I wasn’t going to write about this, because I didn’t think anything would come of it. But the fans attending the All-Star festivities in Kansas City just won’t let it go. So I guess I can’t, either.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a quick refresher course on history. New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was named the captain of the American League’s Home Run Derby “team”. I place the word team in quotes because absolutely nothing about the competition is a TEAM activity. So let’s say this: Robinson Cano was charged with picking three American League sluggers to compete against/with him in the derby.
Cano’s first three choices were quick and easy: Prince Fielder (1B, Detroit Tigers), Jose Bautista (RF, Toronto Blue Jays), and David Ortiz (DH, Boston Red Sox). But Big Papi kindly declined his invitation and one spot remained on the roster. The fans in the host town were quite vocal in who they wanted selected: Kansas City’s slugging designated hitter Billy Butler. Instead, though, Cano passed on Butler and went with the up-and-coming third/first baseman from the Angels, Mark Trumbo.
And thus, a one-man-versus-an-entire-city feud was born.
When it was Cano’s turn in the derby, the crowd booed him heavily and incessantly. Not only that, but a plane flew over head towing the message, “Congrats, Billy. You blew it, Cano.” They booed and booed and booed, only stopping to cheer every ball he hit that didn’t clear the outfield fences. As it would turn out, ALL of Cano’s shots did just that and he bowed out of the Derby with a big goose egg.
Assuming that was the end of it, I actually found the reaction pretty great. Everyone knows the derby is a lighthearted event and the fans synchronized efforts struck me as nothing more than another one of the night’s many shticks.
However, it appears I sorely underestimated how hurt the fans of KC were, because it didn’t stop there. When Robinson Cano walked out of the dugout as part of the announced starting lineup for the American League (of which Kansas City is a part of), the crowd booed him again.
“Okay, this is getting kind of old,” I thought. But then news surfaced today that Kansas City fans actually TARGETED Cano’s family in the stands and turned much of their heckling towards them. According to Cano, his family was yelled at by a number of fans as they got up to use the bathroom during the derby.
It would be cliché to point out that “this is just a game”, but it’s not even that. This was a game WITHIN a game. If basketball is a game, this was the halftime three-point shot by the mascot. And Kansas City’s angry tirade over multiple days seems to be more on the level with when a certain star athlete left a certain city in Ohio.
Listen, I get that K.C. was butt hurt over what Cano did. He promised to include a Royal in the derby and he didn’t. If you want to then retaliate by cheering on his demise in said competition, I’m all for it. Hell, I’ll even put you on my shoulders so you can project your voice even farther.
But when you taunt his family, and namely his elderly mother, THAT is when you cross a line. I could point out the logical argument that his family had absolutely nothing to do with the decision, but it’s not even about that. Cano himself admitted he made himself a target for jeers the second he dawned Yankee pinstripes. But his family has absolutely nothing to do with that and, accordingly, they are off limits.
Let’s also keep in mind that Cano didn’t exactly bring in David Eckstein to compete in the derby. He brought in a 6’4″ man-child that validated his appearance with moon shot after moon shot to left field. Not only that, but when you look at their stats (I’ll pause so Kansas City fans can roll their eyes), Trumbo has hit 22 dingers, on pace for 41 on the season. Butler has hit 16, on pace for only 31. Trumbo is slugging .608 while Butler percentage stands at just .487.
Of course, numbers aren’t everything, but in this case they too are not on the side of the Kansas City faithful.
When asked how he manages to keep winning within the state lines of Missouri, 2012 Home Run Derby champion Prince Fielder credited the state’s “great fans”. There may be some of them out there, but those were not the people we heard from on Monday and Tuesday night. It all goes back to what Cano said: “When they start with your family, it’s over the line.” It’s just that simple. Thanks to a city’s overly-aggressive jabs and sneers, the roles of villain and victim in this story have been successfully reversed.