- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Bring Back That Lovin’ Feeling

Moving in alongside the storm front [1] 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 [2] 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 [3]’s been asking regularly on the radio, what’s wrong with being…what’s wrong with being…what’s wrong with being confident? [4]

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 [5]. 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 [6]). 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 [7] 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 [8], 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 [9] 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 [10].

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 [11] 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.