In what’s already been a bizarre start to the 2020 MLB season, the New York Mets made headlines, but not how they intend involving one of their star players, Yoenis Cespedes.
The 34-year old Cuban-born slugger apparently elected to opt-out of the remainder of the season and there seems to be controversy steaming over the manner he decided to inform the NY Mets organization.
Cespedes, who’s coming back from a 2-year lay-off & rehabbing due to injuries with his ankle and achilles heal, recently expressed disappointment with his reduced playing time. He’s not been shy about expressing himself and thinks the NY Mets organization were purposely limiting his game at-bats so his annual performance bonus wouldn’t kick-in, that’s tied to his 2020 prorated $7.1 million salary.
The Mets claim Cespedes did not inform the organization he was opting out of the season due to COVID-19, by going MIA, and failed to return phone calls & texts, after not showing up for their game Sunday in Atlanta.
Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen alerted the media during the first inning Sunday that Cespedes did not show up to Truist Park in Atlanta and was not responding to the team’s attempts to contact him. The GM said the team sent security to Cespedes’ hotel room after informing the media of his no-show. There, his belongings were gone, as was Cespedes. This gave the Mets reason to believe his safety was not at risk.
Moments later, sometime toward the end of Sunday’s game, Van Wagenen learned from Cespedes’ agent that the slugger opted out, according to the timeline of events provided by the GM.
The controversy is there are two different stories floating around the Mets clubhouse. The first story, according to teammate Brandon Nimmo, details that Cespedes or his agent let the Mets know Sunday morning that he was opting out. The second story claims that Mets management; general manager Brodie Van Wagenen did not find out until the eighth inning of Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Braves.
Nimmo is not sure which story he should trust. “I honestly don’t know which one to believe and I’m not going to try and figure that one out,” Nimmo said. “Once we found out that he was gone, that’s really the last that we (the players) talked about it until a couple of hours after the game. We were just like, ‘Well, he’s probably on his ranch now or something.’”
Nimmo knew Cespedes wasn’t included in Sunday’s lineup and he noticed he wasn’t around the clubhouse during pregame warmups. About halfway through the game, he asked teammate Michael Conforto about Cespedes.
“I just asked Mike, ‘Is Ces gone?’ He said, ‘Yep.’ And that was the end of the conversation,” Nimmo said. “I wasn’t worried about his health because I knew this was a possibility that he could just walk away. So I was pretty sure that he was taken care of; I had just seen him yesterday. But yeah, that’s how I found out.”
Mets manager Luis Rojas said he first learned his star slugger opted out of the season after the final out Sunday. He was “very surprised” with Cespedes’ decision as, according to the skipper, the last time they spoke Saturday the conversation centered around the power-hitter’s increased playing time in left field.
While the Mets maintain they were essentially blindsided by the slugger’s decision, Nimmo was asked whether he had an inkling that Cespedes was previously considering not playing this year.
“I had only heard rumors,” Nimmo said. “I hadn’t talked to Ces personally. But other than that, I wasn’t extremely surprised mid-game when I asked Mike. I just was like, ‘Alright. We got a game to focus on so we might as well just try and win this one.’”
Regardless which version you want to believe, this a major blow to the Mets who were counting on Cespedes’ contributions this season.
In addition, this will surely tarnish Cespedes’ reputation as to how in decided to handle the situation, and it’s almost certain we’ll never see Cespedes in a NY Mets uniform again.
Furthermore, the questions remain; did Cespedes really opt-out of the season due to his concerns of Coronavirus or was be crying over sour grapes and being a poor-sport and ghosted his teammates & organization, rather then handling his departure in a more professional manner?
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