I have been coming down to Port St Lucie since 1988 for spring training and the star power of Yoenis Cespedes is strikingly similar to what I saw from 2 past Met sluggers--Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza. By that I mean when he steps to the plate, fans stop eating, stay in their seats and treat it as a must-see at-bat.
Walking around the stands today you can see it as Met fans know that any individual plate appearance could be one to remember-even in spring training. We all know Cespedes has hit the back pages down here for his choice of cars as well as his purchase of a prized animal but make no mistake about it--his back page appearances will be all about his power which could change a game at the drop of a dime. And that is why his star power reminds me so much of both Strawberry and Piazza.
I was around Cespedes last year and I saw the best of times (his torrid hot streak that put the NL East away and sent the Nats home) and the tough times (World Series Game 1) and I want to clear up some stuff. This player works so hard at his craft and spends countless hours making himself a more dangerous hitter. That to me has made him a superstar hitter along with tremendous God-given talent.
Yes he does have a very distinct personality but every championship team has individuals with those traits. The bottom line is how does he perform and in this player's case, how does he make hitters around him better? To me, the answer to that is very simple: He can carry a team on his back for weeks and he allows the players in the lineup to excel since the opposition has to navigate through a much stronger lineup.
We must also remember this is a man who had to live in a country where he was NEVER able to express his thoughts freely or do what he wanted to do. That is hard for us to understand but that is living in a prison where your thoughts get hidden so long you eventually toss them aside. Baseball has given Cespedes so much-fame, money, and security but it has also given him the chance to come and go as he pleases and enjoy EVERY moment.
So playing golf on a game day or buying a prize pig as well as purchasing a plethora of cars is all a by-product of being able to live his life the way he wants to live it. I can also tell you that he spends time with players in every corner of the clubhouse. For instance today he joked with Jerry Blevins and despite the language barrier, they both were laughing at something funny Cespedes had said.
There is an It Factor that this player possesses and you simply do not find that in this sport on every street corner. It makes him very valuable but it also forces teams to enter into a game strategy whose main focus is not to let Cespedes beat them. That takes the pressure off everyone else and could help a teammate reach sky high offensive levels by season's end. My prediction is Lucas Duda could be that player-just a hunch.
In any event, get ready for over 500 must see at-bats this season for the first time since a guy named Piazza brought his It Factor to the park every day. Enjoy it Met fans and remember eating that game snack can wait until that Cespedes at-bat becomes a historical fact.