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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Bring Back That Lovin’ Feeling

Moving in alongside the storm front that had just begun enshrouding the New York Metropolitan Area Friday night was much better breaking news: the Mets were opting in, all in, to the 2016 championship chase, re-signing Yoenis Cespedes to a three-year deal that may function as only a one-year deal but is clearly superior to the no-year deal that seemed set in stone throughout this previously discontented winter.

With Cespedes’s decision came climate change we could all embrace. The weather outside is frightful, but looking forward to this particular baseball season just became incredibly delightful.

Yoenis was offered a longer, more lucrative deal to defect to our de facto archrivals. He turned it down. You didn’t need an interpreter to understand what La Potencia’s actions had strongly implied:

“You couldn’t pay me enough to play for the Washington Nationals.”

What made the agreement that will have the Mets paying Cespedes a pretty fair wage so intoxicating for the likes of us — people conditioned to crave a contact high from another individual’s $75 million jackpot — was our team offered him significantly less than he could have received elsewhere to remain a Met and he said, in essence, no problema.

After anxiously waiting out the transactional equivalent of a scoreless 237-inning affair (we weren’t checking Twitter every three seconds just for snow forecasts), the Mets finally pushed the winning run across. When given every opportunity to bring back a superb player who had played superbly for them and wished to continue playing for them because he specifically liked playing for them, they brought him back. They didn’t get in their own way and they got it done. It enhances their chances for 2016 and reassures us that ownership may in fact be capable of operating a large-market franchise in the foreseeable future.

Up until this point, recent pennant and formidable pitching notwithstanding, there was doubt pervading the prevailing Met mood. Now there is confidence. As World Series Game Four national anthem singer Demi Lovato’s been asking regularly on the radio, what’s wrong with being…what’s wrong with being…what’s wrong with being confident?

We have a team poised to not just contend but perhaps to repeat. This isn’t the addition of a star player to an enterprise that hasn’t won anything in its current era, where you’re sort of crossing your fingers that throwing money at your shortcomings will magically change your fortunes. This is a defending league champion heading toward its next year with no obvious holes because it just sealed its last potentially gaping void. Why shouldn’t we be confident?

It feels good to feel good about the Mets. We felt good about the Mets a whole lot in August and September and the vast majority of October. Then, as the World Series faded into inevitable memory and little indicated reaching another one topped the organization’s agenda, we drifted back toward being 21st-century Mets fans, for whom nothing feels very good for very long.

The offseason had been uninspiring. Neil Walker. Asdrubal Cabrera. Alejandro De Aza. Lately Antonio Bastardo. Nice players, to use the blanket phrase with which one covers sensible acquisitions, but nice is kind of a comedown when everything felt so good not so long ago.

2015 was more than good. It was truly Amazin’ (and the kind of season you’ll want to read about Again and Again, hint hint). When you’ve been party to something that good, you don’t want to slide back to anything less any time soon.

2016 was definitely too soon.

The tenor of November and December and January had been increasingly downcast. It wasn’t about the players we got. It wasn’t even about the players we didn’t get. It was about the players we weren’t going after. And maybe the players who were going away…and where they were going.

Daniel Murphy was going away. We could handle that. He was going to the Washington Nationals, our de facto archrivals. Coping with that development was as precarious a matter as Daniel’s pursuit of any given ground ball. Depending on your #with28 predilections, it was either just business or a slap in the karmic face. Even if you framed Murph as a net negative and projected him to become a Nat negative, it was tacky. The guy who won the only sanctioned MVP award earned by any Met since Mike Hampton wasn’t going to be tucked away in a Denver suburb reviewing his kids’ homework, mostly out of sight, out of mind. He set himself up to be a 19-game-a-year reminder of what was and what might not be again.

We didn’t need another one.

If Cespedes had taken his bat, his flair, his parakeet, his stylish rendition of green sleeves and our memories of what he did for us in 2015 to some distant precinct in search of the biggest pile of cash available — as professional athletes are wont to do — that would have been just business. If Cespedes had accepted the tempting offer reportedly on the table from the Nationals, that would have been a kick in the head to go along with the aforementioned slap in the face. Murphtober was history and the Summer of Cespedes was on the verge of joining it there. It was a slippery slope to a surfeit of 2-1 losses and Danny Muno batting third.

