How does one define stardom in baseball? How does one identify a star? Well, firstly, it probably doesn’t require knowing a guy’s WAR. It’s more intuitive than that. You can feel your lips curling into a grin when a certain player does something exceptional. When that happens again and again, that’s when you know: there’s something special about that one guy. He can do it all, and he does it more often than everyone else. What’s a star? A star is someone capable of evoking an almost childlike sense of joy and wonder.
Yoenis Cespedes has sentimental value for Mets fans beyond his capacity to do just that. It was Cespedes who strode in and muscled the Mets to the World Series a couple years ago. He may not serve as a daily one-man wrecking crew with the sort of frequency that he did during the 2015 stretch drive, but he’s still pretty damn good, and pretty damn watchable to boot. He’s a near-ideal mixture of talent and swagger, a man with monstrous power and a magnetic presence off the field. It was that monstrous power, and the Phillies, which helped him launch three home runs last night.
Look, I don’t know whether we’ll ever be able to say for sure if Clay Buchholz is (was?) good. His career has been a roller coaster without safety harnesses. There have been years where he’s looked brilliant, and there have been years where he’s looked disastrous. Both varieties of seasons are prone to being curtailed by injuries. And, speaking of which, Buchholz did wind up leaving last night’s game with the dreaded “right forearm tightness,” so he may not have been at his best when Cespedes did this to him.
Now, yes, the Phillies do indeed play in a bandbox. But hitting a ball out to dead center is impressive no matter where you’re playing, and Cespedes cleared the wall with room to spare. It’s easy to do that when you’re built like Cespedes and you’ve just been thrown a big-league meatball, but you’ve still got to actually hit the thing. Cespedes, true to form, did in fact hit the thing. Thus began a game that would see the Mets score 14 runs and hit seven bombs in total. It seems Mets hitters really do trust the process.