Yoenis Cespedes won the Home Run Derby for the second consecutive year. The bushy-eyebrowed slugger started out slowly, but he finished with 25 home runs in the final three rounds and 30 overall — one fewer than the combined totals from Todd Frazier, Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton, the other three contestants who made it as far as Round 3. That makes 62 home runs in two Derbies for Cespedes, who also made the throw of the year earlier this season.
Despite all those rockets off Cespedes’ bat, the 2014 Derby itself was a rough viewing experience.
— Rain delays happen, but a one-note contest shouldn’t last longer than “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
— Canadian happy pill connoisseur Chris Berman (NO RELATION, I SWEAR) botched Cespedes’ name multiple times and annoyed everyone with his “screaming trumps knowledge” announcing style. Another annoying development: Berman never once stepped out into the rain. If we have to listen to the guy’s shtick for four hours, the least he could do is let us see what would happen to his “hair” and makeup after a bout with mild precipitation.
— Stanton and Bautista waited about two hours between rounds, thanks to the second round byes they earned after leading their respective leagues in Round 1.
— Frazier beat Stanton 1-0 in Round 3. As in, one-nil.
So, the two-time champ’s nine-homer final round probably didn’t get as many eyeballs as it deserved. But that’s par for the course for Cespedes, who plays for the best team and made one of the best defensive plays of the 2014 season, but gets about 1/100 the attention of fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig.
He came into the Derby with fewer home runs (12) than any other participant, but his inclusion made sense. He’s Puig. If Cespedes is a 5′ 10″ ball of muscle and fury (his swing, anyway — he seems like a pleasant guy), Puig is a 6′ 3″ version who brings a higher on-base percentage and far more unpredictability to the table. So it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that Puig totally flopped, starting his homerless first round with a check swing of all things.
At least Harrison Barnes sent a basketball through the net in his first Dunk Contest.
But back to Cespedes, who hit a ball that went a “projected” 509 feet and luckily didn’t kill anyone with any of his laser-like blasts … that we know of.
But Cespedes’ feat of strength wasn’t enough for the mouth-breathing masses on Twitter who wanted Cespedes to do his post-Derby interview in English. Here’s a small sample I found just by typing in “Cespedes English.”
Cespedes can speak English, but the idea that he owes ‘Merica anything because he was given the opportunity to smash the hell out of a small, stitched sphere and entertain millions is beyond ridiculous. And racist, of course. If Brett Pill won a Home Run Derby in South Korea, and was given the opportunity to speak to a reporter afterward in English with a translator, would any of these people look down on him — even if he knew enough Korean to order food, direct a taxi driver to his hotel or communicate with his teammates?
Fixing the Derby in one easy step
The easy answer would be to switch announcers (Brandon McCarthy suggested Vin Scully, although I’m pretty sure Duane Kuiper would be a massive improvement as well). But we need to see Cespedes against a division rival.
Billy Beane was lukewarm about Cespedes taking part in the contest again, as seen in an email he sent to Susan Slusser:
Beane said today via email that “it is safe to say none of us are anxious to see him defend his title. It wouldn’t upset anyone if he pulled a Rocky Marciano and ‘retired’ undefeated. Then the next century, everyone could debate if he is the greatest Derby champion of all time. Ultimately, it’s his decision.”
With Cespedes heading into the break after 21 straight games without a homer and a .067/.106/.067 slash line through 12 July games, Beane might not have minded seeing Cespedes in his element today. Anything to get him out of this funk.
It was odd to see a Home Run Derby without ten of the top 11 home run hitters in the American League (Josh Donaldson is tied for seventh with 20 homers, and he was knocked out by Cespedes in a Round 1 swing-off). But a Derby without Mike Trout is like a slam dunk contest without LeBron James — still a meaningless exhibition, but nowhere near as cool as it could’ve been.
Trout says he decided against competing after Angels manager Mike Scioscia “told me his opinion of it,” which makes sense from the Angels’ point of view. But who really cares what’s best for the Angels? The fans deserve to see Cespedes vs. Trout in next year’s Derby. Or a Cespedes vs. Puig arm-wrestling contest. Or both.