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Opting Out While the Opting’s Good

I nodded off briefly during Sunday’s game. I debated going for a full-blown nap, but thought, nah, this is the first Sunday afternoon the Mets have played this season. I gotta sit up for this. Still, against the backdrop of the Mets playing as they are in what this season is, a nap was probably the better choice.

Therefore, I sort of salute Yoenis Cespedes [1] for opting out while the opting is good. Sleep this season off. We’re all going to wish we had. Maybe next time virtually reach out and touch somebody who needs to know that you plan to proverbially grab some shuteye. Not all protocol comes out of a hastily compiled manual.

Yo isn’t taking a nap, exactly. He’s opted out of 2020 [2], which is something numerous players have done. First, however, he opted out of Sunday’s game in Atlanta, which is something you just don’t do…unless you’re Yo and a different drummer has driven you to your dizzying professional heights in the first place. Either way, he wasn’t in the lineup and his unanticipated absence from active duty in these socially distant times — expanded roster; players spread responsibly through otherwise unoccupied stands; no reporters in the clubhouse — probably would have gone unnoticed up in New York unless a pinch-hitting opportunity cried out for his .161 bat. Yet the Mets were never seriously a single vintage Cespedes swing from getting back into what became their fifth consecutive loss, so if nobody had gone out of their way to inform us that Yoenis hadn’t joined his teammates for a sleepy afternoon defeat [3] at Truist Park, I doubt our not knowing his Sunday status until later would have bothered many of us.

Ah, but the Mets wouldn’t be the Mets without remotely tapping their devoted acolytes on the collective shoulder when they want to let us know we should think less of somebody they pay. Their game against the Braves was barely underway when they released a statement laced with mystery and speckled with incomplete information.

“As of game time, Yoenis Cespedes 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.”

If the Mets hadn’t planted the possibility of god knows what in our heads, their missive would have merely evoked the old George Carlin bit in which the sportscaster gives “a partial score from the West Coast: Los Angeles 6.” In this case, though, leaning in to tell us they didn’t know where one of their players was didn’t land as terribly amusing.

After the 4-0 loss was over (David Peterson [4] pitched six credible innings; the Mets left thirteen runners on base), Brodie Van Wagenen took to Zoom, as a general manager does in a pandemic, and revealed that while Yo was OK, he was no longer among us. That is he was no longer with the Mets. His hotel room contained neither his stuff nor him. Yo eventually got around to having his agent tell the Mets he was opting out from this thin semblance of a baseball season due to COVID concerns, effectively ending his Met career less than two months before his contract expires. Enough baseball players have “opted out” that we use the phrase like we use “the Mets didn’t hit in the clutch” or “the Mets lost again” in casual conversation. Opting out is sadly ensconced in our 2020 baseball language. So are COVID concerns, which are hardly abstract. You saw less of the Marlins and Cardinals this weekend than you did Yoenis Cespedes.

This rather sudden if somehow not shocking parting of the ways could have been communicated better from every angle. Cespedes should have at least sent Luis Rojas a text or answered one his manager sent him. The Mets should have waited for definitive word before clearing their throats, and then simply wished their now former star player good health and happy trails once they were up to speed. Instead, Yo is left looking a mile shy of the conscientious co-worker, while the Mets are in the familiar position of appearing to attempt to poison the atmosphere surrounding an employee they wish to turn public sentiment against.

Whatever motivated [5] the timing behind his actions and exit, I simply wish Yoenis Cespedes good health and happy trails. I thank him for the joy he generated [6] starting right around this moment in 2015. It lasted nearly three months and will stay with me for whatever remains of my lifetime; five years later, it endures as the only sustained outstanding stretch of baseball this franchise has produced since moving into Citi Field. Failure to adequately relay his whereabouts to his employer on a given Sunday isn’t gonna change what I think of when I think of Yo.

I also wish the Mets would conduct a more thorough head count before departing the hotel for the ballpark and, if they’re not sure where somebody is, they find out before disseminating their uncertainty as breaking news.