Yesterday I linked and mocked an eminently mockworthy column in the New York Post which took Yoenis Cespedes to task for playing golf despite having a quad injury. Never mind that there was and is no suggestion that playing golf was bad for Cespedes’ quad. Indeed, the author of the column even admitted that as his premise. No, it just looked bad, he argued. “Bad optics.”
Today Mets GM Sandy Alderson buys in 100% to the “bad optics” line, while admitting that, in reality, there is nothing negative about Cespedes golfing apart from the “bad optics.” Still, he’s gonna crack down on Cespedes anyway. From Adam Rubin of ESPN New York:
On Thursday, Alderson added that he has come to a “mutual agreement” with Cespedes’ representatives that the outfielder will refrain from golfing, at least for the time period when it could be viewed negatively by the public.
“I’ve had conversations with his people, but not directly with Yoenis,” Alderson said. “But that message will get to him, at least circuitously, and probably directly . . . The golf is bad optics. Let’s just start there. Our doctors have told us that probably had no impact on the injury — positive or negative. But let’s face it: You play golf during the day and then go out injured in the evening, it’s a bad visual. I think he recognizes that at this point. So we’ll go from there.”
You know what else is a “bad visual?” Keeping a guy who injured his quad on July 8th active and running him out to the outfield every day despite the fact that his leg is hurt. Those are more than just “bad optics,” actually, it’s mismanagement. Alderson admits, at least, that they made a mistake in how Cespedes was handled by the team. But, sure, golf is the problem. Wait, I’m sorry, golf isn’t itself a problem. Golf in “the time period when it could be viewed negatively by the public” is the problem.
What a cowardly comment. Golf is either bad for Cespedes’ injury or it isn’t. If Alderson believes his doctors who say that it isn’t, there is no reason to prevent Cespedes from playing golf — or handwringing over the “optics” of it — other than fear of and acquiescence to whatever a columnist from the New York Post thinks. It’s a total capitulation to the tabloids and the sorts of things that get tabloid readers angry during a frustrating season.
Here’s some news for Alderson that shouldn’t be news: sports fans, especially tabloid-reading and talk radio-listening fans, get agitated by almost anything an athlete does during his free time. They hate that they buy big houses and date pretty women and go out to expensive restaurants. They hate when they’re not just the right amount of sad when they lose (but not TOO sad lest they be seen as something less than a leader). They hate when they rely on old cliches. They hate when they say something that isn’t a cliche. They hate when they don’t wear their uniform the way some star did at whatever point in history the fan in question happened to be 12-years-old. They hate when they exercise their contractual rights. They hate it when they’re outspoken. They hate it when they don’t talk to the press. Really, other than hitting homers or tossing shutouts, there’s a certain breed of fan who doesn’t like a damn thing athletes do other than entertain them. They’re gladiators who are to be seen only doing one, narrow thing and who are never to be heard. Having any personal interests is bad. A “distraction.” “Bad optics.”
That’s the fan that New York Post column was catering to yesterday. That’s who the Daily News was catering to when it wrote that “Cespedes’ fancy cars are a problem” column last spring. That’s the fan Sandy Alderson is catering to when he says stuff like this:
“Yoenis has his own personal life that sometimes is larger than life. We’ve seen that from the beginning of spring training.”
As if playing golf and liking nice cars is somehow “larger than life” for a professional athlete. Or to anyone else for that matter (I bet Cespedes spends a lower percentage of his salary on cars than most fans do). Nevertheless, to Alderson and the Mets, a player having a personal life is “bad optics,” so it has to go. It has to go even if it’s not an actual problem. It has to go because the muckraking media says it’s a problem. The tabloids say so, and so it must be.
Congratulations on letting the New York Post run your team, Sandy.