Never in my life have I seen an exhibition event that means nothing leave so many piles of panties bunched super tightly.
But that’s exactly what happened in my home town of Kansas City Monday night.
And it was glorious.
It started when AL HR Derby captain Robinson Cano – the defending champion who gets to pick the team – apparently made a legally binding obligation to select the 16th best HR hitter in the AL as one of his three choices for the HR Derby.
Then, he chose three other guys instead – one of the best young sluggers in the AL (who in a season and a half already has half as many HRs as Butler – now in his fifth year), the best HR hitter in the AL two years running and a former HR Derby Champion.
Cue the butthurt. And no one does butthurt quite like my hometown. Or so I thought.
Fans decided to boo Cano because, well, he SAID he would pick Billy Butler. But he DIDN’T. See? He SAID. And this is the first moment when the 2012 HR Derby got ridiculous and childish.
As an aside, I can’t hear the phrase, “but he said” and not hear the voice of a 5-year-old in my head. Grown-ups lie. I lie. You lie. Robinson Cano may have lied. We don’t get pissed when our politicians do, but God forbid a baseball player not do what “he said.”
Anyway, the HR Derby came here and KC fans booed Cano. And he struggled. They cheered every out and he struggled more. Ended up with zero home runs. The cheers and booing were not overly mean spirited. There were no threats made to Cano’s person or family. It was fans jeering sarcastically, good-naturedly even. (I just made up a word. I don’t care.)
But for some reason, once the fans booed, the national media decided to prove to us that there is no length to which they are more out of touch. First it was Chris Berman – who quit being good at his job about the time I hit puberty. (I’m old enough to be president. Do the math).
Then, the paragon of everything East Coast Peter Gammons couldn’t figure out why fans would boo a player from the mighty Yankees. Then Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, on and on and on. It was as predictable as it was pathetic and it smacked of, “how dare these country yokels boo an East Coast guy. Don’t they know how to treat their betters?”
In essence, the media – not Cano by the way, who apparently got it and was pretty classy about the deal – was collectively telling us to know our role and shut our mouth. (Thank you “The Rock.”)
The funniest thing is: the media overreacted to KC’s initial overreaction. Everyone has to have an opinion.
Lost in all of it is this. Billy Butler not making the HR Derby was THE BEST thing that could have happened.
First off, the three guys Cano chose kicked ass. Prince Fielder and Jose Bautista were in the finals and Mark Trumbo hit the freaking roof of the Royals HOF. He clearly made the right choice.
Second, there’s no rule (yet) that says a hometown guy needs to be in the HR Derby. In the last 10 derbies, the only hometown participants were: Albert Pujols (HOFer), Ivan Rodriguez (HOFer), Lance Berkman (good shot at the HOF) and Richie Sexson (pure slugger who hit 119 HRs in three seasons in Milwaukee). Butler doesn’t belong with those guys. He could some day, but his career high for home runs is 21.
Third, the fan energy was fantastic. Though I was initially against the booing (and still think it was moderately silly) I can’t deny that it absolutely made the derby. The fans were actually PART of the HR Derby, rather than spectators. The ninth contestant was Kansas City. It was awesome. It was memorable. It was everything the HR Derby normally isn’t.
The 2012 HR Derby is the most entertaining I’ve ever watched – and I’ve seen a lot of them. The fans made it that way.
And for that they should be applauded, not chided like children.