But Yoenis didn’t go in that direction. He could have collected $100 million or so from the Nats over five years, give or take some deferred compensation, and instantly converted his Citi Field currency from cheers to boos. Or he could he could reach accord with the perennially resource-challenged Mets, who dangled three years for $75 million, with $27.5 million in the first year and an opt-out clause at his market-testing discretion immediately thereafter.

He went with the Mets. Word was he was enormously enamored of being a Met, but who believes words like those in this Money Talks, Everybody Walks world of ours? Sure, Wilmer Flores wept at the thought of a trade outta Flushing and Zack Wheeler dialed Sandy Alderson to request a reprieve of his own, but their contractual status rendered them pawns in the general manager’s trade-deadline chess game. Welling up and reaching out was all they could do. Cespedes had agency. He had free agency. Even if the landscape didn’t develop quite to his benefit, he could have found an impressive stack of bills somewhere. One was ready for him in Washington, where he seemed destined to alight, teaming with Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper and making us disdain the Nats almost as much as we would have snarled at our uppermost management.

“It is money they have and peace they lack,” Terrence Mann said of prospective pilgrims converging on a converted Iowa farm in Field Of Dreams. Cespedes was going to have plenty of money regardless. He found peace (or perhaps stimulation) in a New York Mets uniform and decided it fit him perfectly. We dream of players doing that. Flores tugged at the insignia on his at the end of the night that followed the day Cespedes first became a Met; it served as Wilmer’s requitement of our affection. Yoenis signing his name more formally on a bottom line, no matter how literally valuable the act is for him, sends a similarly priceless message to Mets fans.

He likes us. He really likes us.

We needed to hear that. We needed the Mets to allow us to hear that. We needed to know that what we experienced last year wasn’t a whirlwind affair, that flirting with a commitment to winning ran deeper than a late-summer fling. We know Cespedes may never again be the force of nature he was for those seven platinum weeks in August and September — thus the reasoned reluctance to enrich him well into the next decade — but we also know he’s capable of creating a blizzard of offense and was our best bet to precipitate all over opposing pitchers in 2016. The extant on-site alternatives were nice players. They still are. I like Juan Lagares. I have nothing against Alejandro De Aza. But they’re not Yoenis Cespedes.

Few are. We’ve somehow maintained the presence of the only one who is. It feels very good indeed.

26 comments to Bring Back That Lovin’ Feeling

  • Kevin from Flushing

    An inch of snow for every million Yo makes in 2016; totally worth the shoveling.

    LETS GO METS!!!!

  • In the middle of cold, dark night, a revered and somewhat rarely seen elderly gent paid the humble household of our blue-and-orange-tinted souls a visit.

    In the morning, we awake to a surprise, snow blankets the ground, and the world seems at peace.

    Yeah…it feels a little like Christmas.

  • 9th string catcher

    i had been hoping for Chris Davis, but this deal is amazing. I can’t believe he turned down more money to play here. He’s not going to hit .400 and hit 45 hrs, but he makes the rest of the lineup work, and combined with this pitching staff, bench depth and decent relief is going to be cause for a great 2016! LGM!

  • Rob E.

    It wasn’t that long ago that we had to overpay Pedro and take on a lot of risk to get credibility. Here we got it on our terms, with a deal that makes sense for both sides. Kudoos to Sandy for again sticking to his guns while fans and media were screaming (wrongly again as it turned out), but being open-minded enough to leave the door open and be flexible when the signing moved into the realm of the possible. Also, don’t forget that they renegotiated his previous deal so they could even negotiate at all.

    This was a really smart guy putting together a really smart plan, and having the balls to see it through without flinching. This is what winning organizations do. Hooray for US!!!

    • Eric

      At the time, I thought it was a shrewd move for Cespedes since it added a suitor that given his hot streak presumably would be under a lot of pressure to re-sign him and would set a floor for his market.

      As it turned out, his hot streak did not last into the post-season and the Mets turned into his fallback option when the mega-deal that had been envisioned didn’t materialize.

      I expect it was a disappointment when his other ex-teams, especially the Tigers, did not come calling for him. And maybe a red flag for other teams as well.

      • Rob E.

