Yoenis Cespedes lay motionless on the ground near home plate, and for an agonizing few minutes, that image looked to be the final, brutal memento of his brief but pivotal tenure as a Met.
No one knows if Cespedes will be back next year -- it's unlikely, given the money he'll command, though he said he and his agent won't explore options until December -- but if he isn't, the Mets and their fans will remember him as a player who turned around a season and took his lumps while doing it.
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On Sunday night, as the Mets' season came to a close, he added one last lump.VoteMets 2017: Keep 'em or dump 'em?See alsoMets vs. Royals Game 5 boxscoreQuizTest your Mets World Series knowledge
With the bases loaded and none out in the sixth, Cespedes took a mighty hack, fouled Edinson Volquez's offering off the inside of his left knee, and immediately crumpled to the ground. The crowd hushed as the training staff assessed the injury.
Improbably, Cespedes, who has battled a host of injuries -- most notably the sore shoulder he's had since the NLCS -- hobbled back up to finish his at-bat, eventually hitting a weak infield pop-up before limping considerably as he returned to the dugout. Juan Lagares took over centerfield duties for the remainder of Game 5.
"It hurts a lot," Cespedes said through an interpreter, clarifying that it wasn't fractured. "It's pretty swollen."
Manager Terry Collins added: "He said he was OK and I thought he could hit and at least he had a little feel for the game. We're just looking for a sac fly there, anyway."
The pain ended up being so bad that Cespedes limped to the shower after the game and had to be wheeled back by Kevin Plawecki. He put on his jeans with agonizing deliberation.
"Before taking that last swing, I realized I couldn't keep playing," Cespedes said. "I wish I could've kept playing."
It was the culmination of what has been a brutal World Series for Cespedes, who clearly hadn't recovered from the Chicago series. He was 3-for-20 (.150) with six strikeouts in the World Series, including his 0-for-3 in Game 5. He also grounded into a fourth-inning double play.
But all that does nothing to nullify the fact that without Cespedes, the Mets likely would never have been in this position.
He hit .287 with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs in 57 games for the Mets after being acquired from the Tigers. He was a psychological boost, too: Acquiring Cespedes was a sign that the Mets' second-half run was for real. It's no wonder, then, that Cespedes wants another crack at it.
"Yes, I would like to," he said enthusiastically after being asked if he'd like to return to the Mets next year. "I think with the [players] this team has, it's easy to get to another World Series.
"It's been an incredible experience, a very special experience for me, and I thank God for just giving me the opportunity to come to this team and get to where we are."
Time (and money) will tell if he'll get another chance.