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Don’t Blame Golf for Yoenis Céspedes’s Injury

We talkin’ bout optics? Not the strain. We talkin’ bout optics.

Getty Images
Getty Images

On Wednesday, Mets outfielder Yoenis Céspedes was placed on the 15-day disabled list after manager Terry Collins noticed him grimacing in pain from a nagging quad strain he’s been dealing with since July 8. The injury has kept him out of eight games (plus the All-Star Game) over the past month. While it’s never a good thing to lose your best hitter to injury, there exists a large body of medical literature on how to properly treat quad issues, and the Mets’ training staff will presumably take advantage of it to nurse Céspedes to good health.

In fact, Dr. Joel M. Kary offers an excellent overview of the subject for the National Institutes of Health in “Diagnosis and Management of Quadriceps Strains and Contusions.” Kary covers the causes, treatment methods, and general implications of quad injuries for athletes. The article is extremely comprehensive, but one word you won’t find in it is “optics,” which may come as a shock to Mets GM Sandy Alderson.

A few hours before Céspedes was placed on the DL, MLB Network analyst and former Red Sox idiot Kevin Millar tweeted a photo of himself and Céspedes after a round of golf:

Céspedes, an avid golfer, was promptly excoriated by the New York media. “Man, this is a bad look. Man, this is a bad optic. Man, this is not the kind of stink bomb the Mets needed dropped in their clubhouse,” wrote the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro, presumably with a straight face. Newsday’s David Lennon questioned whether “this behavior — making his putting more of a priority than a playoff push — could hurt his standing in the clubhouse.”

And Alderson is doing everything he can to fan the flames: “The golf is bad optics,” he told the media on Thursday. “Our doctors have told us that probably had no impact on the injury — positive or negative. But let’s face it: You play golf during the day and then go out injured in the evening, it’s a bad visual.”

There’s a lot to unpack here, but let’s focus on two things:

1. Alderson openly admits that the Mets’ team doctors find nothing wrong with Céspedes golfing.

2. IT’S NOT ALDERSON’S JOB TO WORRY ABOUT WHAT CONSTITUTES BAD OPTICS.

As the GM, Alderson’s job is to scout and acquire talent. He’s not a PR flack, and he’s not a columnist. As such, his decision to publicly criticize the optics of Céspedes’s golf habit — which, again, “had no impact on the injury” (emphasis mine) — is truly bizarre, like he wants the New York media to attack Céspedes, regardless of whether those attacks are founded in reality (they’re not).

Although Alderson negotiated a “mutual agreement” through intermediaries to suspend Céspedes’s golf habit, the two haven’t even talked. “I’ve had conversations with his people, but not directly with Yoenis,” Alderson conceded. “But that message will get to him, at least circuitously, and probably directly.” Does Alderson really think subtweeting will solve this problem?

Mets manager Terry Collins, bless his heart, had a much more reasonable take on Opticsgate. “I don’t care about perception,” Collins said on Wednesday. “I deal with reality. The reality is, he came up to me after his last at-bat and said my leg’s bothering me again. That’s what we have to worry about.” Unlike Alderson, Collins has a handle on what matters here: Céspedes’s health. So long as he’s rehabbing thoroughly, resting adequately, and listening to his doctors, who cares if he hits the links in his spare time? We’re not talking about CrossFit here. We’re talking about a leisurely pursuit with pros who look like this.

In any case, if Alderson wants to worry about optics, he should turn his attention to the Mets’ increasingly crowded disabled list:

Man, this is a bad optic. Is the Mets’ training staff spending all day at the golf course, too? If so, I’m sure Alderson will let us know soon.