The turbulent season for Wilmer Flores ultimately became his greatest lesson
To say Wilmer Flores has had one of the more busy regular seasons of anyone on the Mets – or in baseball for that matter – would be an understatement.
The 24-year-old broke camp with the ball club as the starting shortstop amid uncertainty about his defense, whether his offense could carry his defense, and how long the experiment would actually last.
Unfortunately for Flores, doubts set in about his abilities virtually immediately when he had a disastrous series against the Braves in Atlanta before the Mets had played a single home game.
During April and May, Flores posted a .694 OPS despite hitting eight home runs in his first 46 games. But it was his ten errors which were the most disturbing, albeit not totally unexpected given the doubts team brass already had in his ability to man that position.
But needless to say, it wasn’t the start he wanted to get off to or needed to get off to. And it didn’t get much better for him in June, either.
Wilmer hit just .221 with two home runs and 11 RBI in June, and industry experts began to wonder not if, but when the Mets would make a change.
But things began to turn for Flores in July, batting .357 in 11 games from July 1st to July 12th.
Nine of those hits came in a three day span while the club was in Los Angeles.
After the All-Star Break, Flores stayed hot. But just a few weeks later, his career nearly saw him pack his bags for another organization, one which was 1000 miles away and in last place, the furthest place he wanted to be.
Recall, the Mets had an agreed upon trade with the Brewers which would have sent both Flores and Zack Wheeler to Milwaukee in exchange for Carlos Gomez.
But Flores didn’t learn this from his boss. Nor did Terry Collins. Rather, Flores had heard from fans in the stands at Citi Field while the club was losing a game to the Padres he had been dealt.
So here he was, faced with the greatest uncertainty in his professional career in the middle of a baseball game. The only response he had became an epic signature on this Mets season when he wept on the field, thinking he was done with the only professional baseball organization he ever knew.
After the game, Sandy Alderson told reporters the deal was off and Flores would remain with the Mets.
And he couldn’t have been happier.
Just 48 hours later, he provided one of the most dramatic moments for the Mets 2015 season against the Nationals to open a pivotal three-game series at Citi Field with an extra-inning home run to completely change the momentum for the Mets in their chase for the National League East Championship.
That was the start of what many consider the on-field turning point in the season for the club as the Mets swept the Nationals and never looked back.
“I can’t tell you if [the club] getting over the hump was because of the home run,” Flores explained to JustMets. “It was a real special moment for all of us. Having the walk-off in that moment was very special and doing it in that important series was even more important.”
It turns out not trading Flores to the Brewers was one of the best non-trades in the history of the trade deadline, because the Mets switched gears and landed Yoenis Cespedes, who single-handedly transformed the Mets offense into one of the most fearful units in the game down the stretch of the season.
The Mets went on to win their next nine of 11 games, arguably feeding off of the energy that transpired that late July night.
“Everything started when the Washington Nationals came,” Flores explained. “We had that spark going. We took it from there.”
Five weeks later, the two teams tangled in Washington, and the Mets notched three dramatic come-from-behind wins to blow away the Nationals in the division, and start the countdown to one of the most anticipated celebrations the club has had in this century.
Said Flores, “We went to Washington, that was it.”
He was right. The Mets never looked back. That was partially due to the Nationals inability to get out of their own way, but also a testament to the talent level and deliverance upon the new expectations for these retro-fitted and highly energetic Mets.
Less than three weeks later, the inevitable became a crowning achievement as the Mets clinched their first division title in nine years on September 26 in Cincinnati.
“It was my first time, it was real fun. It was more fun than I thought it was going to be,” Flores said of the experience. “There’s been ups and downs. The main thing is that we stayed up in one level. We were never down. We were never too high. I think overall it was a good season.”
Perhaps that’s what has made the Mets such a successful in 2015. Despite the 11-game win streak in April and their woeful months in May and June, by not getting too high and remembering it’s a long season, it became the perfect lesson for the 24-year-old shortstop to learn.