Yoenis Cespedes wins his second Home Run Derby in a row

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — It was delayed by rain and taken over by a new format that didn’t, despite its intended goal, speed anything up. But in the end a winner was crowned and it was Yoenis Cespedes. He beat Todd Frazier in the finals, 9 homers to 1.   It was the second year in a row Cespedes took home the little silver bat trophy. The last and only player to win back to back Home Run Derbies before Cespedes was Ken Griffey Jr., who did so in 1998 and 1999.

The odds-on favorite tonight, Giancarlo Stanton, didn’t even make it out of the semifinals. Indeed, he didn’t hit a single homer in the semis, beaten by Frazier 1-0. One has to wonder if the new format for 2014 in which the player with the most homers in the first round got a bye into the semis didn’t work against Stanton. As this event drags, Stanton spent a long time on a cold night not doing anything. As did first round AL leader Jose Bautista, who likewise didn’t make it out of the semis, falling to Cespedes.

But it was Cespedes’ night overall, not just in the finals. He needed to win a tiebreaker over teammate Josh Donaldson to make it out of the first round, but did so and after that had the least amount of rest and down time than anyone. He got stronger as the night wore on, hitting nine in the second round, seven in the third round and then nine in the final. Frazier took a similar path, needing a swing-off against Justin Morneau in the first round and then hitting six in a strong second round. Then came that freakish 1-0 round against Stanton.

Was this a success? Sure, for Cespedes it was. And for the folks who count the money at Major League Baseball and ESPN. They got over 40,000 butts in the seats here in Target Field for over five hours and a lot of TV programming on a night when there were no other sporting events.

But it’s hard to say it was satisfying. It dragged on just as long under the new format as the old and a format tweak may have worked against two of the favorites and the two hitters who broke best out of the gaete in Bautista and Stanton.

 

Matthew Stafford audibles with “Kershaw! Kershaw!”

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Last night the Detroit Lions played the New York Giants. During the game Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called an audible. The call itself referenced Stafford’s childhood friend and high school baseball teammate, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. From the Freep:

Matthew Stafford stepped to the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter and surveyed the Giants defense.

With five pass rushers across the front and three Giants cornerbacks showing a press-man look, Stafford looked at his two receivers to the left and invoked the name of his childhood friend, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“Give me Kershaw here, Kershaw,” Stafford said, repeating his friend’s name two more times as he spun around at the line of scrimmage.

The audible did not result in a pick-4 to Aaron Altherr. It called for a run up the middle. And it worked nicely, gaining eight yards.

You may suggest the results of other starting pitcher-themed audibles in the comments. I’ll start: “Harvey! Harvey!” is where the QB fakes a handoff, drops back, looks deep and then his arm falls completely off. Damndest thing.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.