Spring training 1992. Back field at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. New Yankees manager Buck Showalter and I are standing side by side staring out at an outfield drill that Mel Hall is purposely tarnishing. Showalter never moves his eyes from the drill, never looks at me, but says: “Joel, you can have an a–hole on your team. But that a–hole better be Barry Bonds.” Earlier this week. First Data Field. New Mets outfield coach Ruben Amaro is hitting fungos to nine outfielders. New manager Mickey Callaway is watching. One of the nine is wearing his hat backward. One is occasionally catching the ball behind his back. One — despite instruction to treat throw-ins as if runners were on base — occasionally delivers long, underhanded heaves toward Amaro. And before anyone mentions Yoenis Cespedes was nursing a sore shoulder, know that when he wanted, Cespedes displayed the best arm in the group. Afterward, neither Amaro nor Callaway would refer to Cespedes as an a–hole. Quite the contrary. They praised the “energy” — both used that word — he has brought to drills. Both lauded Cespedes’ behavior to date. Both stated they don’t mind players spicing up the monotony of spring drills with individual flair, as long as the work is getting done. Is this appeasement? Whether it is baseball or Hollywood, those in charge have a longer leash of tolerance for the extremely talented — and Cespedes is in the top few percentile on pure baseball skill. Perhaps everything is personal perception. Midway through this particular drill, Cespedes lies on the ground, not rising until the ball is in flight. His personal add-on makes the drill more difficult and trains him to track the ball under more arduous circumstances. Soon several other outfielders are challenging themselves in this way, too. Again, perception. For in this moment you can decide Cespedes is no prima donna, but a leader by example. Unlike Hall, he is not disruptive, just distinctive — the question being, is individualism in these forums a positive, negative or neither? “I have told him I like the way he is going about his business,” Amaro said. I asked Jay Bruce — the drill’s most veteran outfielder and someone known for maximizing his skills with seriousness — his views of what Cespedes was doing and he said, “I have learned not everyone does things the same way.” Bruce, though, offered a more valuable perspective. He said last year, when he was a Met and they were losing, that those associated with the team became attuned to finding reasons things went wrong. He got traded to the Indians and was part of a 22-game winning streak and noted no one cared about the little differences in, say, work habits. Winning and losing does much to determine viewpoints.
Are Yoenis Cespedes’ camp antics a Mets problem?
New York Post | Mar 8