It’s time to get all outraged at Yoenis Cespedes playing golf again

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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.

A’s running out of time to find home in Oakland, Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS — The Oakland Athletics have spent years trying to get a new stadium while watching Bay Area neighbors such as the Giants, Warriors, 49ers and Raiders successfully move into state-of-the-art venues, and now time is running short on their efforts.

The A’s lease at RingCentral Coliseum expires after the 2024 season, and though they might be forced to extend the terms, the club and Major League Baseball have deemed the stadium unsuitable for a professional franchise.

They are searching for a new stadium in Oakland or Las Vegas, but they have experienced difficulties in both areas. The A’s missed a major deadline in October to get a deal done in Oakland, and there has been little indication they will receive the kind of funding they want from Las Vegas.

“I think the A’s have to look at it in a couple of ways,” said Brendan Bussmann, managing partner at Las Vegas-based B Global. “Obviously, they have struggled in Oakland to get a deal across the line. It isn’t for a lack of effort. . You have an owner that’s willing to pony up money, you have a club that wants to sit there and figure out a way to make it work, and you keep running into obstacles along the way.

“It’s time to fish or cut bait. Oakland, do you want them or not? And if not, where are the A’s going to get the best deal? Is it Vegas? Is it somewhere else? They’ll have to figure that out.”

What the A’s are thinking is a little bit of a mystery. Team President Dave Kaval was talkative earlier in the process, saying the A’s are pursuing two different tracks with Oakland and Las Vegas. But he went silent on the subject several months ago. A’s spokeswoman Catherine Aker said mostly recently that the club would withhold comment for now.

The A’s have been negotiating with Oakland to build a $1 billion stadium as part of a $12 billion redevelopment deal.

Newly elected Mayor Sheng Thao said reaching a deal is important as long as it makes economic sense to the city. Her predecessor, Libby Schaaf, led prior efforts to reach an agreement, but after the city and the A’s missed that October deadline, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed reservations a deal will ever get done.

“The pace in Oakland has not been rapid, number one,” Manfred said at the time. “We’re in a stadium situation that’s really not tenable. I mean, we need to do something to alter the situation. So I’m concerned about the lack of pace.”

Recent California history justifies his concerns. SoFi Stadium in Southern California and Chase Center in San Francisco were built with private money, and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara was 90% privately financed.

“And then I think there was some contagion where around the country people realized these deals could be done well privately and could generate a return on investment to those investors,” said David Carter, a sports business professor at the University of Southern California. “Why are we throwing public money at it at all?”

That’s also a question being asked in Las Vegas, even though the Raiders in 2016 received $750 million from the Nevada Legislature for a stadium. That then was the largest amount of public money for a sports venue, but it was surpassed last March by the $850 million pledged to construct a new stadium for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Another deal like the one for Allegiant Stadium, where the Raiders play, appears unlikely in Nevada. T-Mobile Arena, which opened in 2017, was privately financed. An arena planned for south of the Las Vegas Strip also wouldn’t rely on public funds.

Las Vegas, however, has shown financing creativity. Its Triple-A baseball stadium received $80 million in 2017 for naming rights from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Room taxes fund the authority, so it was public money in a backdoor sort of way.

Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, who is on the board of the convention authority, has spoken with A’s representatives about their interest in Las Vegas and said he is aware of the club’s talks with other Nevada officials. He said the A’s are taking a much different approach than the Raiders, who identified Las Vegas early as their choice landing spot after many years of failing to get a new stadium in Oakland.

“When the Raiders decided to come to Las Vegas, they had a clear plan,” Naft said. “You had a clear body that was tasked with assessing the worth and the value, and they committed to the destination. I have not seen that from the Oakland A’s at any level, and it’s not really our job to go out and beg them to come here because we have earned the reputation of the greatest arena on Earth. We have put in both the dollars and the labor to make that the case.

“I think I’ve made myself clear, but from conversations with others, I don’t think I’m alone on that.”

New Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo “will not raise taxes” to attract the A’s or any other team, his spokeswoman, Elizabeth Ray, said in a statement. But she said the club could qualify for other ongoing “economic development programs,” which could mean tax breaks similar to what Tesla received in 2014.

Manfred said in December that the A’s relocation fee would be waived if they move to Las Vegas, a savings to the club reportedly of up to $1 billion.

“We’re past any reasonable timeline for the situation in Oakland to be resolved,” Manfred said then.

Naft said Allegiant Stadium filled a hole that went beyond landing an NFL team. It allowed Las Vegas to attract major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and Final Four and major concerts such as Garth Brooks and Elton John that “in many cases we would not otherwise have.”

He said he doesn’t believe a baseball stadium would accomplish that, and sports economist Victor Matheson agreed.

“I think there’s a real question about how much people are willing to watch baseball in Las Vegas,” said Matheson, a professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. “It’s not like locals don’t have a huge number of entertainment options right now, and it’s not clear exactly how much people might travel to watch baseball in Vegas, either.”

If the A’s truly want to be in Las Vegas, Naft said they need to make that clear.

“I just believe you can’t play destinations against each other,” Naft said. “If you want to come here and you want to be met with open arms, you’ve got to commit.”

Should the A’s fail to reach an agreement in Oakland or Las Vegas, they could consider other destinations such as Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville; and Portland, Oregon. Whether they would have the time to explore such options is another question.

Oakland has already shown it will watch the Raiders move to Nevada and the Warriors go across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.

Las Vegas, Matheson noted, is hardly in a desperate situation. He also expressed caution that Las Vegas could go from being among the largest metropolitan areas without a major professional sports team to among the smallest with three franchises.

“So you’ve gone from kind of being under-sported to being over-sported in a short period of time if the A’s were to go there,” Matheson said.