LOUDEST story of the night: Robinson Cano got booed. A lot.
As if trying to confuse stereotypes, Suburban Kansas City sounded more like the South Bronx and the touchier New York fans on Twitter became as sensitive as Stuart Smalley mixed with an outraged Al Sharpton. I saw the Trump-esque term “classless” tossed around by Yankee fans…who actually invented booing, though it was later perfected in Philadelphia.
The story is, Cano implied/inferred/suggested that he’d put a Kansas City Royal – likely Billy Butler – on the Home Run Derby team, then he didn’t. So the Royals fans let him have it. They chanted “Bil-ly But-ler!” while Cano batted. An airplane circled the stadium towing a banner that said “CONGRATS, BILLY. YOU BLEW IT CANO!” Through it all, Cano put on a happy face, but you’ve got to wonder how that felt. The boos and ironic cheers were loud, folks. Louder than the celebration for Prince Fielder when he later WON the event. This awakened an angry mob that loves its sports and is tired of losing. Cano flopped out of the first round, going 0 for 10 and the place went berserk. The fans may have rattled him, but as a professional he’d never tell.
While Cano himself was statistically terrible, it’s hard to argue with his selections. Prince Fielder hit 12 in the final round to win it all – and it’s worth noting Fielder is the only American League Home Run Derby player with LESS home runs this season than Billy Butler. There is a very strong argument that Cano made all right choices, though in hindsight giving up his spot to Billy Butler wouldn’t have hurt. Even as a Royals fan myself (one who lives in Los Angeles), I don’t think Butler would have done better than anyone Cano picked. He took a solid, professional approach, but that didn’t matter to the fans. Cano got their hopes up suggesting he’d pick a home team favorite and then let them down. Like many athletes doesn’t seem to “get” the fan-player dynamic, marketing or showmanship.
This is an exhibition for the fans. The reigning title holder looks more like a Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Champion than a professional athlete. The most meaningful result of the game is State Farm’s charity donation. The fans want to see their guy, especially in a stadium that hasn’t seen a meaningful game since 1985 (The All Star Game being dubiously “meaningful”). They paid $160 on StubHub for a standing-room-only ticket. So why make them angry on national television? Tonight we saw tonight this is a fan base running on a potent cocktail of passion and frustration. It probably didn’t help that Cano is a Yankee. Moneyball aside, there was a time the Yankees and Royals had an actual rivalry; 4 ALCS match ups in a row, Brett vs. Gossage, Billy Martin vs. Pine Tar! You’ve seen the pine tar freak out, but did you know GEORGE BRETT PUNCHED A GUY (Graig Nettles) AT THIRD BASE?
I’ve grew up in Kansas City. When the fans bring it, it’s an incredibly tough crowd and a noisy bunch. Tonight, they taunted Robinson Cano FROM AN AIRPLANE. It’s a point of civic pride. Check out a Chiefs or Sporting KC game for further illustration. Better yet, ask John Elway.
In the end, Royals fans might want to thank Cano. He gave the crowd a real show, even if it was booing their perceived villain. Billy Butler and #BooCano trended on Twitter while Royals fans raised their street cred. I did feel bad for the guy. Truly, he’s a human being. His dad’s tossing him baseballs and while he’s getting booed and failing hard. The other part of me figures he’ll just blow his nose on a golden tissue, ride a unicorn to another World Series and the Cano family will have something to laugh about over Thanksgiving.
– George Brett worked worked “poopies” into an interview with Chris Berman.
– Chris Berman borrowed a tie from Craig Sager for tonight’s event.