Yoenis Cespedes' Home Run Derby Win Will Elevate Him to Star Status

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 15:  Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics competes in the final round of the Chevrolet Home Run Derby on July 15, 2013 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

I think I'm supposed to write something like, "And so the legend of Yoenis Cespedes grows" here.

Or perhaps, "On a night to remember in New York City, Yoenis Cespedes swung his way into the national consciousness and flipped his bat at the end in a moment made for gifs and tweets, so that we don't soon forget that he's arrived."

And then we'll all wax poetic about the majesty of a ball soaring through the evening sky and landing in bedrooms all across the America, as kids plaster posters of Cespedes in their rooms after Monday evening. 

Let's not. The truth is, he won a Home Run Derby, where guys mash 60 mph pitches over the fence for fun. We can recognize that Cespedes will be more recognizable now without romanticizing his Home Run Derby win. 

This is the competition that ruined Bobby Abreu's swing in 2005. He was hitting .307 with 18 home runs and 58 RBI before the All-Star break, he hit .260 with six home runs and 44 RBI the rest of the way.

You could also argue that it remains the best manifestation of how fans and sportswriters alike could ignore the signs of steroid use in baseball for years on end. 

It isn't just chicks that dig the long ball, after all. 

But Cespedes is now a familiar name to the casual fan—there's no two ways about that—and in the process was given a platform to share a part of his story as a Cuban defector.

It was a cool moment, even if doing the post-Derby interview in Spanish became some sort of issue for bored Internet commenters. 

And it was fun seeing him do battle against young star Bryce Harper, who will surely win many things more important than the Home Run Derby in his career. 

However, Cespedes didn't "arrive" on Monday night. He hit .292 with 23 home runs, 82 RBI and 16 stolen bases in his rookie season, and while he's hitting just .225 this year, he does have 15 home runs and 43 RBI.

He's not a star yet—heck, he's not even playing in the All-Star Game—but he's already a very good ballplayer. 

But his profile has raised. The profile of his team, the Oakland Athletics, may have raised a bit as well. The A's shocked a lot of folks by reaching the playoffs last year. For any people who mistakenly thought that was a fluke, well, the A's proved them wrong and currently sit atop the AL West. 

Cespedes is now the most marketable player in Oakland. His bat flip at the end of the Derby was memorable. People are going to hope to see some of his moonshots in actual games now. He's entered All-Star lure. 

Nevertheless, the Home Run Derby didn't somehow make him a star, nor will it shoot him into elite status. He was already a good ballplayer, and now a lot more folks will find that out. 

Let's save the Red Smith-esque columns glorifying the moment, shall we?


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