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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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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 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, 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 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 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 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 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.

21 comments to Opting Out While the Opting’s Good

  • Daniel Hall

    I don’t blame Ces for opting out. If you wanna opt out, opt out. Maybe leave a note on your pillow before you go, though. The Mets will cope without him – Pete has the hitting .161 covered already.

    “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.” – Yeah, but, well, the Mets are gonna Mets, aren’t they? (shakes head)

    The game though was a re-run of Saturday, wasn’t it? Somehow felt the same. Gary and Keith sans Ron just didn’t notice it because they were looking at the same screens as we did…

  • eric1973

    Ces deserves the scorn of every Met fan. He is clearly lying (again) when he says he opted out because of COVID, and he left his manager and teammates high and dry, though actually that phrase is only used when a guy has some value and will be missed.

    Actually, he is doing us all a favor by leaving, as he is totally useless, and he can take his phony boar stories with him. He is ultimately a selfish liar, who, in 2015, played golf when he should have been trying to heal that chest injury. Instead, he let everybody down. That is what 2015 was really all about, regarding Ces.

    We all knew this contract would never work out, the day it was signed. And what hurts most is that Ces had OPTED OUT BEFORE THAT, and we had the chance to cut ties then, after we knew what kind of bad teammate he was.

    The Mets did the absolutely correct thing by putting out that statement, and good for them in being transparent. Something Ces never was.

    • Daniel Hall

      Their statement was poorly worded though, even under the best circumstances. DiComo writes on that the team did not learn of his decision until “the afternoon”, so presumably during the game, but that they entered his empty hotel room “earlier” – whenever the heck that was.

      I can’t have been the only one who thought, oh god, he’s in his bed and is fucking dead.

      Wouldn’t have been the first time…

      As usual, the Mets get an F for their communication skills. Not saying that Cespedes gets a great grade, because there’s a time and a place and a way, but the Mets get an F.

      • Lenny65

        That’s what I thought…”OMG he’s dead!”. Not cool. There’s obviously “more to this story” than we all know but yes, they could have probably worded it a little better.

  • Jacobs27

    I don’t share the anti-Cespedes sentiment, but I do agree on one thing.

    Cespedes has been one of the most opaque players ever to wear a Mets uniform. His motivations and intentions inscrutable and changeable. Call him the Mercurial Met.

  • steve aronoff

    A stupider comment re. cespedes could not have been written.
    i am not a fan of van wagenen or surely not one of wilpon, but to blame the mets in any way for the way cespedes ran away from failure is not the answer.

    i do not forgive him, nor do i wish him well.

    he never learned to adjust to the low outside curve (or the inside one for that matter), never tried to get better in situational hitting nor did he perform in any significant way for the last 3 seasons.

    shame on cespedes…and good riddance.

    • Jacobs27

      I don’t know if you’re referring to my comment, Steve Aronoff, as you make no clear reference to it. All I can say is, disagreement is welcome here in the comments section. Calling someone else’s words as stupid as could be written, maybe not so much.

  • Gianni Privacio

    Very generous of you on Cespedes. OK, if he’s not lying at this point with several entire teams out of commission it will be a miracle if the season is not entirely suspended.

    Other hand, a lot of bad press coming Brodie’s way. All I see is a guy continually slugging it out trying to put a team on the field, Dozier, Hamilton, etc.

    And yet other hand, after his masterful opening day performance finding Rojas’ early takeouts of bats on defensive replacements a bit concerning. Can’t blame him for the bullpen though. Yeesh. Vouz-on Stinkay!

  • Seth

    I respect your opinion Greg, but as you can see from a sampling of the comments here, Ces didn’t need Mets’ management to turn public sentiment against him. He did a fantastic job of that all by himself.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    His departure may knock him down a peg or two in the Mets all-time greatest trades, but he’ll always be way up on the list IMO. Certainly Top 5 of my lifetime.

  • Lenny65

    I’m also a (sigh) Dolphins fan and I remember when Ricky Williams walked away. It generated a lot of the same sentiments…letting down the team, the fans and etc. It’s sometimes easy to forget that these ballplayers are people, with families, friends and lives away from the game. So I can’t begrudge a guy for making a decision, no matter how it might seem to us, in what he feels are his own best interests.

