Carroll: The Cespedes Affair

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has proven to be a forthright guy. At press conferences he has shown a self-deprecating sense of humor and frequently admits the team’s foibles, such as the chronic failure to get a hit with men on base, which drive both him and the fan base crazy.

Last week Alderson issued a mea culpa for a serious blunder; namely the fact that the Mets mishandled Yoenis Cespedes’ quadriceps injury. Cespedes pulled a muscle tracking down a fly ball against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field the weekend before the All-Star break. He was forced to miss the All-Star Game in San Diego where he was slated to be the starting centerfielder but the Mets did not place him on the disabled list.

Since Yoenis is their big bopper in their lineup, the Mets were feverishly hoping that day to day rest would solve the problem instead of losing him for fifteen days which would happen if they had to place him on the disabled list.

In fairness to the Mets, I watched him effortlessly hit ball after ball out of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia during batting practice the first game back from the All-Star Game break. He told me in Spanish that while he wasn’t playing that night, he was feeling better.

Baseball players rarely admit to team management that they should be placed on the disabled list even when they are in serious pain. I am certain that Cespedes downplayed his discomfort. He did not give up his daily golf game which in all likelihood did not further aggravate his quad injury in spite of the outcry it created in many quarters. It may however have fooled Mets executives into thinking that he was feeling close to 100%.

Playing golf or hitting baseballs does not use the same leg muscles as running and that was the problem. The Mets tried to reduce the pressure on Cespedes by moving him out of centerfield into one of the corner outfield slots so that he would have less ground to cover. Mets manager Terry Collins wisely kept him out of the lineup for some games to provide more rest. Alas, nothing was helping.

On July 31, following the passing of the trade deadline, Alderson met with the media at which time he admitted that he should have placed him on the disabled list but since their lineup was performing so feebly he was reluctant to do so. While I am sure Sandy wasn’t being Machiavellian, he made the decision to place Cespedes on the DL a few days after he acquired power hitter Jay Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds. Also helping matters was the fact that backup centerfielder Alejandro de Aza, who he signed as a free agent during the off-season, had started playing very well after looking like a complete bust for the first half of the season.

Jon Niese’s return to the Mets was overshadowed by the Jay Bruce acquisition but he should pay dividends for the team. It’s no secret that Niese badmouthed the team when he was traded in December to the Pirates. Terry Collins admitted right after the trade that brought him back to Queens was announced that he would have to address some things with him.

I spoke with Jon at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday and he was in good spirits. He said that he was surprised that the Mets wanted him and that he was glad to back with his old ballclub. We joked about the title of an old James Bond film, “Never Say Never Again,” and Thomas Wolfe, the author of “You Can Never Go Home Again.” Niese chuckled when I asked if he was immediately summoned to the principal’s office upon his return to Citi Field on Tuesday. “Terry and I spoke. Everything is fine,” he replied.

The original plan for Jon Niese was that he would be a long reliever. In light of Logan Verrett’s continued poor pitching in which he rarely seems to make it through the fifth inning, Terry Collins would be wise to have Niese take Verrett’s place in the starting rotation.

In a 162-game season it is inevitable that all baseball teams will have high and low moments. Nonetheless one got the feeling that Jay Bruce getting thrown out at home plate to end the game after Travis d’Arnaud singled with two outs in the ninth inning and the Mets down by a run to the Tigers in Detroit will be one that will be recalled years from now as a watershed moment in the 2016 Mets season.

I don’t fault third base coach Tim Teufel for sending Bruce home nor do I fault Jay’s hustle rounding the bases. You have to give credit to Tigers outfielder JD Martinez for making a perfect throw under pressure to catcher Jared Saltalamacchia.

I do blame Terry Collins for his decision not to ask the umpires to watch a replay. Yes, it did look as if Bruce was out but the Mets had everything to gain and nothing to lose at that point.

