Michael Conforto doesn’t yet have his own special section of seats cordoned off at Citi Field, something similar to the “Judge’s Chambers” that debuted earlier this week beyond the right-field wall at Yankee Stadium.
Conforto endured a rare messy game — along with a less rare one from last-minute weather fill-in Rafael Montero and the rest of the Mets on Thursday night — striking out four times and losing a fly ball in the twilight before singling in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Padres.
He still has been a true bright light in a Mets season otherwise spiraling in the wrong direction and every bit the breakout revelation in Flushing that Judge has been so far this year in the Bronx. Right down to the fact that both rising-star outfielders struggled so mightily at the major-league level last season that neither — yes, unfathomably now — even was guaranteed a 25-man roster spot towards the end of spring training.
This didn’t turn out to be the right night to ask this, but when is “The ’Fort” section of seats going to be installed at Citi?
“I have no idea, I don’t make those decisions, you’d have to ask somebody with the team about that,” Conforto said with a laugh before the game. “But I think it’s awesome (with Judge)…For him to have all of that going for him right now, it’s been great.”
In a hot take world, especially in New York sports, the first inclination always is to make comparisons.
Clicks dig the long ball, that sort of thing.
And the debate recently among the fan bases between Judge and Conforto unmistakably has gained steam in recent weeks.
The Daily News has been guilty as charged, too, with even Alex Rodriguez chiming in with his thoughts on the topic with baseball columnist John Harper last weekend.
But my feeling firmly remains that New York baseball fans should cast aside such arguments for now and simply appreciate and enjoy what is transpiring between these two budding players on either side of town — especially with both playing like All-Stars (and dare we say, perhaps a level above that) following major adversity less than one year ago.
“MLB Network is always on and he’s gotten some deserved attention,” Conforto said of Judge. “It’s been impressive to see him perform and to see how huge he is. He’s been really fun to watch on both sides of the ball.
“I don’t know him real well, but having met him a couple of times, he’s a great guy, too. One of the nicest guys I’ve met in baseball. So it’s great to see a guy like him have some success.”
Conforto and Judge were outfield teammates on the U.S. team for the 2015 Futures Game, and they also crossed paths while playing against each other a few times at the Double-A level, Conforto recalled.
Of course, following a strong initial breakthrough upon arrival with the Mets in the second half of the 2015 season — including a couple of home runs in the World Series against Kansas City — Conforto endured a lost ’16 campaign, hitting just .220 wrapped around a couple of humbling stints in the minors.
Judge similarly experienced issues at the plate last year following an August recall, slashing just .179/.263/.345 with 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats.
“It’s probably another testament to the type of guy he is,” Conforto said of Judge’s turnaround. “I’m sure he worked his butt off to make the necessary adjustments. I know I did, as well. It’s always cool to see those adjustments being made when the results follow.”
Judge entered Thursday (the first-place Yanks were rained out) tied for the major-league lead with 15 home runs, but it might surprise some to know that Conforto (13 homers) actually still has posted higher slash numbers across the board with a .336/.429/.693 line after Thursday’s 1-for-5 showing.
“I guess we’ll see how it all plays out, but I think it’s definitely interesting that there are some (similarities),” Conforto said. “But I’m not looking over there and trying to see what’s going on all the time. I’ve just been trying to focus on what I can do here. That’s all I can do.”
Well, that, and getting back to making it impossible for the Mets to view him as a spare outfielder ever again.
Despite constant clamoring from the outside, the Mets didn’t even have Conforto playing regularly until necessitated by Yoenis Cespedes landing on the disabled list in late April.
Sorry, the Mets don’t permit Terry Collins to offer timeframes anymore so they don’t, as the manager put it, “look like idiots.” But with the $ 110 million slugger due to return soon, Curtis Granderson clearly should lose his lineup spot instead of Conforto, who has thrived both at the top of the order — with power to all fields — and a better-than advertised glove and throwing arm.
“I think he just has really taken an approach of ‘I don’t care where they play me, I don’t care where they hit me, I’m going to go do the job,’” Collins said.
Indeed, Conforto certainly is the least of all worries right now for his manager, whose usage of a threadbare bullpen had been rightfully questioned this week. Collins’ gamble to push back Jacob deGrom’s start one day because of Thursday’s ominous weather forecast also backfired because of the ever-untrustworthy Montero (three runs and 87 pitches in three excruciating innings).
“It was definitely a frustrating night,” Conforto said.
Conforto certainly shouldn’t be judged on one poor game. A section of seats named in his honor can’t be far behind.