KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Already with a crowd against him — and perhaps a city — Robinson Cano turned to his dad for salvation. It didn’t help.
After frustrating Royals fans by not picking hometown favorite Billy Butler to participate in Monday’s Home Run Derby, the Yankees second baseman and American League Derby captain became the lone contestant not to hit at least one home run. It was a far cry from last season, when Cano, receiving pitches from his father Jose, won the contest and the hearts of fans around the nation.
Jose Cano was on the mound again Monday, but he didn’t bring his magic pitching touch to the Midwest. Cano’s homerless showing was good for last place. And the Kauffman Stadium crowd loved every minute of it.
Cano originally pledged to pick a Royal for the Derby since it was in Kansas City. But he eventually decided against it, a move that didn’t sit well with Royals fans.
Even before Cano batted, the crowd chanted, “Bil-ly But-ler!” in reference to the Kansas City All-Star, and then alternated loud boos with cheers as each ball Cano hit fell short of the wall. The loudest cheers of the night came when Cano’s 10th and final out fell hopelessly into the grass in short center field.
“It’s not like I didn’t pick him because I didn’t like him or anything like that,” Cano said afterwards. “It’s a tough decision. I didn’t pick a guy like Adam Dunn who has like 24 or 26 bombs. You have Edwin Encarnacion who has 23. You get to pick three guys.
“I didn’t lie because before they picked the All-Star team, I had to pick the team already. But like I said, this is for the fans and if that’s how they feel, I’ll take it.”
Earlier in the evening a plane made several passes above Kauffman Stadium pulling a sign that read, “CONGRATS BILLY! YOU BLEW IT CANO — 810 WHB.” A local Kansas City sports talk radio station apparently footed the bill.
Butler, the Royals’ lone All-Star, has 16 home runs at the All-Star break. He was cheered loudly when shown on the video board while Cano batted.
“Maybe somebody has the right to be mad, but that’s not me,” Butler said. “They are pulling for me. They have nothing against Robinson Cano as a player. They just love their guys here. That’s the bottom line and I’m happy to be one of their guys.
“That’s just how it is. Every single one of the players hitting for the American League deserved to be there, that’s all I can say about that. I’m glad that the fans wanted me to be a part of it but you can fault anybody that was in it for the American League.”
Asked if the booing was a classless or disrespectful move, Cano said, “I don’t want to say low class because like I said, this is for the fans, and if that’s how they feel, there’s nothing else I can do.
“It doesn’t bother me at all. … This is for the fans and that’s what they wanted to do. Sometimes you decide things to do and sometimes it’s not the right one.”
The Kansas City fans received several negative reviews across Twitter for their reaction, causing some in the Kauffman Stadium press box to predict that Major League Baseball will do away with the captains format to prevent a similar thing from happening again.
Regardless, Butler said the support Royals fans showed him by chanting his name was something he would never forget.
“That just gives me more incentive to never want to leave,” Butler said. “That right there, it just makes you feel good. It’s good to hear people chanting your name, but I like Robinson, so there’s nothing going on there.
“The bottom line is everybody that was in it for the American league deserved it. They put on a show.”
Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder won the Home Run Derby, beating Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays in the final.