MINNEAPOLIS — Yoenis Cespedes is getting pretty good at this Home Run Derby thing.
The Oakland A's star won the competition for the second straight year on Monday night, hitting 30 total home runs and besting Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds in the final, 9-1. Cespedes is the first back-to-back winner since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998-99 and only the third two-time winner overall (Prince Fielder also won the event in 2009 and 2012).
Rain delayed the start of the contest at Target Field for almost an hour and the wait seemed to deter Cespedes at first. He only hit three home runs in the first round and needed to beat A's teammate Josh Donaldson 2-1 in a swingoff before defeating Adam Jones 9-3 in Round 2 and then Jose Bautista 7-4 in the AL final. The crowd of 40,558 cheered each time Cespedes sent a rocket into the upper decks of the stadium's left field grandstand.
While Cespedes is gaining quite a reputation in the batting pratice competition, his power hasn't fully translated to regular competition. Cespedes entered the break with 14 homers, tied for 34th in the big leagues. One great thing about this latest triumph, though: He'll actually be making his All-Star Debut and possibly playing in Tuesday's game. Cespedes wasn't an All-Star in 2013 and only participated in the Home Run Derby before heading home.
Here's a look at the rest of the best and worst from Monday night:
Jeers: Todd Frazier
While we can't fully fault him for his opportunism, the Cincinnati Reds third baseman hit only 11 home runs in reaching the final on Monday night. After hitting just two homers in the first round, Frazier only advanced to the second with a 1-0 swingoff win over Justin Morneau. He also needed only one homer to beat a cold Giancarlo Stanton in the National League final before managing only one home run against Cespedes. We're not saying Todd, we're just saying.
Cheers: Justin Morneau
The former Minnesota Twin and 2008 Derby champion didn't have a memorable performance at the plate, hitting only two homers in the first round before losing the swingoff to Frazier. Still, his homecoming ranked high on the tugging-the-heartstrings scale as Minnesotans wildly cheered their former MVP at every turn.
Jeers: Yasiel Puig
The Los Angeles Dodgers star doesn't have a reputation for being a particularly showy batting practice hitter and it showed on Monday night. Puig became just the fifth Derby participant to record zero home runs in his turn, joining Robinson Cano, Brandon Inge, Jason Bay and Bret Boone. In his defense, Puig may have suffered from some unfamiliarity. Robinson Cano's father stepped in as his derby pitcher at the last minute and the two only had five practice tosses before the real thing.
Cheers: The surehanded Minnesota father
Adam Koering got last-minute tickets to bring his three children to the Derby and walked away with a memory of a lifetime. He caught two homers during the first round, making for a pretty good story to tell at work on Tuesday morning.
Jeers: Giancarlo Stanton
Not even Stanton's 510-foot blast in the first round can make us forget the goose egg he laid against Frazier in the National League final. Needing only two — two! — homers to defeat Frazier, Stanton instead recorded seven outs without a single homer and robbed the crowd of a big Cesepdes-Stanton final. Maybe next year, Giancarlo.
Mixed reaction: The new "bracket" format
There's probably no ideal way to set up the Derby, not when you have so many participants and not when ESPN has three hours of programming to fill. As in past years, the competition dragged and never seemed to have any real momentum. When a star like Stanton is inactive for so long, that's probably not a good thing.
Also, with the number of outs each round reduced from 10 to seven, it reduced the margin for error, which led to predictably lower totals.
The bracket format, however, was fun and made it a bit easier to follow the progression of the contest before the final round. Our solution: Go back to eight batters and do a true bracket from the start (instead of reducing 10 batters to six) so the first round's best aren't sitting so long.
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