If you got really into booing Robinson Cano during the 2012 All-Star Break in Kansas City, you probably won't care that things were probably more complicated than they appeared to be. You were probably proto-projecting your personal insecurities into the ongoing, tribal and regional animus between the variegated identity politics of the coasts and the midwest – and then alpha-projecting that diffidence and ever-lingering regionally-masked insecurity into a largely irrelevant exhibition baseball game and its carnivalesque side-shows.
Or maybe you booed him because you genuinely just wanted to watch Billy Butler in the Derby.
Either way, Butler was absent. Some fans were extremely pissed, some were only slightly irritated, and some were still in hibernation and wouldn't awaken until the latter half of 2014. At the time, the only explanations for Cano's decision to leave Butler out – after having said he was likely to choose a player from the Royals for the Derby – were the second baseman's fickle aloofness or his sudden desire to insult Kansas Citians. Who knows? Maybe the perceived slight was the unfilial spark that started the Royals fiery return to prominence. Maybe Cano really was just being a jerk and wanted to slight the city – although he didn't have much reason to do so ... at that time.
But that probably wasn't the reason Cano changed his mind – at least not entirely. Earlier this month, Baseball Prospectus' Sam Miller read the entire Collective Bargaining Agreement. In his summary of it, Miller brings up some interesting contractual eccentricities with regard to the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby that may have had a substantial effect on Cano's choice to snub Butler.
Miller says the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game agreements are "like a bizarro CBA within the CBA," stating:
Meanwhile, the means of picking the Derby teams are completely lawyered over. The league must ask the union for consent when it chooses the captains, though the union must not "unreasonably" withhold consent. The league may not contact possible captains until this consent is given.
And then quoting the CBA directly with:
The Office of the Commissioner and the Players Association will conduct a joint call with each captain to discuss the factors that the captain should consider when selecting his teammates, including current season home run leaders; prior success in the Home Run Derby; the location of the game; whether the player has been, or is likely to be, selected as an All-Star; the player’s home run totals in prior seasons; recent milestone achievements by the player; and the player’s popularity.
As Royals fans, we all loved Billy Butler – especially at the time, because he was one of the few bright spots on a team that hadn't had a winning season in eight-and-a-half years. But despite our doting love for him, he probably wasn't – realistically – a great option for a home run-hitting contest. His numbers were great that year heading into the break, but there were 16 hitters in the AL with more homers in the first half of the 2012 season – and almost all of them had a wider national following and more statistically-adorned careers to that point. Personally, I still think it would've been better for everyone – the fans, the league, the MLBPA ... Cano – if Butler had taken part in the Derb, but nobody asked me.
Source- Jamie Squire, Getty Images
Furthermore, the Players Union and the Commissioner's Office were heavily involved in Cano's decision-making process. And the reasons listed above aren't the only stipulations in the Home Run Derby section of the CBA that could have led to Butler's absence. Back to Miller:
The Players Association also gets "at least one minute" during the Derby broadcast to talk about the MLBPA trust, their charity arm. And, because this is the level of detail that the CBA sometimes goes into, "The Player interviewed [about the MLBPA trust] will also be offered the opportunity to continue the discussion."
This might be more substantial than it sounds. Butler served as a Union representative for the Athletics last year, but in 2012, he might not have been an ideal candidate to speak on the behalf of the entire MLB Players Association – and had he been a contestant in the Derb that year, he more than likely would've been interviewed at some point during the contest since he would've been the focus of the hometown fans. Or maybe he would've been too ideal. The MLBPA trust is, as Miller puts it, their "charity arm;" however, the trust functions as a sort of public relations arm for the Union as well. Perhaps the league or the Union overruled Cano's decision to select Butler because of circumstances that had very little to do with the actual Home Run Derby itself. It wouldn't be that hard to imagine. The microscopic level of detail in the CBA leads me to believe that there's almost nothing that hasn't been politicked to smithereens – lawyer-snarled, profit war-pickled smithereens.
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But you know, after that sprawling clause-jungle of Selig-tinged provisos and Union filters, the captain gets the final say – "unless the league and the union think he's acting like a turd, in which case the commissioner can overrule him," as Miller puts it.
As I said at the beginning, if you've had strong feelings about this all along, you're unlikely to be swayed by a wrinkle in the CBA being brought to light from halfway across the Internet. But if you are willing to consider the possibility that things are more complicated than the impossibly simple explanation of "Cano suddenly decided to be jerk,' then maybe the details of the CBA will be of some interest to you.
If he had been left to his own devices, there's no guarantee that Cano would've stuck to his word and named Billy to the team. But it seems pretty clear that, after taking a closer look at the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Cano was not making the decision alone.