The 2012 version of the Home Run Derby became, at the very least, uncomfortable for New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano on Monday, July 9. At worst, it was embarrassing and cruel, as the fans who packed the stadium in Kansas City booed Cano unmercifully throughout his dismal performance.
Cano failed to belt a single home run, which was bad enough, but the Midwesterners who filled Kauffman Stadium let Robinson have it throughout his time at the plate, jeering him and cheering only when he made an out.
What led to such boorish behavior on the part of the baseball fans that came to view this contest? Apparently, they were upset that Cano, the Yankee Most Valuable Player candidate and the defending Home Run Derby champ, failed to choose Kansas City's Billy Butler for the American League side in this exhibition. Butler, who did make the All-Star team as a designated hitter, is having a solid year for the pathetic Royals, but Cano had some tough choices to make and he made them. He took Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, Prince Fielder of the Tigers and Mark Trumbo of the Angels; all three advanced to the second round, with Fielder ultimately upending Bautista in the finals to win the competition.
Different factors combined to create a perfect storm of swelling dislike for Cano. The first is that the Royals and Yankees at one time were bitter American League rivals -- in the 1970s and early 1980s. The Yankees eventually moved on to establish other rivalries as they won multiple championships since. However, the Royals became a laughingstock, failing to make the playoffs for the past 27 consecutive seasons. Kansas City's last winning campaign came in 2003 and the fan base of this once-proud baseball team is reduced to living in the past and grasping at straws for anything to cheer for, or in this case, against. When Cano bypassed Butler for the derby, it gave them the reason they have been looking for.
The New York Yankees fan in me hopes that when the Bombers play the Royals from now on, they go out of their way to beat their brains in on the field, but the baseball fan in me does have a modicum of compassion for the long-suffering Royals rooters. I can understand their frustration, but there is no excuse for how they handled themselves at this event. They came across as petty and mean. They could have expressed their difference of opinion in other, more civil ways and spared all of baseball a night it probably wishes it could forget.
I have beena fan of the New York Yankees since the middle of the 1960s.