Associated Press

Shocker: columnist finds Yoenis Cespedes’ fancy cars to be a problem

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For the past three days Yoenis Cespedes has rolled into the players parking lot at Port St. Lucie with a fancy car. Here is this morning’s model. Yesterday he had the fire-breathing, waffle-retrieving Lamborghini. The day before that three-wheeled thing. It’s been great fun.

That is, unless you’re New York Daily News columnist John Harper, who has decided that Cespedes’ cars are a problem. Today he writes that Cespedes’ convoy of luxury cars is only OK if he backs up his “swag” on the field and that fans will “tire quickly of hearing about Cespedes’ luxurious lifestyle if he doesn’t put up big numbers.” He goes on to note that his other apparently eccentric behavior like, um, playing golf and taking batting practice indoors could also raise the ire of fans if he’s anything less than a superstar this year. Because no ballplayers play golf I guess? I don’t know.

But I do know that this, in a word, is crap. And it’s crap infused with no small amount of casual racism.

Harper has been covering baseball for a long time and he knows, I am certain, that player parking lots have been filled with crazy, tricked out rides forever. Remember Jon Lieber’s truck? How about Mark Buehrle’s? Grant Balfour’s? Just this week we read about Dustin Pedroia’s $300K Jeep. How many guys are driving Maseratis and Porsches? Even the guys making the major league minimum buy tricked-out Ford Raptors which have a base of around $50K and can get WAY more expensive once you modify them. I don’t recall them being called out for their “swag,” let alone warned that their cars will become points of contention should they not produce. But Cespedes had better be humble! He had best not drive a flashy car unless certain arbitrary benchmarks are met and fans and columnists are satisfied.

Harper didn’t use the word “uppity” here, but he didn’t really have to. Minorities have long been subject to the view that their conspicuous consumption of luxury goods is a negative in ways that it isn’t for whites. That when they do it they’re being “flashy” with the sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken implication that they either haven’t earned the right to flaunt wealth or that they could lose that right at any time, subject to someone else’s judgment or whim. Like, say, the judgment or whim of some Mets fan who has decided that Cespedes isn’t playing as well as he’d like him to. No one tells a rich white player how to spend his money, but everyone, apparently, gets to sit in judgment of Cespedes and tell him that he’s on probation given the way he’s spending his.

Cespedes is doing nothing different here than a ton of ballplayers have done in the past. He has earned tens of millions of dollars playing baseball and has decided to spend the money on some cars. A much smaller percentage of his money, it should be noted, then some dentist buying a BMW 5-series or some tech-bro buying a Tesla has spent, but we don’t blink at that. The only difference at all is that this week, unlike most weeks in spring training, some reporters, bloggers and fans are having some harmless fun talking about Cespedes’ cars.

That Harper has decided to turn that fun into a “put up or shut up” column speaks volumes of his character and speaks volumes about the sort of ugly dog-whistling he and the Daily News thinks its readers will respond to.

What do the losers of the Gerrit Cole derby do now?

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Gerrit Cole is now a New York Yankee. Nine years and $324 million make that so. But though the Yankees are the only team who gets him, they weren’t the only team interested in him. So let’s take a look at what the losers of the Gerrit Cole derby — the Dodgers and the Angels — can do now that they know they’ve lost.

Dodgers

The Dodgers were hopeful they had a shot due to Cole’s Los Angeles ties. Welp, that didn’t pan out. Which is not a shock. I’m struggling to think of the last time that whole “he’s from [place] so he’ll want to sign with [team near place]” thing worked out. It didn’t happen with CC Sabathia in the Bay Area. It didn’t happen with Mark Teixeira in Baltimore. It didn’t even work out with Brandon Webb in Cincinnati. Money talks, geography walks.

But the Dodgers wanted Cole. They wanted to bolster a pitching staff that has relied on an aging and now free agent Rich Hill and on free agent Hyun-Jin Ryu. There’s a hole to fill, and without Cole available to fill that hole, they’ll have to do something. What is the something they can do?

How about sign their chief rival’s last big pitching star?

It’s certainly a decent plan. But it’s one that might get expensive for Los Angeles. USA Today reported on Monday that Bumgarner was seeking five years and $100 million-plus. Some raised their eyebrows at that report, but given how much Stephen Strasburg and Cole commanded, it seems downright reasonable now. That’s especially the case given that the Giants — despite being on the brink of a rebuild — probably don’t want to see their franchise hero sign with the hated Dodgers:

So it’ll be a bidding war. A war that will make Madison Bumgarner a very large amount of money.

 

Angels

The Angels made no secret of their desire to land Cole. Joe Maddon talked openly about him in his press conference here at the Winter Meetings on Monday. Cole talked openly during the 2019 season, and since it ended, about his connection to Orange County and the Big A.

But the Angels didn’t have the talent to entice Cole and to make him believe that they could contend like the Yankees can. If they made a competitive offer — and we don’t know if they did — they still would’ve had to convince him that they could win. And, really, there is no real basis to believe that they could make a credible case for that.

So where do the Angels go?

General Manager Billy Eppler said on Tuesday that the Angels did not have Gerrit Cole tunnel vision and that they could spend in excess of $20 million a year on multiple players, none of which had to be Cole. On Tuesday the Angels shed the contract of Zack Cozart and, with his $12 million+ and roster spot opened up, the Halos are said to be interested in third baseman Anthony Rendon or, as a fallback, Josh Donaldson.

As for pitching, the Angels will likely prove to be competition for  Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and perhaps free agent Dallas Keuchel. They could also pursue trade options such as affordable pitchers like Miami’s Caleb Smith or Detroit’s Matthew Boyd or less-affordable — but less-costly in a trade — options like David Price, who the Red Sox were rumored to be shopping in the name of salary relief. Which is to say, the Angels have options, even if their top option is off the table.

But both they and their counterparts up in Los Angeles County, now have to go back to the drawing board now that Gerrit Cole is New York bound.