Coutinho: Christmas Comes Early For Met Fans

Yoenis Cespedes is returning to the Mets creating holiday season joy in Met-Nation and both Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins deserve equal credit for getting this done. The Met general manager has proven in the last 2 seasons that he recognized the great star power of this player coupled with his place in the heart of every Met fan.

When Cespedes arrived here in July of 2015 he transformed the Mets from the brink of being a contender to a force to be reckoned with in the National League for many years to come. He had a run in that 2015 season that is hard to even put into words. To me, it was the greatest impact I have ever seen a player have on a franchise when joining a team in mid-season. His 2016 season was riddled with injuries but he still had stretches where he carried the Met offensively on his back.

More than that he also fell in love with New York immediately and that was due in large part how Terry Collins treated him and how his Met teammates made him feel like he was a Met for years. You walk around this clubhouse and the love for this player is obvious. Language barriers mean nothing as men in every corner of the room marvel at his talent but also love the way he cares about them.

Cespedes has always felt Terry Collins is the perfect manager for him in that he believes in him but also knows he must let him be his own man. The Met manager clearly understands that his star player went through so much in his life to get the freedom he never had living in Cuba. So if he wants to play golf on a game day or ride a horse into Spring Training Camp it is merely a by-product of living his entire life being in a country that watched his every move and prohibited him from thinking freely.

Not every manager in this game would do that but Terry understood it from Day One and it speaks to his resume as a manager who understands the modern players do not live by a universal rule—he must adapt to his players. When discipline is needed, Terry will do it but in a private setting—not on a public stage. Could Cespedes have received a 5 year contract elsewhere? We will never know but my feeling has always been he loved it here and if the dollars per year were acceptable, he’s take a 4 year pact.

I’ve been in tons of baseball clubhouses and this Met room stands out as a place where diverse backgrounds can not only co-exist but learn so much from each other. Players who are competing for playing time always help each other and Cespedes fits into that mold constantly praising the Met young pitchers as the best in the business. Matt Harvey. Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom have routinely expressed their respect for the Met slugging outfielder who defies logic in how hard he hits a baseball.

I also firmly believe that the timing of this signing is so appropriate as it takes place a few days after the death of Fidel Castro who has ripped families apart in Cuba for years. Many players have been separated from their families once they defected to the United States and this signing symbolizes that baseball is the saving grace for these talented ball players who risked so much coming here to play. But we all benefit greatly from knowing these men because it makes us understood our minor issues that annoy us are just that-minor when you compare the way they struggled to get the freedom in their lives we take for granted every single day.

The mutual respect that is readily seen in the Met clubhouse is a life lesson—diversity is not only acceptable but it is necessary in all of our lives because we can all learn from each other. From a baseball perspective, the Mets and their fans were big winners with the contract agreement with Cespedes. It is very rare in life we get to turn back the clock and get a second shot. With pitchers getting healthy and both Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes returning this team gets a second chance. Sandy Alderson has more decisions to make but look out world—this Met team will get the chance to start the 2017 season the way they anticipating starting the 2016 season.

And Cespedes knows his best chance to get that World Championship ring that eluded him in 2015 is right here in Flushing. With a group of stud pitchers and a manager that understands him. A marriage made in heaven.

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