So you’re watching the Home Run Derby on ESPN and Robinson Cano got booed mercilessly when he was introduced to the Kansas City crowd.
There are a number of factors in play here:
1) Billy Butler is having a career year while leading the team with 16 homers. He’s displaying the power that fans have expected to see from him for years now (even if they sometimes confuse homers as the only means of having power from time to time).
2) Kansas City fans have taken to Billy Butler. His unofficial nickname (recognized by ESPN, Baseball-Reference and even video games) is “Country Breakfast” and originated on Twitter on a fateful July night last year.
4) Royals fans have always been less than accommodating to Yankees and their fans. Not in an antagonizing way, so much, but in the kind of way that has roots in the rivalry from the late-70s and has also been influenced by the widening gap in payrolls in baseball. New York is the biggest market of big markets. Kansas City is the complete opposite.
Had Cano said nothing about taking a Royal, there wouldn’t be nearly as much vitriol in his direction. Some may have been upset, some may have booed anyway. But there wouldn’t be nearly as many without Cano’s earlier declarations.
In the end, it’s not a very big deal. It’s an exhibition spun off of another exhibition. Nobody has incentives in their contract for the Home Run Derby. It’s fun to watch and impressive to see the massive shots and it would have been nice to see Billy Butler taking some hacks, but ultimately, it’s not the end of the world.
It still stings though. The Royals had multiple players who could have been All-Stars – maybe they weren’t all slam dunk options, but they had the chance. Instead, Butler was the lone representative and worthy of being in the Derby as well.
It’s not even about Mark Trumbo or Prince Fielder or Jose Bautista being selected over Butler. ESPN tried to make that the narrative, but nobody’s saying that that trio shouldn’t be involved. KC fans weren’t upset that any of that group was selected, just that they were selected after Cano said he was going to choose a Royal.
We’re a passionate bunch in Kansas City and in those small moments when we have some kind of spotlight on us (the 2003 mirage, Zack Greinke‘s Cy Young season in 2009, All-Star Weekend), we put all of our chips in the middle of the table. We’re all in. There aren’t as many of us as the mid-80s, but the folks who are still around care. And when we’re spurned, we’re not going to be thrilled about it. I told Ricky Keeler of FanSided’s Yankees site Yanks Go Yard that it’s like “being everyone’s doormat for two decades, then getting snubbed in [our] house.”
Does it really matter? Is Cano going to lose sleep over being booed? Is Butler going to be scarred for being looked over? Doubtful in all cases, but the level of confusion about why fans were booing shouldn’t be confusing at all.