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Yoenis Cespedes and blaming athletes for being hurt

You can be disappointed he’s not playing, but not disappointed with him.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

There was an interesting article from The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman last week that detailed a timeline of LeBron James’s postseason injuries. It makes an interesting point about the dichotomy of feelings LeBron creates: there are those that applaud him from bouncing back from seemingly serious injuries, and others that think he is playacting to oversell just how hurt he was in the moment.

Let’s talk about Yoenis Cespedes, particularly his injuries and the way he is treated for them. No, not his medical treatment because I know next to nothing about medicine (though many Mets fans would say the same about the training staff). But how he is treated by the media and the front office—which then influence the fans—and what that says about the Mets as a whole.

Cespedes is currently on the disabled list with a right quad injury. He set out for a rehab assignment with Double-A Binghamton on June 8, but was removed with quad tightness in his second game there. Now, the Mets have no official timetable for his return.

And right now, the split of those who are hoping he’ll come back soon and those thinking he’s just milking it or being disingenuous or… I don’t know what these people think is going on, really, is growing rapidly towards the latter.

This is understandably disappointing. When you sign a plater to a four-year, $110 million contract, which the Mets gave him in 2016, you expect him to be the center point of your offense. But here’s the thing about the Mets front office, or at least so it seems: they aren’t disappointed in a larger sense of the word; they aren’t bummed out because the injury bug happened to bite Cespedes in now both years since his new contract. They are disappointed in Cespedes’s slow recovery time, essentially for not playing hurt.

How the front office feels about Cespedes’s slow return was made pretty clear in a thinly-veiled quote from general manager Sandy Alderson back on May 31: “I’m a little surprised it has taken as long as it has… I’m hopeful he’ll be ready to go in the not-to-distant future.”

He continued on, further putting his ass in the jackpot.

“I won’t say that he’s close. But I don’t think he’s that far away,” Alderson said. “Some people are more susceptible to injuries than others.”

“Maybe you could say, ‘Well, gee, susceptible to injury, shouldn’t that have entered into some decision in the past?’ And the answer to that would be yes, in all probability. That all gets taken into account.”

My Amazin’ Avenue colleagues Richard Staff and Allison McCague touched on this in their article on the Mets’ mismanagement of its players a week ago, but the constant buyer’s remorse surrounding Cespedes is appalling.

Baseball, like most sports, has an affinity for toxic masculinity that manifests itself most often in players playing through injuries. But that often comes with a cost. For example, Pedro Martinez in 2005.

Martinez alleges in his book “Pedro” that Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch injured in a meaningless September game to sell tickets for a match-up against the Florida MarlinsDontrelle Willis (Wilpon flatly denied this). After having to wait to get surgery, his recovery time was shortened and, after breaking down the next year, he was never the same Pedro.

While that story may or may not be true, his quote to The New York Times also illustrates this culture: “I was paid to pitch, so I went and did that,” he said. “I did it whenever you asked me, whenever I could. I wanted to do it for as long as I could, and that was my limit.”

Pedro’s contract? It was for four years, just like Cespedes’s.

Would Alderson, manager Mickey Callaway, and the Wilpons prefer to have what would probably be a mirror of Jay Bruce—a clearly hurt player just “grinding through it”— in left field instead of that player trying to get right? Apparently so.

This displeasure with Cespedes has also extended to the media, who just simply can’t believe that a player would have the audacity to not speak with them. And when the media is displeased, it often gets reflected in its coverage, leading to fans being upset with Cespedes not being back either, as if he is purposefully remaining injured.

But here’s the thing: Cespedes has played hurt before. He did at times in 2017, and tried to play through this injury earlier in the season. It clearly wasn’t happening for him; he couldn’t perform.

If the Mets, the media that covers them, and the fans are all so concerned that the team wasted its money by signing him, maybe they should remember that he has two years left on his deal. And that he reportedly took less money from the Mets in order to play there because he wanted to be in New York. And that he has a no-trade clause, so he’s probably not going anywhere soon anyway.

It’s okay to be disappointed that Cespedes isn’t playing; I wear my giveaway arm sleeve every day that passes where I don’t get to see a Potencia missile fly into the Citi Field seats. But a large contingent of people seems to have developed an “if he dies, he dies” mentality and just want their money’s worth now. It is not okay to be disappointed with Cespedes just because he is struggling to overcome an injury.

Cespedes is more than just a highly-paid athlete; he is a human being, and an incredibly fun one at that. He is not just the physical embodiment of a fat paycheck, and shouldn’t be treated as such.