On August 1, 2015, the struggling Mets added Yoenis Cespedes to their starting lineup. He provided the exact boost they needed, leading the way as the Mets surged back into the playoff race.
On August 19, 2016, the struggling Mets added Yoenis Cespedes to their starting lineup. He provided the exact boost they needed, leading the way as the Mets surged back into the playoff race.
The narrative is a little too good to be true. After all, it’s not as though Cespedes was absent from the Mets’ lineup for most of the 2016 season. He played almost every game for the Mets through August 3, and he had an All-Star year, hitting .289/.362/.548 with 22 homers. Despite his best efforts, they were only three games over .500 as of the end of play on that day, just as they were when they traded for Cespedes at the deadline last year.
A quad injury sent the slugger to the DL, and the Mets languished, seemingly falling out of the National League postseason picture entirely. They went 5-9 without Cespedes, dropped under .500, and inspired the glum BP Mets staff to make other September plans. They even lost the first game he played in his return in the lineup. Perhaps they would have lost a bunch of those games without Cespedes anyway
Nonetheless, it’s hard not to see the parallels in the Mets’ resurrections the past couple years. Yoenis Cespedes is frequently the most talented man on the field in whatever game he plays, and when he’s hot, that talent shines through. Since his return to the lineup, his pure production has been quite comparable to his 2015 Met numbers (entering Monday’s games):
Since his return, the Mets have the best record in baseball at 16-6, better than even the NL-leading Cubs. The big home runs have returned. The flair never left. Just like last year, the only concern most Met fans have is his upcoming contract. (His previous statements suggested that he’d like to stay in New York, but how could he not opt out after a year like this?)
Cespedes was playing perfectly well before the injury, but at least for now, he has returned to the truly remarkable heights that put him in the national spotlight last year. The surge in production has arrived not a moment too soon, particularly since Jay Bruce–the outfielder acquired to ostensibly be the 2016 version of 2015 Cespedes–has floundered to a .193/.267/.328 line. Instead, the new Cespedes is the old Cespedes and, thankfully, his hot streak has coincided with an even better run from Asdrubal Cabrera (.385/.424/.731 in the past month) and another strong showing from Wilmer Flores, who this time did not need the motivation of a near-trade.
One of the major reasons the Mets rallied past the Nationals last year was Cespedes taking over the competition with unbelievable power and an intimidating presence in the batter’s box. They almost certainly won’t wind up on top of the Nats this time around, but it is very easy to envision a scenario where Cespedes helps them reach the Wild Card game with another great run. It’s pretty much exactly what the Mets hoped he could do when they decided to bring him back for, at the very least, $27.5 million this year.
Whether or not Cespedes will even be back to pull this act again in 2017 is anyone’s guess, but for now, it’s fun to watch him dominate ballgames, flip some bats, and give some sass to the media. The Mets are truly lucky to have him.
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