Last year, during the playoffs, a small number of Mets fans and media folks raised their eyebrows at Yoenis Cespedes playing golf the day of a playoff game. It wan’t much of a controversy, though, and was basically forgotten when the Mets got past the Cubs and made it to the World Series. Its lack of legs was pretty understandable for another reason too: lots of ballplayers play golf on the day of games. It’s probably the number one hobby of ballplayers during the season.
Now, the day after the Mets put Cespedes on the disabled list with a strained quad, his golf habit is once again a problem. At least to a columnist looking to rile up fans. The columnist is Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post who, after spending a lot of time explaining how Cespedes’ bum quad is not a function of him playing golf and how the injury has nothing to do with his hobby, says this:
And all of that said …
Man, this is a bad look. Man, this is a bad optic. Man, this is not the kind of stink bomb the Mets needed dropped in their clubhouse now as they try desperately to stay on the periphery of the wild-card race with all their fingernails . . . Today, this is a fair question to ask:
Cespedes had already begged off playing center field because he was already worried plenty about blowing the quad out completely. But he wasn’t willing to sacrifice bombing away off the tee? Shouldn’t there have been a certain amount of responsibility to the team paying him $27 million this year?
And shouldn’t somebody have pointed this all out to him? One of his bosses? Assuming he still sees them as bosses?
No, it’s not a fair question to ask, especially since the columnist himself says, many, many times that “golf didn’t cause this” or even exacerbate it. It’s not “a bad look” to have the same hobby over half of the players in the game have. It’s not “reasonable to ask,” as the columnist does, if this was bad when the same columnist notes that it is unreasonable to make a connection between the injury and the golf. Indeed, it’s highly unreasonable to (a) compare playing a casual round of golf to playing center field in major league baseball games; and to (b) to cast aspersions on Cespedes’ attitude and respect for his manager and front office like he does in that last sentence. Really, what in the hell is that about? If team officials are questioning Cespedes’ attitude, report it.
Of course this is nothing new when it comes to Cespedes. Last spring he showed up to spring training with a bunch of fancy cars and people freaked out about that. As if every player parking lot isn’t filled with tricked-out rides. It’s likewise not new that these same activities — collecting fancy cars and playing golf — are never questioned when undertaken by a huge percentage of players in the game yet become a case of “bad optics” when certain players engage in them.
But those inconsistencies must be ignored when the business of casting aspersions on a superstar player is on the agenda. I mean, sure, it may be more significant that the Mets tried to keep Cespedes in the lineup and off the disabled list for weeks, essentially playing with half a player for a long time, rather than put him on the DL and allow him to get healthy for the stretch, but that’s not sexy. That would require possibly upsetting the manager or team officials one talks to all the time.
It’s way better and way easier to just lazily fan the flames of superstar athlete resentment by throwing out nonsensical comments about “optics” and “judgment” which are wholly unrelated to the matter at hand. It’s way easier to take a hatchet to a guy you don’t really quote very often. That sells.