David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Other than maybe brushing his teeth, there are few things Yoenis Cespedes does more frequently these days than hit home runs. So it was inevitable that the conversation would get to a place many fear to tread, and Terry Collins took it there before Monday night's 4-3 win over the Marlins.
Yes, Collins dropped the B-word, as in Barry Bonds, when asked to provide a comp for Cespedes' amazing power surge after joining the Mets.
Along with Ruth, and dare we say A-Rod, the Bonds name is the gold standard when it comes to power production, regardless of your feelings on bat-enhancing drugs. The numbers still count. And the intimidation factor is very real, which could lead to Cespedes getting a variation of the Bonds Treatment if he continues to demolish baseballs at his current clip.
On Monday night, Justin Nicolino, ahead 0-and-1, had the bright idea of challenging Cespedes with an 86-mph cutter that must have looked like a beach ball.
Cespedes hammered the pitch into the second deck in leftfield for his 35th home run, giving the Mets a 1-0 lead in the third inning. It was his 17th home run in 41 games with the Mets, and seven of those either have put them in the lead or tied the score.
For perspective, he had 18 homers in 102 games for the Tigers before the July 31 trade that transformed the Mets into the offensive machine they have become. Since July 25, they lead the majors in runs (287), homers (81) and slugging percentage (.492).
And it's not only Cespedes doing the damage. As the irresistible force, the Bonds-like figure lurking at either No. 2 or 3 in the lineup, the Cespedes Effect is allowing the others to wreak havoc as well.
On Monday, Collins moved David Wright to the No. 2 spot he usually reserves for Cespedes -- who hit third -- and the grateful captain had a pair of doubles, including what proved to be the game-winner with two outs in the seventh.
"I've got to slip Terry a few dollars to keep putting [Cespedes] behind me,'' Wright said.
Might be a profitable side gig for Collins, auctioning off that slot in the lineup. But just as important is how this group is performing on either side of Cespedes, who otherwise might be routinely pitched around.
Obviously, despite the recent meteor shower he's been providing, Cespedes is not Bonds. But Mark McGwire is the only player traded in-season to hit more homers (24) than Cespedes after the deal, and this year is not over yet. And as long as Cespedes is getting protection, he can't be avoided the way Bonds was, with pitchers trying to lure him far outside the strike zone. Aside from a few isolated incidents, that hasn't happened.
The other Mets are too dangerous, or at least capable of supplying a game-changing hit at a critical point. In the sixth, Travis d'Arnaud followed Juan Uribe's two-out double with the tying homer. These are all residual elements of the Cespedes Effect, and the benefit is mutual. In 11 games this month, d'Arnaud is batting .432 (16-for-37) with three homers and 10 RBIs.
In the seventh, Collins' lineup -- backed by a deep bench -- worked to perfection. After walks to Wilmer Flores and pinch hitter Curtis Granderson, Wright -- with Cespedes looming -- got a 1-and-1 fastball from Kyle Barraclough that he belted for a long RBI double to center.
"If you want to pitch around [Cespedes], we've got some guys for you," Collins said. "You've got to decide who you want to face."
Collins went with a heavy righthanded attack, other than Lucas Duda, who batted seventh for the first time this season. And Flores? After having to prop up the middle of the lineup months ago, he now is a No. 8 hitter for the Mets, who are reaping the benefits of a much longer lineup.
"With this offense, we don't have to rely on one guy," Wright said. "We have plenty of guys that can get the job done. Up and down the lineup, we're solid."
With a sizable rock in the middle named Cespedes.