Last year, Yoenis Cespedes put the nation on notice about his unbelievable power. This year, he made history.
Under the Home Run Derby's new bracket-style format, the Oakland Athletics star finished third in the American League in the first round, but proceeded to beat Adam Jones in the quarterfinals, Jose Bautista in the semifinals and Todd Frazier in the final to once again crown himself as the home-run champ.
ESPN Stats & Info put a historical spin on the win:
Yoenis Cespedes joins Ken Griffey Jr. as only players to win consecutive Home Run Derby titles— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 15, 2014
Yoenis Cespedes beat Todd Frazier 9-1 in the HR Derby Finals. The 8-HR margin of victory is the largest in a HR Derby Finals— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 15, 2014
Here's a look at the complete results from Target Field:
|AL Batter||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
|Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics||3||10||7|
|Jose Bautista, Blue Jays||10||Bye||4|
|Adam Jones, Orioles||4||3|
|Josh Donaldson, Athletics||3|
|Brian Dozier, Twins||2|
|NL Batter||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
|Todd Frazier, Reds||2||6||1|
|Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins||6||Bye||0|
|Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies||4||2|
|Justin Morneau, Rockies||2|
|Yasiel Puig, Dodgers||0|
|Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics||9|
|Todd Frazier, Reds||1|
After rain delayed the start of the Derby by about an hour, it took the hitters a while to warm up. Frazier got things started with two home runs, hometown favorite Brian Dozier followed it up with a pair of his own and NL captain Troy Tulowitzki finished with just four.
The early winner, as SportsCenter showed, was Mother Nature:
But then Jose Bautista stepped to the plate.
Joey Bats woke up the Target Field audience with 10 home runs, including a 428-foot shot that was enough to impress one of the best hitters on the planet:
Bautista wow !! #HRDerby— Mike Trout (@Trouty20) July 15, 2014
Bautista's performance had the place amped up for Yasiel Puig, the most anticipated hitter in the contest. Naturally, the 23-year-old phenom, who hasn't stopped surprising people since he entered the league a year ago, responded with a big fat goose egg.
Ryan Nanni and Fox Sports Ohio's Zac Jackson offered up some potential explanations for the lack of bat flips from the polarizing star:
Yasiel Puig respects the game too much to hit home runs that won’t count.— Ryan Nanni (@celebrityhottub) July 15, 2014
Puig clearly just wanted to get back to the clubhouse to watch Wiggins on NBATV.— Zac Jackson (@FSOhioZJackson) July 15, 2014
Fortunately, while many thought Puig was going to carry this year's Derby, there were always two main candidates for that particular job. The other was Giancarlo Stanton.
"I don't want to know how many Giancarlo's going to hit," said Stanton's former manager Ozzie Guillen before the Derby, via MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. "I want to know how far he's going to hit them."
As it turns out, really far.
Following Adam Jones, who hit four, Stanton launched bomb after bomb into left and center field, finishing the first round with six massive blasts. His last, which went a projected 510 feet, looked like he was swinging a Redwood.
Justin Morneau and Cespedes had the unfortunate act of following that show, finishing with two and three, respectively, to set up two swing-offs. Frazier eliminated Morneau, while Cespedes knocked out his teammate, Donaldson, to complete the first round.
The swing-offs seemed to work pretty well for both parties once they hit the bracket format, as Frazier hit six to beat Tulowitzki, and Cespedes was absolutely locked in with nine huge blasts to easily eliminate Jones.
He took to Twitter to celebrate:
It's Showtime 🙌— Yoenis Cespedes (@ynscspds) July 15, 2014
Cespedes with the 2nd most awe-inspiring round of the night. Never went 2 straight swings without a HR. Now has hit 12 in last 20 swings— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 15, 2014
Back in the National League, Frazier ran out of gas in the semifinals, hitting just one home run. Of course, there's no way that would be enough in a head-to-head battle against Stanton, who put on a spectacle in the first round...
And Giancarlo Stanton promptly goes 0 for the semifinals. Todd Frazier on to the finals after hitting one home run in the semis.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 15, 2014
Yep. The bracket format kept Stanton out of the batter's box for at least an hour, and he simply wasn't able to find his rhythm. While it was great news for Frazier, it wasn't exactly good for anyone attempting to stay awake:
40,558 fans here at Target Field. An Ambien would have cost much less.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 15, 2014
Man, MLB just can't figure out how to make the Home Run Derby entertaining.— jAMERICA FleMERICA (@JamesonFleming) July 15, 2014
this is literally the worst— Lana Berry (@Lana) July 15, 2014
Fortunately, Cespedes once again injected some energy back into the stadium. He launched seven homers in the AL semifinal, including a mesmerizing 447-foot shot, to knock off Bautista, and he continued the unbelievable show in the final against Frazier.
Here's a look at the incredible final display, courtesy of MLB.com:
Below you can watch all 30 of Cespedes' homers from Monday night, per MLB.com:
The Athletics' musclebound star unleashed an all-out assault on the baseball, crushing nine more moonshots. None of them were even close:
Yoenis Cespedes' 7th HR had an estimated distance of 509 feet had it continued its descent— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 15, 2014
Average projected distance for Yoenis Cespedes in Finals- 465.4 feet— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 15, 2014
Frazier fizzled out with another round of just one home run, leaving Cespedes as the deserved champ after an extraordinary night.
Overall, there were some memorable moments from this year's Derby, especially from Cespedes and Stanton, but in the end, the rule changes just didn't help. The contest still felt way too drawn out, and the supposed advantage of winning the first round turned into just the opposite.
If there is a way to save the once ultra-popular competition, MLB is going to have to continue to tweak the format.
For now, though, none of that matters to Cespedes, who can celebrate as the league's home run champion for the second consecutive year. No matter how you feel about the Derby, that's an impressive feat considering the talent around him.