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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.

Cardinals beat Brewers, both clinch postseason berths

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. LOUIS — Harrison Bader tripled and homered to help the St. Louis Cardinals clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season with a 5-2 win over Milwaukee, and the Brewers also earned a playoff spot Sunday via help on the West Coast moments later.

St. Louis (30-28) will be the fifth seed in the NL and open a three-game wild-card series at San Diego on Wednesday. By winning, the Cardinals avoided having to travel to Detroit for two makeup games Monday. St. Louis finished the regular season with 23 games in 18 days as it made up a slew of postponements caused by a coronavirus outbreak in the clubhouse.

“You had to throw some of the expectations out the window not knowing what to expect after taking those couple weeks off and all those doubleheaders and so many new guys,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. “It was very different, very fulfilling to make the playoffs.”

The Brewers (29-31) locked up the eighth seed and a third consecutive postseason berth after the Padres beat San Francisco 5-4 in a game that ended about 15 minutes after St. Louis’ victory. The Giants finished with an identical record as the Brewers but lost out on a tiebreaker due to an inferior intradivision record.

“It’s fitting for 2020 and everything we went through,” Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich said. “It felt just as good as past years. This year’s a unique one. There’s so many challenges we had to go through on a daily basis behind the scenes, things you don’t deal with in a normal year.”

Milwaukee will face the top-seeded Dodgers in Los Angeles in a three-game series that also starts Wednesday.

The Brewers haven’t had a winning record at any point this season. Milwaukee and Houston will be the first teams ever to qualify for the playoffs with a losing mark.

“It’s a celebration,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’re in the playoffs. That’s how you see it. There’s no reason to apologize for getting into the playoffs.”

Cardinals starter Austin Gomber allowed one run, one hit and two walks and struck out three over four innings.

Giovanny Gallegos (2-0), Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes combined to pitch the final five innings. Reyes got his first save.

“We’d have been happy getting in as the eight seed,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We’d have been happy being the one seed, but people can say we got in if there was no expanded playoffs so that’s even another feather in this group’s cap.”

Brett Anderson (4-4) surrendered a triple to Bader and a walk to Tyler O'Neill to start the third inning before departing with a blister on his left index finger. Anderson opened the season on the injured list with a blister on the same finger and did not make his debut until Aug. 3.

Freddy Peralta replaced him a day after being activated from the paternity list, and O’Neill promptly stole second. Kolten Wong then hit a line drive off Peralta’s leg that Peralta threw into right field to score Bader and O’Neill.

Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong each added RBI singles to push the St. Louis lead to 4-0.

After Milwaukee scored in the top of the fifth, Bader hit his fifth home run of the season.

“That was a big counterpunch,” Shildt said of Bader. “Got them on their heels again.”

THREE TIMES THE FUN

Yadier Molina grounded into a triple play in the eighth inning when he hit a one hop grounder to Jace Peterson at third base in the eighth inning. It was Milwaukee’s first triple play since Sept. 23, 2016, when Cincinnati’s Joey Votto lined out to first base. Molina was also the last Cardinals player to hit into a triple play when he grounded out to third base at Boston on Aug. 15, 2017.

TRAINING ROOM

Brewers: Counsell said it was too early to prognosticate Anderson’s status after departing with the blister.

Cardinals: St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak announced that RHP Dakota Hudson will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Monday. Hudson went 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts before leaving his start on Sept. 17 at Pittsburgh with right elbow discomfort after two innings.

UP NEXT

Brewers: The Brewers head to Los Angeles and will likely be without two of their top starters in Anderson and Corbin Burnes, who sustained a left oblique injury on Thursday.

Cardinals: This will be the fourth postseason series between St. Louis and San Diego, who faced each other in 1996, 2005, and 2006 in the Division Series.