For the second time in five months, Yoenis Cespedes has failed to make a play on a ball hit in his vicinity, producing an inside-the-park home run for the opposition and raising cause for concern on his defensive abilities. In the top of the second inning in this past week's game against the Astros, A.J. Reed hit a long drive to center field that landed directly under the padding. While clearly visible, Cespedes raised his arms as if to say he could not reach it and it should have been a ground rule double. Meanwhile, Reed had circled the bases.
Second base umpire C.B. Bucknor raced out to center field and told Cespedes he could have, and should have, played it, thus resulting in an inside-the-park home run. Cespedes argued the call, but to no avail. If this kind of play seems familiar from Cespedes, that's because it is. Nearly five months ago, he misplayed a ball off the bat of Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar leading off Game 1 of the Fall Classic. In that play, the ball hit off Cespedes' leg and rolled very far away that nothing could be done by the time left fielder Michael Conforto chased it down. Similarly, in yesterday's play, he seemingly gave up again, showing no hustle or real sense of urgency.
In both instances, it was a play that put the Mets behind early and something they could never recover from, losing both games. Everyone knows what Cespedes is capable of on offense, but where he has usually been a positive force on defense is now suddenly in question. With the season starting next weekend, Mets fans should be a little concerned with Cespedes' recent follies. As the center fielder, he is supposed to take control of the outfield and it just doesn't look like he has done that for whatever reason. Cespedes needs to be assertive and take more of a leadership role for the Mets to thrive. Though his bat will no doubt carry the Mets this season, he still has one of the best arms in baseball, so his defense will be crucial in keeping runs off the board and helping the team win games.