Yoenis Cespedes

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Keidel: Yoenis Cespedes Can't Seem To Stay Out Of Mets Fans' Doghouse

He's Getting Beat Up For Blaming Slump On No Golf

Jason Keidel
April 24, 2018 - 3:30 pm
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What is it with Yoenis Cespedes?  

What exactly is our relationship with him? It seems everyone, from the media to the masses, are keen on finding fault with him. 

It's a quantum shift from 2015, our Summer of Love with Cespedes. Two-plus years ago, the Mets rode his bat and broad shoulders to the NL pennant, just a few blown saves from winning the World Series. Cespedes could do little wrong, particularly at the plate, where he was so good some of us thought he earned serious MVP status despite playing less than half a season in the National League. 

And we hardly bristled when the Mets signed him to a four-year, $110 million deal before the 2017 season. Every MLB team needs a robust bat or two in the lineup, someone to be feared in delicate moments, so much so that the man batting before him gets a healthy heaping of fastballs down the middle. And Cespedes is that kind of guy. 

MORE: Schwei's Mets Notes: Cooldown After Hot Start, Catcher Rotation, Cespedes' Struggles

Yet it feels like there's nothing the Big Apple likes more than to dump on the guy, heap our collective angst on the Mets' most gifted ballplayer. He's quirky, for sure. He's got that rainbow of pricey cars he loves to chaufer to spring training, seemingly a different, six-figure iteration every day. But that's hardly a crime. We get on him for playing golf, despite the fact that many pro athletes share an obsession with whacking that white, dimpled ball. 

Fans like their players in the mold of Gary Carter or Paul O'Neill, who attacked every inning like Game 7, who poured their soul into every swing. He need not be the most likable player. We adored Reggie Jackson because he was synonymous with big games in long sleeves under brown leaves. But we need some feeling of kinship with our stars, as we did with Derek Jeter or Keith Hernandez. For whatever reason, Cespedes feels like an alien in our hometown. 

Cespedes isn't homegrown. But neither were Carter, O'Neill or Hernandez. Maybe it's because Cespedes is not from the United States. He doesn't speak our language. He comes off as aloof, if not indifferent. He's not a quote machine. He's not a scrappy or charming character that baseball so often celebrates. So when we hear his recent analysis of his April swoon, we only grow more frustrated with him. 

A few days ago, Cespedes blamed his woeful April on his lack of golf outings. And he's getting vaporized for it. You can't Google "Cespedes" without seeing his name bulging in bold text across the internet, chastised for perhaps a silly but wholly innocuous remark. 

MORE: Palladino: Problems For Matt Harvey, Sonny Gray Are All In Their Heads

They say winning masks most woes. Yet despite their surprising start, going 14-6 after 20 games, the first-place Mets aren't good enough to eclipse whatever issues folks have with Cespedes, who is off to an undeniably bad beginning in 2018, batting .195 with a .258 on-base percentage and .354 slugging percentage. And Mets fans have surely memorized his 37 strikeouts, which leads the NL (and AL). 

Across the Harlem River, Giancarlo Stanton -- who's making over $300 million -- has suffered epic struggles in the Bronx, but all we hear is about how he will regain his senses, and how Aaron Judge is only building on his Bunyanesque stature. But Cespedes is just a self-involved outsider, a struggling mercenary who's not living up to his price tag. 

It doesn't help that Cespedes played just 81 games last year, which only added strokes to an image of apathy, and the notion that once he got his money he need not play as hard or often as he did during that enchanted summer of '15. Whether it's a language or cultural barrier -- hopefully not something more sinister -- maybe we should cut Cespedes some slack. It's not an excuse to say that players born and raised in the Caribbean don't hit very well in the cold, and this has been the most frigid spring in decades. 

If the Mets are leading the NL East with their best player in a funk, imagine how things will look when their All-Star slugger heats up. Watch how quickly those jeers turn into cheers during a pennant race, especially if Cespedes is leading it. Even if he plays a few rounds of golf to get there. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​