Unlike fellow Cuban slugger Jose Abreu, both Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig are on record stating they would welcome the opportunity to compete in this year's Home Run Derby if asked by respective league captains Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki.
In Cespedes' case, it would be an opportunity to defend his Derby championship from 2013, which he won by edging out Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals 9-8 in the Finals. Cespedes hit 32 home runs overall, including an impressive 17 in round one, and put on a tremendous show for the fans in New York.
According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, he'd like to do that all over again in Minneapolis while defending his crown.
“I want to,” he said in English. “It’s my choice.”
Music to the ears of baseball fans everywhere.
Of course, there's a different vibe coming from the A's front office, especially from general manager Billy Beane.
Beane said today via email that “it is safe to say none of us are anxious to see him defend his title. It wouldn’t upset anyone if he pulled a Rocky Marciano and ‘retired’ undefeated. Then the next century, everyone could debate if he is the greatest Derby champion of all time. Ultimately, it’s his decision.”
The last four words being the most notable. It's Cespedes' decision, so barring an injury leading up to the event, we should expect to see the A's slugger taking his share of healthy hacks.
As for Puig, he appeared to be very open to competing as well when asked by the media on Tuesday.
“If he chooses me, I absolutely welcome it," Puig told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times through the aid of his translator.
Did you hear that, Mr. Tulowitzki? You're already the leading vote getter in All-Star balloting this year, but imagine how much your popularity will grow if you name Puig to the National League team.
It has to happen. Both Cespedes and Puig have to be a part of the Home Run Derby, because even before their participation has been made official, the trash talking has already begun.
“This is not the type of competition he would be able to excel at,” Cespedes said. “He’s not really a home-run hitter, so I believe I would win.”
When Puig heard those comments Tuesday, he smiled.
“Everybody has their own opinion,” he said. “That’s his opinion. It doesn’t bother me. Where you need to hit home runs is in an actual game, not in the derby.”
A new format in the Home Run Derby this season will feature bracketed matchups following round one. That increases the odds that we'll see Cespedes and Puig go head-to-head, and may even increase the odds of a walk-off bat flip at some point.
It's a matchup the league would probably love to see happen. For an event that always has its fun moments, but tends to drag in the middle round with little drama surrounding the results, their participation coupled with the new format could be the shot in the arm the competition needs to create some fresh buzz this season and moving forward.
It certainly can't hurt.
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