    That said, is there ANYTHING this franchise is capable of doing right? The way it was phrased made it seem, for a few wild minutes, that Cespedes might be in some sort of mortal peril. For that both sides deserve blame. Cespedes for apparently packing up and bailing without notice (if that’s really what happened) and the Mets for (as usual) bungling the situation as only they can.

    I can’t dislike Cespedes. As disappointing as his Mets tenure ultimately was, without him there would have been no 2015. Yep, it’s a real shame how it all unfolded after but there are no guarantees in baseball. I wish him well.

  • Jonathan

    The Wilpon certainly have Jewish mothers guilt down pat. “Thank heavens you are right, I was worried that you might’ve been dead, or kidnapped or some other horrible thing, otherwise you would’ve called! “

    While I’ve had the’Rona and would not wish it on anyone, it would heavily ironic if he caught it on the flight back to Florida ( does he keep his health insurance?)

    • Seth

      Why would he need health insurance when he has more money than the entirety of many insurance companies? :-)

  • Steve aronoff

    Apologies for using the word “stupid” in my critique of your article.

    We just disagree.

    Steve aronoff

  • Steve

    I think it’s safe to say that people like Yo don’t win popularity contests and I don’t think Yo cares too much about that.

    The way Yo handled this was wrong. It was unprofessional and disrespectful; and while I have no doubt the Mets could have dealt with it better IRT, I’m not blaming them at all.

  • open the gates

    My admittedly hot take in yesterday’s comments – that Ces acted unprofessionally, and essentially out-unclassed the Wilpons (which is pretty impressive, if you think about it), has essentially not changed much in the last 12 hours or so.

    Of course, when one thinks about rough parting Met moments, one thinks of Seaver, or Willie Randolph, or countless others that the Mets have attempted to besmirch on their way out the door. The Wilpons continue to carry on M. Donald Grant’s legacy in that regard. The difference here is that we’ve seen Tom Seaver, and Yo, you’re no Tom Seaver, or Willie Randolph either. There’s a context, and a body of work, and as despicable as the Wilpons can and have been – and BVW looks to fit in very well in that regard – sorry, Yo, but you just don’t walk out on teammates without a word. Brodie is not wrong about that. If nothing else, Luis Rojas didn’t deserve that – although he’s probably just as glad to give the DH AB’s to Messrs. Smith and Davis, who have actually done things to earn the playing time within the last calendar year.

    Without a doubt this will all blow over, and Yoenis Cespedes will ultimately be remembered for his incredible run in 2015, as he should be. Still, he leaves with bad feelings all around, and just this once, Met ownership/management doesn’t come out looking worse than the player they’re trashing, though not from lack of trying.

    Now can we please start winning some ballgames?

  • Dave

    In ways, the Mets and us fans are all family, and like any family, there are individuals who you will sometimes love to pieces, and other times that you will want to slap them upside the head. Who among us didn’t marvel at Yo’s laser beam HR in the first game (all that run support for Jake!) and hoped that he somehow defied all odds and retained his skills after 2 years on the shelf. Then that was immediately followed by a week of looking like those 2 years allowed lots of rust to accumulate, then came yesterday’s shenanigans and we were all reminded “oh yeah, he pulls stunts like this too.”

    But then there’s the “Mets gonna Mets” angle to this…PR sloppier than a pig (or perhaps a wild boar) rolling around in the mud. There’s no need to take sides here. Both parties f’d it up about as badly as they could have, and neither acted out of character. Yo may well ride off into the sunset, but the Mets will undoubtedly take advantage of future opportunities to look like clowns.

    Only the most elite players can be counted on to deliver a sustained level of carry-the-team excellence for years; when someone can do it even if for a few months or even a few weeks, I’ll take it. The Mets would very likely have missed out on the 2015 postseason had Cespedes not hoisted them up on his shoulders (and I acknowledge that in those 2 successful postseason series, he handed that task off to Murphy, another flawed hero). On the field, Yo was no HOF’er, but hardly a slouch either. Off the field, far from perfect, obviously. But for now, his legacy is that of one of the most important Mets of the CitiField era so far.

  • DAK442

    Cespedes gave us an incredible 2 months or so in 2015, a good season in 2016, and not much else. A hundred million bucks for boo-boo feet and boar attacks. I will remember him as fondly as I do Tom Glavine.

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