        I think there is something to the “red flag” aspect, and I think that hurt him. But whatever his issues are, I think winning covers up some of them and also, I think he liked being THE MAN on a World Series team in NY (he wasn’t THE MAN on the A’s, Red Sox, or Tigers). Citifield was NUTS the whole time he was here. If he turns into a pumpkin, he still gets $75 million. But if he thought there was even a chance he might turn into a pumpkin, he would have taken the Washington deal. There is a lot to like from the Mets standpoint in the way this deal is structured.

    • Dennis

      “This was a really smart guy putting together a really smart plan, and having the balls to see it through without flinching. This is what winning organizations do. Hooray for US!!!”

      Agreed….Sandy comes through again! The longer Cespedes went on without signing with anyone, I felt that it was a good sign that the door would open again for the Mets to get him. If there are no major injuries to this club and if everyone even produces to their average performance, then the upcoming season could be very special….hopefully one step further than 2015.

  • Eric

    Not bad, Mr. Alderson.

    The issue with Cespedes was the years he wanted more than the money. When the mega-deal didn’t materialize for him, his team probably figured out that as long as his performance holds up, Cespedes can likely make more money with 2-3 shorter deals than the Nationals’ offer, especially if the market continues to adjust upward.

    Now, we get Cespedes back for effectively another free-agency showcase except for a full season this time, plus, if Cespedes’s game goes the way of Jason Bay and he opts in, 2 more years is not an albatross. Hopefully, Cespedes is eager to redeem his 2015 post-season in the 2016 post-season, and over the next 1-3 years, Granderson holds up, Conforto will settle in, Nimmo arrives, and Lagares flushes 2015 and gets back on track.

  • Dave

    Many people tend to get very impatient with others doing things they don’t have to do and don’t know how to do. I could give examples from the world of politics, but for now, it’s about Alderson and how he has assembled this team. We all get impatient, whether it was years below .500, waiting to acquire a midseason bat, or waiting for a sign this winter that the Mets are all in and that 2015 won’t become an instant distant memory. And now here we are rewarded for waiting. Being a Mets fan hasn’t felt like this in quite a while. 2015 started with reason to think the team would show improvement and at least finish .500. Now, in the words of Bart Scott when the Jets were good, can’t wait.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I’ve been considering this hypothetical: Suppose Cespedes reactivated his hot streak during the World Series. Looking at his at bats, three well-situated Home Runs could have put the Mets up 3-2 after 5 games. And therefore the Mets might win the WS. But then, as a result, Cespedes does get his 6 yrs/ $140 million (or whatever), and not from the Mets.

    So are we happy he flamed out in the WS, or would we have loved the chance to take the Royals to a Game 7 due to Cespedes’ bat, even though that probably would mean he’s not a Met in 2016. I don’t think we could have had it both ways.

    Me, I’m happy and looking forward to ’16

  • Jestaplero

    It’s amazing how the lineup goes from meh to fearsome with the addition of one player.

    Grandy
    Walker
    Wright
    Duda
    Conforto
    d’Arnaud
    Lagares
    Cabrera

    Grandy
    Walker
    Wright
    Yo
    Duda
    Conforto
    d’Arnaud
    Cabrera

  • Will in Central NJ

    I seem to recall similar wintry conditions in December 1984 when it was announced that the Mets acquired Gary Carter. We all exulted in the resulting winning seasons that followed. Will similar results follow now with Cespedes back in the fold? It’s exciting to know that thrills and an abundance of wins await!

    And separately, is it time to wonder about the existence of a “Curse of Youppi”? With all the Zimmermans, Strasburgs, Harpers, and Papelbons on board, the Washington Nationals have consistently disappointed since abandoning Montreal.

  • eric1973

    Thank Goodness for Red Flags!

    All he had to do was keep his nose clean for 3 months, and he would have gotten the contract he desired from someone — maybe even the Mets!

    But noooooo, he just HAD to go hurt himself playing golf, after he was told not to go. Very expensive injury, for him, as it turns out.

    And after next year, perhaps he can be enticed to stay by altering the contract to give him an opt-out after next year as well.

    Great moves by Sandy, including Bastardo. Robles is considered worthless, currently, but with last year’s year of experience, it says here he ought to improve and be in the mix for 7th or 8th inning work.

