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.
On Thursday afternoon, Rays pitcher Chris Archer asked his Twitter followers, “Lots swirling around what needs to be changed about the game of baseball. What do y’all want to see changed, if anything, & why?”
Tigers ace Justin Verlander responded:
To that, Archer said:
For what it’s worth, Verlander hasn’t been much of a hitter. In 47 career plate appearances, he has three singles and no extra-base hits. And if the AL did get rid of the DH rule, the Tigers would have nowhere to put Victor Martinez. Verlander, though, would have an easier time pitching to opposing pitchers rather than their DH’s.
The Red Sox inked Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract back in August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:
“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”
Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.
That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.