Monday, August 3, 2020

The Céspedes Debacle

Apologies for taking the day off yesterday. After another listless Mets loss against the Braves and the whole sorry Céspedes affair, anything I would have written yesterday would have been reactive rather than thoughtful. While 24 hours hasn't changed the dreadful position the Mets have put themselves in with their awful 3-7 start, everything does seem a little clearer to me now than it did yesterday.

I guess we should start with Yoenis Céspedes, since it seems virtually certain that we will never see him in a Mets uniform again. What Céspedes did, opting out of the season without being man enough to at least let his manager know face to face, was a crap move. How the Mets, particularly GM Brodie Van Wagenen, elected to handle the situation was typical of the weird, passive-aggressive nonsense that we've come to expect from the Mets over the last couple of decades.
The Mets GM issued the following statement shortly after the start of yesterday's game:
As of game time, Yoenis Céspedes 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.
The problem with this rather ambiguous statement was that the Mets almost certainly knew that Céspedes was opting out due to COVID-19 by that point. While he hadn't told his manager or GM what he was doing, he did let some of his teammates know before he left. They would have certainly let the manager know before game time. So it appears that the ambiguous statement from Van Wagenen was purposefully vague in order to paint Céspedes in the worst possible light. BVW then compounded matters with a combative press conference afterwards which he wound up walking out of without answering all of the questions.

One of the positives that Van Wagenen seemingly had brought to the team was some more professionalism in the management of the club. There weren't all of the constant leaks from management, and embarrassingly amateurish miscues - at least until this one. This was a completely unforced error. Céspedes already made himself look bad with his actions, there was no reason for BVW to follow him down to the low road.

I think I can understand Brodie Van Wagenen's frustration. He had a decent winter considering the limits on payroll. Getting both Porcello and Wacha seemed like reasonable depth for the starting staff, and then Syndergaard went down in spring training and Stroman went down in summer camp. Betances was a good pickup for the bullpen, and the lineup seemed strong enough to overcome some of the pitching problems that have cropped up, but the Mets have seemingly endured a perfect storm of badness in the first 10 games of the season. Normally we would still say, "plenty of time", but a sixth of the season is gone in this crazy year.

I'm sure BVW is feeling some pressure from the impending sale of the club. If the Mets continue to play anywhere near this bad going forward, and suffer through another sub-par season, any new owner would be almost certainly be looking to turn the page by handing this GM a pink slip. If the Mets can't manage to make the expanded playoffs this season, I would be shocked if Van Wagenen was around next spring. So the pressure is understandable, but the unprofessionalism of how Céspedes' departure was handled certainly wasn't.

Because Van Wagenen allowed this situation to be handled so poorly, Mets fans have had to endure another round of cheap shots and "LOL Mets" from a press corps, both local and national, that is always eager to take those shots. For instance, this take from Mike Vaccaro rubbed me the wrong way:
We are reminded once more that when the time comes for the ownership papers to be signed and for the transfer of power to be completed, whoever wins the Mets — and yes, it’s hard not to add an ironic chuckle when you put it that way — needs to do a few other things besides write a big check and order office chairs...

...But for now, in the aftermath of one of the truly insane days in a Mets history book that often feels like it was authored inside the reading room of a sanitarium, let’s just put it in the simplest way possible: This could only happen to the Mets. This only does happen to the Mets.
I get the sarcasm, but as for the "ironic chuckle" Vaccaro is enjoying over the thought of someone winning the Mets, I can only say the following:

Whoever comes out of the scrum and winds up owning the Mets is going to be lucky enough to inherit one of the most loyal fanbases in all of sports. This fanbase has put up with years of incompetent ownership and questionable choices by that ownership and those they put in place to run the club. It's endured countless disappointing seasons waiting for the occasional short run of success. Unlike the fans of some other teams in town, we don't think it's our God-given right to win a championship every damn year. We keep coming back despite innumerable stumbles and remorseless penny-pinching and boorish behaviors from the club under this current ownership because we love the team and dream of it being run better.

So, whoever does win the Mets will be damn lucky to inherit that fanbase. Give us some competency and some professionalism from the folks you put in place to run this operation, and see how this fanbase rewards you by enthusiastically supporting the team that you put on the field. We've been waiting a long time for an ownership that is worthy of all the loyalty that we've given this team over the years. That's a prize worth winning, and I assure you that I say that without the slightest trace of irony

Whatever happens to this club going forward this season, I hope that Brodie Van Wagenen has gotten all of the nonsense out of his system and anything he does going forward reflects positively on this club. BVW allowing himself to get caught up in the negativity and pettiness that too often surrounds this club will not solve anything. There's still time to turn things around. I'd be surprised if things didn't get somewhat better. The Mets just aren't as bad as they've looked so far.

Frankly, I think the Mets are better off without Céspedes right now. He didn't look anywhere near taking a spot in LF, now the Mets can use the DH more strategically to give some younger players a shot. Céspedes' bat looked slow and he seemed quite lost at the plate. He might have found himself before too long, or it might have gotten uglier if he continued to struggle and there came a time when Luis Rojas couldn't justify his presence in the lineup any longer.

In either case, I couldn't see myself being for signing Céspedes to a new contract after the season. If he plays going forward, it's probably going to be mostly at DH. The Mets could use more flexibility than having an aging DH-only star on the roster.

Well, that's my take on all of this. Thanks for stopping by and allowing me to share it with you. Please stay safe, be well and take care. Talk again soon.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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