To their credit, they did salvage the last game of the series with the Tigers by winning 3-1 on Sunday thanks to a ninth inning home run by second baseman Neil Walker. Nevertheless the Mets are going to have to play a lot better than they have since the All-Star break if they are serious about having post-season aspirations.

Gary Apple, who hosts the Mets pre and postgame shows on SNY, did a nice job subbing for Gary Cohen for the Detroit series. It’s not easy to work with a new partner but color analyst Keith Hernandez seamlessly meshed with Apple. They even had a little fun talking about an advertisement for a massage company that was located behind home plate.

Saturday should be an enjoyable night at Citi Field as the classic rock band Styx (Lady,” “Mr. Roboto,” and “Come Sail Away” are just some of their hits from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s) will perform a free concert following the Padres-Mets game. The Mets will also host their first ever LGBTQ night.

Yankees CEO Hal Steinbrenner brilliantly handled the Alex Rodriguez issue. The Yankees are in the process of getting younger and clearly there was no place for the 41 year-old A-Rod who was having a miserable season. Rather than release him and then watch some other team sign him for the Major League Baseball minimum salary while the Yankees were on the hook for $27.5 million next year, Hal tapped into the fact that Alex enjoys mentoring younger players and asked him to be a special advisor and instructor.

At his Sunday press conference Rodriguez was candid about the fact that few ballplayers get to leave on their own terms (Derek Jeter is a notable exception). “I’ve been to hell and back,” A-Rod stated and he made it clear that  would be more than happy to tell young players all of the mistakes that he made so that they wouldn’t repeat them.

The mood was a bit more upbeat at Yankee Stadium on Friday when first baseman Mark Teixeira announced that he would retire at the end of the season. At 36 Teixeira acknowledged that it was becoming impossible to overcome the multitude of injuries that he had incurred over the last four years and that he was tired of spending an inordinate amount of time on trainers’ tables.

In a classy move, Tex thanked the media for their work. “Without you no one would be at our games,” he said. On a selfish note, it would be nice if other ballplayers felt that way. Based on my experience, it is the veteran players who understand how the press had helped increase their compensation while many younger players simply see reporters as a nuisance that shouldn’t be tolerated.

I would be surprised if Teixeira did not go into broadcasting as he has done work for YES and ESPN. He has also shown a deft comedic touch if he wants to go into other facets of the entertainment industry.

While his year hasn’t been as rough as A-Rod’s, 2016 has been a struggle for Stephen Colbert who took over the “Late Show” hosting duties from David Letterman nearly a year ago. Colbert, has finished third in the 11:30 talk show ratings wars behind both Jimmys–ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel. and the man who has comfortably been in the lead for the last couple of years, NBC’s Jimmy Fallon.

Colbert was on the cover of last week’s “Hollywood Reporter” and he admitted that the talk that he will be replaced by the man who currently follows him at 12:30 on the Tiffany Network, James Corden, has bothered him. At the CBS Upfront last May, where ad buyers and the media are introduced to a television network’s fall offerings, CBS chief Leslie Moonves gushed over Corden’s success but did not mention Colbert’s name to the Carnegie Hall audience.

This is no knock on either Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel who are both very funny guys who I enjoy watching but Stephen Colbert is a bit more intellectual and his guests are just as likely to be politicians, scientists, and journalists, as they are to be traditional entertainers.

It’s not surprising that Colbert was at his best with live shows following both the Democratic and Republican conventions. CBS executives may have to accept the fact that Stephen Colbert is the modern day Dick Cavett. Baby boomers will remember that Cavett never came close to catching Johnny Carson in the ratings but often his shows were far more interesting and certainly more unpredictable.

One of my favorite snack options is nibbling on biscotti. The only problem is that most biscotti is so hard that it’s natural to be concerned about breaking a tooth or a filling. The bakers at Nonni Biscotti must have realized this because theirs is as soft as a muffin. Another tasty small portion snack that satisfies is Mini Babybel cheeses which are good sources of protein and calcium.

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