  • dmg

    i’m skeptical of the fairy tale about wanting to stay in new york because he likes us. it may be true — and if it is it says less about cespedes’s objectives than it does about our neurosis as mets fans — or it may be the coda of skillful off-season maneuvering on both sides. it really doesn’t matter.

    i blanched when the nats offer was announced, but how real an offer was that? i only heard it was “on the table.” it could have easily been floated by the yoces camp to get the mets to finally deal.

    in which case, all props to them, because this works out great for everybody. cespedes, playing 2016 as a walk year, is that much more motivated and gets to rule the weak free-agent class next year. the mets aren’t on the hook for a huge contract to a hole in the lineup. and like greg says, we get to regard 2015 as the start of a terrific era, rather than as a one-off like 2000 proved to be. a win-win-win — the first of many winning streaks this year, i think. hurry april!

    • Eric

      I agree it was less a matter of Cespedes leaving money on the table because he preferred the Mets, though I believe there’s good will, than the Mets parameters for re-signing him and Cespedes’ market converged.

      There isn’t as much of a hometown discount as some make it out to be. On the numbers alone, the difference is 2 years and 25 million. With the way the market rate has been rising, assuming a reasonable projection of health and productivity, Cespedes should be able to make that up plus more without a hiccup either next year or even in 3 years if he plays out the contract.

      I’ve heard also that the Mets contract is front-loaded while a lot of the Nationals offer was deferred, which if correct, closes the value gap even more.

      If the Nationals aimed to drive up the cost on Cespedes for the Mets, they may have succeeded dollar-wise, but I believe the Mets were concerned more about the years than the dollars, and they got Cespedes at the length of term they wanted.

      As a fan, Cespedes’s approach with 5-6 years guaranteed would have been a worry. I expect Cespedes will still let his dog out once in a while, which we saw last season, but it should be mitigated by another FA showcase year.

  • Stuck in LA until the planes start flying back to NJ with a smile on my face !

  • Bunker

    Best 5 tool Met since Beltran!

  • Bunker

    I think a main driver in Cespedes choice to turn down the Nats was the thought of having to face DeGrom, Harvey, and Syndergaard that many times.

    • For a guy hoping to break out and secure himself a really nice extended payday and take that first year opt-out, Yoenis gave himself a challenging place to do that in with Citi (where his splits were nothing compared to his away numbers).

      The Nats park is MLB’s 5th hitter-friendliest according to BR. He passed up a chance to put up some gaudy numbers there. We’ll never know, but it would have been interesting to see if he’d taken tne Mets’ offer had the Nats proposed a similar deal with an opt-out that enabled him to take another shot at free agency next year.

  • open the gates

    Had that “He really likes us!” feeling twice before with the Mets. ’84 with Hernandez. ’98 with Piazza. Both pjayers who were expected yo leave for greener pastures, then decided to stick around. Both signaled good times ahead in the next few years. Hope Cespedes does the same.

  • Lenny65

    I didn’t think there was any way in hell they’d sign him, knowing our FO as we do. Imagine being an oft-traveled ballplayer landing in the spot Cespedes did with the Mets. That was the most explosive series Citi Field had ever seen up to that point, Wilmer had just happened, they were suddenly soaring with confidence. You arrive right in the middle of that, you go off on a tear, you’re immediately embraced, what ballplayer wouldn’t want those circumstances? I certainly wouldn’t want to leave that to play for a team that’s still rinsing off the flop sweat, even if they do have Daniel Murphy now. Here’s hoping his WS experience humbles him and inspires him to reach for the heights in 2016.

  • open the gates

    Let’s put it this way. In August, Cespedes turned around the regular season. Now, he’s turned around the offseason. In the context of the Cespedes re-signing, all of Sandy’s other offseason moves make more sense. Even de Aza, who now, instead of replacing Cespedes, is essentially replacing Cuddyer, which makes a lot more sense.

  • Dave R.

    It’s pretty obvious that the Mets are hoping to have him for just one more year. If that happens, it’ll be because he had a great 2016, and they won’t be on the hook for the rest of his contract. I’m sure the Mets wanted the opt-out as much as he did if not more.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    I clicked on the “Confidence” tag at the bottom of the post and sadly was not redirected to any Fran Healy articles.