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.

 

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.