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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

For Yoenis Cespedes, score this one a bogey

New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes reacts during

New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes reacts during a round of golf with Mets COO Jeff Wilpon at the Floridian Golf Club in Palm City, Fla., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

For the short term, the immediate fallout from Yoenis Cespedes’ ill-timed golf outing was mostly contained by the Mets before last night’s Subway Series finale at Yankee Stadium. Nobody can say with 100 percent certainty that playing 18 holes couldn’t possibly be harmful to an already damaged quadriceps muscle, but we’ll give the Mets the benefit of the doubt here.

If Terry Collins wants to say Cespedes was perfectly OK before aggravating his right-leg injury Wednesday night, fine. As the manager, he’s got to be protective of his players, and for the Mets to have any chance of getting back to the playoffs, they’re going to need Cespedes to be all-in, both body and mind.

“I don’t care about perception,” Collins snapped. “I deal with reality. The reality is, he came up to me after his last at-bat and said my leg’s bothering me again. That’s what we have to worry about.”

Collins is the one responsible for the Mets’ performance at ground level. And to see him boil over during the Cespedes conversation was a reflection of the additional heat he’s been under trying to keep the defending NL champs in the playoff chase. The Subway Series hasn’t helped his blood pressure, and this Cespedes caper was the last thing he needed — either on or off the field.

Subtracting the Mets’ best offensive player for an indefinite period was annoying enough to Collins, who can feel the ice cracking beneath this team’s feet. But his pushback on the Cespedes golf affair felt a little over-the-top, maybe due to the frustration of this injury-riddled season leaking through.

“Golfing had nothing to do with his leg,” Collins said. “What if he went fishing?”

Knowing the Mets, that would have ended with the boat sinking and Cespedes getting eaten by a shark. The Mets hope this is more of a two-week setback and he’s able to again form that middle 3-4 combo with Jay Bruce, who ended his 0-for-10 start last night with a moonshot three-run homer into the Yankees’ bullpen.

We can’t see the Mets returning to the playoffs without a functioning Cespedes, but what about beyond that? Does the Instagram post with golfing pal Kevin Millar, the former Red Sox “Idiot” and now MLB Network personality, become Exhibit A for building a case against re-signing Cespedes when he inevitably opts out of his three-year, $75-million deal?

This first season was a test drive for the Mets, who made Cespedes the sport’s highest-paid outfielder by paying him $27.5 million for one year. Odds are, even after the missed time, Cespedes (22 homers, .916 OPS) will go for a longer-term, more lucrative pact. Despite his prodigious power, choosing to play golf while nursing a troublesome leg injury in the middle of a tight wild-card battle could have a negative effect on his offseason negotiations.

Sandy Alderson said he had a chat with Cespedes’ camp about him staying off the links when he reports to Port St. Lucie, which just so happens to have a major PGA training facility about a 3-wood away from Tradition Field. Unlike Collins, the GM admitted the damage done by Cespedes’ poor decision and doesn’t want to see him popping up again on social media holding a freshly filled-in scorecard.

“The golf is bad optics,” Alderson said. “Our doctors have told us that it probably had no impact on the injury — positive or negative. But let’s face it, if you play golf during the day and then go out injured in the evening, it’s a bad visual.”

That still left a number of unanswered questions, aside from what Cespedes shot that day with Millar. Such as exactly when he’ll return, or if this behavior — making his putting more of a priority than a playoff push — could hurt his standing in the clubhouse.

For now, the Mets just need him back ASAP. They still have time to factor in the other stuff for future decisions.

“I think Yoenis takes it seriously,” Alderson said. “But Yoenis has his own personal life that sometimes is larger than life, and we’ve seen that from the beginning of spring training.”

It’s just that the stakes are considerably higher now going forward.

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