Michael Conforto’s stress level surged during baseball’s layoff, well beyond the concern of his strained oblique or the coronavirus outbreak that threatened the season.
As the Mets’ union representative, Conforto was charged with conveying information to his teammates in May and June as the MLBPA and owners battled over an economic plan that would allow an abbreviated season to commence.
Conforto described himself as “the voice of the majority of the team” on the issues. Brandon Nimmo, Jed Lowrie, Pete Alonso and Jacob deGrom were the teammates Conforto says were most involved in relaying information to Mets players.
“It was an experience — I have never been involved with any of that bargaining-type stuff,” Conforto said Saturday as spring training 2.0 continued at Citi Field. “It was stressful at times. It was frustrating at times.”
Ultimately, commissioner Rob Manfred imposed a 60-game season, after the sides couldn’t reach an economic agreement on a possible longer season. At issue was the pay reduction owners wanted the players to accept for games held without fans in the ballpark.
It sets up a potentially ugly fight between the sides when the collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season. Conforto said he’s trying to put the past several weeks behind him, but gleaned something from the experience.
“It showed me the power of our union, the unity of the players,” Conforto said. “As we went closer to this 60-game area that we ended up in, the guys kept getting more and more unified and it was kind of incredible to watch. Speaking for the Mets in general, we became more unified, but also player leadership on those calls and the union as a whole.”
Conforto says he is fine physically after straining an oblique in March that would have jeopardized his readiness for Opening Day had it started as scheduled. The focus now is following MLB’s safety protocols, with social distancing as the primary means for avoiding a coronavirus outbreak.
“We have kind of gone above and beyond what MLB has mandated, as far as Brodie being around to remind us six feet apart, he likes us to stay more like 10 feet apart, making every effort to not have a point-of-contact type thing,” Conforto said, referring to general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.
“It’s been real crazy, but it’s encouraging. We’re starting to see how we can make this thing work, we can still get our work in and we’ve got to be responsible, we have got to make sure that we follow the rules and also get our work in at the same time.”
Four Braves players, including All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, were revealed Saturday to have tested positive for the coronavirus. Conforto was asked about his own level of fear about contracting the virus.
“All of us understand what a positive test does, and really it’s going to shut you down for over probably something like three weeks, so obviously it’s something we worry about,” Conforto said. “That is kind of the reason we are going above and beyond in these protocols.
“I did see some big names in there. Anybody in our family who gets it, we feel terrible for, but it’s kind of coming down to this is a big part of the season where the healthier the team can stay it really increases your chances of winning games when we do get to the season. We have to be real vigilant and responsible to make sure we have all our guys out there when the time comes.”