Mets’ dysfunction made Yoenis Cespedes drama much worse

Mets’ dysfunction made Yoenis Cespedes drama much worse

August 3, 2020

We are reminded once more that when the time comes for the ownership papers to be signed and for the transfer of power to be completed, whoever wins the Mets — and yes, it’s hard not to add an ironic chuckle when you put it that way — needs to do a few other things besides write a big check and order office chairs.

A complete fumigation, for starters.

An exorcism wouldn’t be a terrible idea.

A few pagan rites of sacrifice … well, maybe that’s going a little far. Maybe.

But for now, in the aftermath of one of the truly insane days in a Mets history book that often feels like it was authored inside the reading room of a sanitarium, let’s just put it in the simplest way possible: This could only happen to the Mets. This only does happen to the Mets.

Other teams have had players opt out on their season, most notably the Dodgers and David Price, most recently the Brewers and Lorenzo Cain. These are all stoic, solemn affairs: The player makes a choice, the team wishes them well, and everyone moves along. It’s just another part of the soundtrack of 2020.

The Mets?

Shortly after Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Braves began, they released a statement: “As of game time, Yoenis Céspedes has not reported to the ballpark today. He did not reach out to management with any explanation for his absence. Our attempts to contact him have been unsuccessful.”

This was a chilling pronouncement. Darryl Kile once didn’t show up for work, and he was found dead in his hotel room of a heart attack. Matt Harvey didn’t show up for work once, and it turned out he had simply added to the pile of problems — physical, emotional, all of it — that expedited his exile from New York.

Later, the Mets felt compelled to make a public addendum regarding Cespedes: They were not worried about his safety.

Now, understand something: In a time of COVID-19, only one New York reporter, The Post’s Mike Puma, was at the game in Atlanta. He is not permitted in the clubhouse. He would never have known that Cespedes had ghosted the Mets until afterward, which is when they announced Cespedes was opting out for the rest of the season “for COVID-related reasons.”

So why make such an odd, disjointed statement?

“There was no agenda,” Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen insisted. “We wanted to be transparent in real time.”

Except here is something we also know now: According to sources, there had quickly evolved a situation in which Cespedes — off to a 5-for-31 start with 15 strikeouts — expressed concerns about being kept out of the lineup, because he needed to hit certain levels to achieve contract bonuses. Cespedes has already lost most of his money this year thanks to his farm accident last summer, as well as the 2020 pro-rated salary structure.

He didn’t play one of the games in Boston. And he wasn’t in the lineup that Luis Rojas delivered his players via Zoom on Sunday morning. The Mets knew of Cespedes’ displeasure, so in that context it absolutely makes you wonder what the intent of that initial press statement was. To shame him into a tearful confession about how profoundly selfish he is?

It really is astonishing. There is no way to defend Cespedes on this, at all, if we are to believe multiple sources, and on two levels: Not just using the COVID opt-out as cover — think about that one for a minute — but also, given how much of a fiasco his four-year contract (negotiated by his former agent, Brodie Van Wagenen) has been, that he would make this kind of stand over money.

And yet …

The Mets clearly exacerbated this. They can claim different. But the truth is there was a genuine public concern percolating about Cespedes’ well-being. As Van Wagenen himself said, “Baseball has suffered some tragedies” and you can take that all the way back to Eddie Waitkus getting shot in his hotel in 1949, a story much more familiar when his name was later changed in the book and the movie to Roy Hobbs.

Clearly they had an idea of why the player was AWOL Sunday morning. There was no good reason to speculate about what had happened to him until they knew what happened to him. It was a perplexing choice and a bizarre turn in what is already a 10-game baseball season plucked out of the imagination of Stephen King.

Oh, and by the way? The Mets are 3-7 now. The Mets are on pace to finish 18-42 on the year. The Mets were 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position Sunday. The Mets are a raging tire fire before any of the extra drama even gets thrown onto pyre.

Amazing. Saturday was the five-year anniversary of the night Cespedes showed up and completely rewrote the narrative of the 2015 Mets season. He became a folk hero here. He had the world in his back pocket. Five years to the day later, that era ended on another Saturday night: 0-for-4, two strikeouts, a .161 average, eroded skills.

And on Sunday morning a whole new era began. One worthy of a surgeon general’s warning

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