held by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltrán. Along with making the NL All-Star team and winning the Home Run Derby, Alonso finished seventh in NL MVP Award balloting and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award.

Assuming he can stay healthy and productive, Alonso will eventually be paid commensurate to his value. The Mets, if they don’t trade him, might approach him with the idea of a contract extension as he nears his first year of arbitration eligibility following the 2021 campaign. Otherwise, he will have to wait until after the 2024 season to become a free agent. Of course, Alonso could potentially suffer a career-ending injury before then, permanently removing that carrot at the end of the stick, which is why it’s important to get paid now rather than later.

For as “overpaid” as the handful of players at the top are, many more like Alonso are systematically underpaid. Both teams and the players themselves have caught onto this and have arrived at somewhat of an equilibrium, as we have seen increasingly more contract extensions involving pre-arbitration players than we have in years past. Ultimately, though, the union needs to work to find a way to make sure players like Alonso are able to earn pay more in line with the work they put in on the field.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.