Kansas City, MO, USA; American League infielder Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees reacts during the first round of the 2012 Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium. Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports via US PRESSWIRE
Cano, the AL captain, passed over the Royals' Billy Butler for his Home Run Derby team. He heard about this from Kansas City fans Monday night -- loud and clear.
He did not choose the Royals' Billy Butler. And Kansas Citians were not happy about this perceived snub; they let Cano know loud and clear during the Derby, first by beginning a "Bil-ly But-ler" chant, then by booing loudly when Cano came to the plate, and cheering even more loudly each time Cano failed to hit a ball over the wall; the loudest roar came on Cano's closest miss, a ball that banged off the wall just barely short of home-run distance. Cano, after winning the 2011 Derby, failed to hit a single ball over the fence this year.
Outraged tweets sent Tuesday night bashed the locals for bashing Cano, but as one who was sitting among them in the right-field seats, I can tell you that this was done all in good fun. Kansas Citians were laughing, not angry; it was a Bronx cheer for the man from the Bronx Bombers. Beyond that, some area residents might have pretty long memories:
During the second half of the 1950s, folks derisively referred to the Kansas City A’s as a "farm team" of the New York Yankees. Trades between the two—often lopsided—were commonplace, and it seemed every time the Yankees needed that one final piece for yet another pennant run, the A’s filled the gap.
Clete Boyer, Hector Lopez, Ralph Terry and Roger Maris, among others, were players shipped to the Yankees from the Kansas City A's in that era for little or no useful return; all helped New York win five straight pennants from 1960-64, while the A's were three-time 100-game losers.
So while some antipathy to New York runs strong in Kansas City, the booing was for entertainment, not rage. Did it psych Cano out a little? Maybe. All part of the gamesmanship of baseball, I think.
When I arrived at my seat, in section 251, row EE, I thought I'd be perfectly positioned to snag a Derby home run from one of the four lefthanded sluggers. I came away empty-handed, but one of Carlos Beltran's blasts landed about six rows in front of me, and another Beltran bomb about six rows behind nearly landed in the suites. Watching Prince Fielder's sky shots splash into the fountain close-up was a unique way to watch this mostly-meaningless, just-for-fun event.
Mostly meaningless, except for the perceived dissing of the local favorite. It happened in 2011, too; Diamondbacks fans were upset that Fielder, the NL captain last year, didn't choose Arizona's Justin Upton.
Perhaps this should lead to a change in the selection process; require the captain of the host team's league to take one slugger from that team. You don't think this will happen again in 2013 if David Wright isn't chosen to participate at the Home Run Derby at Citi Field? Every team has at least one batting-practice bomber. It would have made for much more fun for Kansas Citians to see the local hero, Butler, take his cuts at the K Monday night. If MLB doesn't make this small change, expect another of baseball's All-Stars to get booed during the derby a year from now in New York City.