The Edmond Sun

Sports

July 10, 2012

Fielder gets Derby win, while Cano whiffs

KANSAS CITY — The boos and chants rained down on Robinson Cano long before he stepped to the plate, making it immediately clear he would be playing the role of villain on this warm and muggy Monday night at Kauffman Stadium.

He is a Yankee, after all. But to Royals fans, it was personal.

Cano did not win the Home Run Derby — Detroit’s Prince Fielder did, topping Toronto’s Jose Bautista in the final round — and he didn’t even come close. But his at-bat, which lasted 10 agonizing or glorious minutes, depending on your allegiance, turned out to be the most captivating sequence of the entire night.

When Cano popped up, lined out or had a near-homer bounce off the outfield wall, the crowd of 40,351 did not just cheer — they roared. Roared. Like Bo Jackson had just launched a moon shot, or Zack Greinke had just completed a one-hit shutout. In between, they serenaded Cano with boos and “Billy Butler” chants, just to remind him of the man he slighted.

Not that it bothered Cano too much.

“No, no, we get booed everywhere we go,” Cano said with a laugh.

“We just played in Boston. Boston is even worse.”

But unlike those trips to Boston, where the booing is a byproduct of a long history of a bitter rivalry, Cano brought this round of vitriol on himself. Cano, captain of the American League’s Derby squad, initially said he’d like to include a Royal on his team, and Butler seemed like the obvious choice.

But then, as Cano explains it, he called Albert Pujols to see if he would participate. Pujols declined since he wasn’t playing in the game, and instead suggested his Angels teammate, Mark Trumbo.

Cano followed the advice of his fellow Dominican, and ended up picking Trumbo for the fourth and final spot on the AL’s Derby team, effectively leaving Butler out in the cold.

And Royals fans, it seems, have long memories. Even Butler, who appreciated the support, was taken aback by the extent to which Cano was chastised.

During batting practice, a plane carried a banner over the park that read “Congrats Billy! You Blew it Cano!”

“I thought that was a little over the top,” Butler said. “Maybe some people feel they have the right to be mad, but that’s not me.

“It’s good to hear people chanting your name,” Butler continued, “but I like Robby. So there’s nothing going on there.”

Royals fans weren’t as forgiving. Their booing was so vociferous, so intense, that after hitting into five straight outs to start the at-bat, he stepped out of the batter’s box to compose himself. He received a quick pep talk from Boston’s David Ortiz and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, and stepped in again, determined to get on the board.

No go. Cano popped up to center, hit a ball of the wall in center, and popped up again.

At that point, Curtis Granderson and CC Sabathia, Cano’s New York teammates, interceded. They walked to the mound to talk to the pitcher and give Cano another break.

It didn’t help. He quickly lined out, and with Cano on the ropes — he had only one out left and still had yet to hit a home run — the fans rose to their feet and cheered louder, like Joakim Soria was on the mound with two outs, two strikes and a two-run lead.

You can guess what happened next. Cano lined out, becoming the first player to go homerless at the derby since Detroit’s Brandon Inge in 2009.

Despite it all, Cano was quite gracious; he walked back to his AL teammates, giving man-hugs with a knowing grin of what just happened. He quickly tweeted:

“I can’t believe I have so many fans in KC lol smh can’t win them all *kanye shrug*”

Cano also blamed some of his performance on a busy schedule and lack of sleep.

“I landed (here) at 5 in the morning, we’ve played four games in the last three days,” Cano said. “I was a little bit tired. But that’s no excuse.”

Cano, however, was ultimately vindicated by the performances of the three players he picked. Fielder beat Bautista in the final round 12-7, and Trumbo reached the semifinals by hitting seven home runs in the first round, one of them a moon shot that landed on top of the Royals Hall of Fame.

“The fact is we had two American League guys going at it for the Home Run title at the end,” Butler said. “The bottom line is that everyone who was in it for the American League was deserving. They put on a show.”

But on a night that featured a plethora of oohs, ahhs and home runs, nothing was more entertaining than Cano’s at-bat against, essentially, an entire stadium.

Royals fans came to Kauffman Stadium on Monday night to see a spectacle; instead, they were a part of one.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Cano said of the performance by Royals fans. “I respect it.”

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