— Yoenis Cespedes (@ynscspds) February 6, 2020
As if I wasn’t already excited enough for baseball season to start.
I woke up Thursday morning to find a two-and-a-half minute video on Twitter, posted by none other than Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Cespedes, who hasn’t played since 2018, used the video as a way of announcing a “revenge tour” of sorts. He’s hitting baseballs, he’s throwing, he’s lifting weights, he’s running, all while audio of New York sports media members talking about how ‘he’ll never be the same’ plays overtop.
And they could be right. He might not be the same, but damn am I excited to find out for myself.
In case you don’t remember, here’s a quick recap. Cespedes was the biggest mid-season acquisition in franchise history since Mike Piazza came over from the Dodgers in 1998. He was an instant fan favorite as he led the Mets to the World Series.
But nothing for the Mets ever seems to go right.
They lost to the Royals in five games and Cespedes, a free agent, was seemingly gone as quickly as he appeared. A slow developing market played to the Mets’ benefit and Cespedes resigned as they made another postseason appearance in 2016. The San Francisco Giants, and he who shall not be named, ruined the team’s chances of advancing further than the wild card.
The Silver Slugger and two-time All-Star opted out of his deal that winter, gone once again. The Wilpons, however, went a bit out of character and paid the man $110 million over four years.
Now this is where things become interesting, or sad, depending on where your fandom lies.
The disabled list, now deemed the injured list, became synonymous with Cespedes in 2017 and 2018. After playing in 132 games with 31 home runs, 86 RBI and a .280 batting average in his one full season in New York, he played in 119 games with 26 long balls and 71 RBI over the next two.
The problems were always in his lower body, particularly his heels and so his 2018 season ended with surgeries to remove bone calcification from each heel. Some big time procedures and something not too common in baseball.
The Mets expected their bonafide stud back in the lineup no earlier than the 2019 All-Star Break, but nothing ever goes as planned.
Instead, Cespedes suffered a setback when he fell while on his ranch in Port St. Lucie. A known horse rider, it was initially deemed “not animal related,” only to be discovered that an incident with a wild boar caused the then-33-year-old to step in a hole and fracture his ankle.
So now, after a restructured deal that has his base salary down to just (“just”) $6 million, Cespedes is back.
He reported to Spring Training 11 days before position players are required to and has been working out. He’s hitting baseballs, he’s throwing, he’s lifting weights, he’s running.
But the Mets have not planned around his return, thinking of Cespedes in the Opening Day lineup as a luxury more than a guarantee — hell they barely expected him to come back last year before the ankle fracture. Brandon Nimmo will be in centerfield, Michael Conforto in right and either Jeff McNeil or J.D. Davis — though it’s looking like McNeil for the time being — in left. Cespedes is the odd man out.
This isn’t to say that if he is healthy enough to play he won’t, because he most certainly will, but that’s still remained to be seen. Batting practice and catching a few fly balls is totally different than a 162-game, six-month-long season.
His bat is less of a concern than his ability to maneuver effectively in the outfield, a problem in the DH-less National League. The ball flies at the crack of his bat and if last year’s juiced baseballs carry over to 2020, that will only help his case. But at the end of the day, I really hope he can play.
I’ve been a fan of his since his days of smashing bombs and throwing 400-foot lasers in Oakland and was ecstatic when he came to New York. I saw his first home run as a Met in person and immediately got his jersey when he resigned that off-season.
Mets fans tend to not quit on players and I’d be damned if I give up on La Potencia now.
My expectations for his return have been low since his heel surgeries and they haven’t moved very far since, but that video has me excited just for the possibility of watching him play again.
I hope he can play this year. I really do. Baseball is more fun with him.