Cespedes Dominates The Home Run Derby

Every once in a while a player grabs ahold of the Home Run Derby, like Yoenis Cespedes did Monday, and turns a pleasant event into something special. (USA TODAY SPORTS)

Every once in a while a player grabs ahold of the Home Run Derby, like Yoenis Cespedes did Monday, and turns a pleasant event into something special. (USA TODAY SPORTS)

A’s slugger Yoenis Cespedes first came to the attention of many baseball fans with an amazing promotional video made to showcase his considerable baseball talent, and an amazing article about said video from Kevin Goldstein, then of Baseball Prospectus and now of the Astros front office. The video featured, among many other scenes, a “Star Wars”-esque opening credits scroll, slo-motion video of Cespedes hitting home runs set to the Christopher Cross tune “Sailing,” leg presses and vertical jumps, and a pig roast. In the end, though, it got the job done. You should watch it:

Then you should read Susan Slusser and Demian Bulwa’s story in the San Francisco Chronicle about what Cespedes and his family went through to reach America.

After that you should watch the highlights of Cespedes’ Home Run Derby performance on Monday night at Citi Field.


Yeah.

The Derby is usually something of a groaner, albeit a pleasant one. It drags; three hours of even the most majestic home runs with long ad breaks is a bit much, especially set to Chris Berman yelling seemingly random collections of words. Sure, it’s fun to see the All-Stars enjoying the show, often with their cute and photogenic children. It’s a nice night. But most years it’s nothing you need to go out of your way for.

Once in a while, though, a player grabs the Derby by the horns and takes charge, as Cespedes did Monday, as Josh Hamilton did at Yankee Stadium in 2008, and that changes the color of the whole event. Suddenly it’s more than just pleasant. Cespedes’ turns at the plate were electric from the first round, when he hit 17, some to parts of Citi Field that had never seen a ball before. He emphatically demanded the crowd’s attention. He would end up with 32 home runs total, the last of them the most awe-inspiring of all, an exclamation point on a night that deserved one.

Cespedes is not having much of a season (.225/.293/.420, though with 15 homers), and he’s not actually in the All-Star Game. Robinson Cano, the captain of the AL’s Derby squad, was asked repeatedly before the event why he had selected Cespedes at all. He replied that other people hadn’t been available, “and I said, let me choose somebody that’s not in the All‑Star so he can get an opportunity to be here.” Well, mission accomplished there.

Cespedes’ last homer, the one that won him the Derby — over, it should be said, a very worthy opponent in Bryce Harper — was said to travel 455 feet, but there’s no telling how far it would have gone with an unimpeded trajectory. If anything is worthy of a bat flip, it was that moment. Cespedes delivered there, too.

 

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