Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #17: Yoenis Cespedes shows off his wheels

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

If you have ever had the good fortune to see a players parking lot at a major league ballpark or spring training facility, you know that ballplayers love their wheels. There are a few normal Toyotas and pickup trucks parked there, but there are a great many more fancy cars. Expensive cars. Excessive cars. Ballplayers have a lot of money and, like almost anyone else with a lot of money, they like to spend it on a sweet ride. Or several sweet rides.

All of which makes the story that came out of Port St. Lucie, Florida last February a bit baffling.

The story, such as it was, was that Yoenis Cespedes has a lot of fancy cars. Indeed, each day, for the first week of spring training anyway, he showed up with a new one. There was this bad boy. This fire-breathing Lamborghini. The day before there was a three-wheeled thing. He eventually showed up on a dang horse.

The cars were certainly a lot of fun, but the fascination the Mets beat writers and columnists covering the team had with Cespedes’ fleet was a bit odd. Lots of players drive fancy cars, especially in spring training when they want to show their new wheels to their teammates. Why was it such a big deal in this case? Maybe it was because the players lot is so close to the media entrance in Port St. Lucie so they paid greater attention to the cars. Maybe it was because Cespedes had just signed a big contract with the Mets and the press was looking for as many Cespedes angles as they could find. Maybe it’s just a New York thing. Hard to say.

Eventually — and inevitably — the press’ fascination with the cars turned negative, with at least one columnist deciding that it was bad for Cespedes to be driving the vehicles he bought with his hard-earned money to work. For some reason it’s fine when some players show off pimped rides or some simply ridiculous vehicles that have been customized out the wazoo, but for Cespedes it was apparently too much. Unlike those other guys, Cespedes was told that he had better back up his “swag” with performance on the field. As I wrote at the time, there are some ugly, racist attitudes inherent in that sort of criticism.

Nevertheless, Cespedes backed it up just fine. He hit .280/.354/.530, 31 home runs and 86 RBI in 543 plate appearances. After opting out of his old deal, he and the Mets agreed to a four-year, $110 million contract at the end of November.

I hope he shows up to spring training this year in an aircraft carrier.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.