KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 09: American League All-Star Billy Butler #16 of the Kansas City Royals smiles as Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Yankees is at bat in the first round during the State Farm Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium on July 9, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
I have to say that was the most fun I've had at the yard in a long, long time.
Kansas City fans were outstanding in letting Robinson Cano hear what we thought about leaving Billy Butler out of the home run derby. The booing was early, lusty and unmerciful. And beautiful. If Cano didn't understand how the fanbase felt before the derby, he knew when he stepped into the box. I've never seen someone foul pitches off like he did early in his round.
Of course, the backlash has begun. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports:
I’m not going to say the behavior of Royals fans was classless. That is too strong a word. However, it was needlessly tart and probably unwise.
This was under the front page banner that read "Royal Jerks."
This week is all about Kansas City. And the city has been amazing. The FanFest, the Negro League Museum, the other events... It's been first class.
Yet, we Kansas Citians can be an insecure bunch. It happens when your teams wallow in the second division for the better part of two decades. Going on three. There have been plenty of times where people complain that we, as a city, haven't been shown respect by the national outlets. In my opinion, that's always been misguided. Guys like Jon Heyman of CBS tweet that this is the first time he's been at "Royals" Stadium in 20 years and people flip out. Why? Why would a national baseball writer come to KC? Greinke was a good story a couple of years ago. They were sort of in contention in '03. Eh...
So, we as Kansas Citians have been looking forward to this event. It's our chance to put this city back in the baseball consciousness. Even if it's only for a single week, it matters to us.
And we want everything to be perfect.
What would be better than to have our very own Country Breakfast representing the team in the Home Run Derby? It made perfect sense. Here's a guy who's hitting for more power. A local guy. And someone who wonderfully represents this franchise and city. It's not an unreasonable request.
So when Robinson Cano said he would pick a Kansas City representative for the Home Run Derby, and ignored Butler... Damn, if it didn't hurt.
Fair or not, Cano became the target for every slight Royal fans felt they have suffered over the last 27 years. We let him have it. Did we ever. We booed his practice cuts and cheered his foul balls and pop ups. It was 40,000 united in a cause... We love our Royals and we will stand up for them. And it was damn beautiful. One of the best moments I've ever experienced at The K. One of ours was promised a spot and it was later denied. It wasn't spiteful, or mean-sprited. It was grounded in loyalty. Butler is one of us. We stood up for him.
Cano has no clue about Kansas City. He probably couldn't pick us out on a map. He made a mistake, but really someone from Major League Baseball should have had the common sense to step in and steer this thing in the right direction. Except, they probably don't know or understand how us fans feel about something like this. It's the blind leading the blind. MLB is so completely clueless. How easy would it have been for Major League Baseball to step in and give Butler a chance to take some cuts. Some, like Heyman will Tweet that all the AL hitters were "deserving." Attention: This is a freaking exhibition. It's about the fans. And 40,000 fans who paid some serious cash wanted to see Billy Butler.
If you think this was about home runs, you're missing the big picture.
You know what I wanted out of that exhibition? Home runs. Prince Fielder and Mark Trumbo were incredible. If it had been Joey Votto and Josh Hamilton who hit those, it wouldn't have made a lick of difference. Bombs. That's what we asked for. Billy Butler could have hit some of those.
Cano took the brunt of our anger.
It's over now. We were heard. Cano was sufficiently mind-screwed that he could barely get the ball to the warning track. Victory.
He's a big boy. He'll get over it. Imagine, a Yankee collapsing on a midwestern stage... The bright lights of KC can be so crushing.
Now, it's time to move forward. As I write this late Monday evening, there's a movement building on Twitter to cheer for Cano in the pre-game introductions. I think it's a wonderful idea. Let him know there are no hard feelings. We can shake hands and put this behind us. That's the sort of thing that winners do. And finally, on Monday night, Royals fans won.
But don't ever mess with us again.
A couple of other notes:
-- Mark Trumbo is a monster. Hitting a ball on top of the Hall of Fame? Seriously?
-- Prince Fielder made it look incredibly easy. In the final round, I didn't think he'd ever stop.
-- The ball seemed to have a lot less carry once the sun set. But that did coincide with the later rounds when the hitters are tired. That certainly had something to do with it, but there wasn't the same life off the bat.
-- The mascot on mascot violence in between the final round was outstanding.