It’s times like these — mid-Spring-Training times when fake baseball is in full swing and literally nothing interesting is happening — when a baseball blogger is most thankful for the belated debuts of giant Cuban rookies with giant swings who make (or have made for them) crazy promotional videos. (I’d say that this post deserves the “No You’re a Slow News Day” tag, if only any of my posts at this site were especially timely.)
So we’ll switch it up a little bit today: here are three other things that are kind of like Yoenis Cespedes.
Yoenis Cespedes is like Gabbo.
True Simpsons fans (which I am not, apparently, having depended on TCM to remind me of this one) will remember the classic episode “Krusty Gets Kancelled,” from 1993. Springfield is inundated with an entrancing viral marketing campaign for someone or something called “Gabbo,” and it works — everyone in town gets really excited about Gabbo, having no idea who or what it is. Turns out Gabbo is a ventriloquist’s dummy (with a television show in direct competition with Krusty), and he enjoys a great deal of initial success, though it’s short-lived.
Cespedes was a lot like that, this winter. Cespedes was essentially unknown in this part of the world entering last November. Then he, or someone, gave the world this phenomenal video (broken down hysterically by Kevin Goldstein here), and he became a sensation.
The baseball world had a bit more information on Cespedes than Springfield had on Gabbo — we knew he was a human being, and more specifically a baseball player — but that’s about all we had; the rest was marketing. Nonetheless, teams, media and (especially) fan bases lost their minds over the guy, couldn’t wait to see which team would outbid the others for his services. Services they didn’t know anything at all about, because they barely knew who he was. It’s marketing, and it’s mid-winter boredom, and it’s a big guy who can apparently hit a baseball a really long way, at least in practice and against amateurish pitching. Gabbo is coming!
Yoenis Cespedes is like Barack Obama.
When the U.S.’ 44th President was inaugurated, he was wildly popular, something of a rock star almost immediately. And I don’t mean to say that he wasn’t worthy — I’m a fan, personally — but a lot of it, that much and that soon, stemmed from his being not-Bush, and didn’t really have anything to do with anything Obama himself had done (or even promised to do). It wasn’t even just Americans — heck, the Norwegians gave him an extremely prestigious award just for being not-Bush.
And then, well, things didn’t immediately get much better, which is the way things go, and a lot of people, as they are wont to do in political matters, immediately turned on the guy in charge regardless of his actual culpability. He’s the same basic guy saying and doing the same basic things, but when things go (or in this case stay) bad, the president takes the blame, and that’s how it went.
What’s happened with Cespedes in his first few days in uniform was similar. He debuted on Saturday and was better than anyone could’ve hoped, with a homer, and RBI single and a walk in just three plate appearances. People freaked out over the tiniest possible sample, as people do. Then on Sunday he wasn’t as great, and ESPN (who had fawned over him the day before) went with this headline: “Yoenis Cespedes struggles after strong debut with A’s.” One day later, and it’s one day in which he walked, lined out and flied out (along with a strikeout) in his four trips to the plate.
Now, I don’t think anybody is actually turning on him. It’s just one idiotic, attention-seeking headline. But ESPN treated Cespedes this weekend just the way a lot of America treated Obama, and that’s good enough for Tuesday Tangent purposes.
Yoenis Cespedes is like a Hummer.
Hey, remember a couple years ago, when everyone acted as though nobody but themselves mattered and it was totally fine for one person to drive across this world in a vehicle seven or eight times larger than they or their families could ever have needed? Sure you do. That was the Hummer. It was huge and flashy and impressive, but entirely unnecessary for any purpose, and no one ever used them for the tough-driving, off-roading purposes for which they were (ostensibly) designed.
Cespedes and the A’s is…a strange fit. He’s a big, exciting, flashy toy, like a Hummer. They also had a perfectly good Coco Crisp — your nice, sensible Honda Civic — set to play center, ostensibly Cespedes’ position. I tend to continue to believe in Billy Beane, and this is a team that’s actually pretty well set up for a couple years from now, when Cespedes will still be their property and will hopefully be an anchor of the offense.
But from afar, and coming out of the blue as it did, and involving so much money from a team that had been shedding salary left and right, it looked very much like a Hummer purchase — a frivolous, borderline-irresponsible plaything the A’s didn’t need, who will probably never be used as he was intended.
It’s way too early to know anything at all about Cespedes, of course — this post has had a lot more to do with how he’s been portrayed and perceived than about the player himself: he was a star before anyone knew anything about him (like Gabbo), his tiny individual steps have been both praised and criticized, equally unfairly (like Obama), and he looked like a weirdly extravagant, unnecessary purchase for the A’s, like a Hummer. Looking forward to keeping an eye on him over the next year or so and eventually finding out what he is, really…