Athletics

Prince Fielder wins second career Home Run Derby crown

813270.jpg

Prince Fielder wins second career Home Run Derby crown

KANSAS CITY (AP) -- Detroit's Prince Fielder became only the second player to win multiple titles in the All-Star Home Run Derby, thrilling the crowd at Kauffman Stadium with eight splash shots into the right-field fountain and beating Toronto's Jose Bautista 12-7 in the final Monday night.

On a night when the Yankees' Robinson Cano was repeatedly booed and went homerless, Fielder put on the most powerful display among baseball's big boppers. Winner at St. Louis' Busch Stadium three years ago, Fielder hit a total of 28 home runs over three rounds to cap the main event on the eve of the All-Star game, hitting the long drive of the night at 476 feet into the water.

Ken Griffey Jr. won three titles, in 1994, 1998 and 1999.

While the ball stayed out of McCovey Cove during the 2007 Derby at San Francisco's AT&T Park and the right-field swimming pool last year at Chase Field in Phoenix, there was plenty of aquatic activity in Kansas City, second only to Rome for most fountains in cities around the world.

After three splash shots among his five homers in the first round, Fielder started off the second round as the setting sun lit up clouds in a pretty pink behind the left-field wall. His mop of dreadlocks visible as he hit without a helmet, Fielder deposited four more balls into the 322-foot-wide water spectacular, which by then was illuminated in the twilight.

He added another water drive in the final round, then leaned against one of his sons while he watched Bautista swing.

When he won three years ago in St. Louis, Fielder's 23 homers included a 503-foot drive that disappeared between two sections of bleachers in right-center.

Cano set a final-round record of 12 en route to last year's title in Phoenix, where he hit 32 overall. This year he was the object of loud booing throughout by fans upset he didn't select the Royals' Billy Butler after promising to take a hometown player for his derby team.

Fans chanted "Bil-ly Butler!" in between their boos. When it was over, Cano got hugs from Boston's David Ortiz and Yankees teammates Curtis Granderson and CC Sabathia.

"Everywhere the Yankees go play, they get booed all the time. I'm used to it," Cano said.

It was the 17th time a player went homerless in the Derby, the first since Detroit's Brandon Inge in 2009.

"that was the most interesting reaction to a home rum derby i've ever seen, but the fans were excited which is all that counts," Granderson tweeted.

Carlos Gonzalez and Andrew McCutchen (four each) and Matt Kemp (one) also were dropped after the first round.

Carlos Beltran (12) was dropped after the second round, when Mark Trumbo and Bautista were tied with 13 apiece, leading to a swingoff won by Bautista 2-1.

Trumbo and Bautista each managed to put a drive into the small fountain beyond the left-field wall. Trumbo also hit a pair of shots over the Royals Hall of Fame in left, toward Interstate 70.

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

marcell-ozuna-marlins-ap.jpg
AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

khris-davis-funnylook-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

The A’s took care of a big piece of business with their top run producer, signing slugger Khris Davis to a one-year contract Wednesday and avoiding arbitration.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the sides settled on a $10.5 million salary. That’s more than double the $5 million Davis made last season in his first trip through the arbitration process, but a huge raise was expected after Davis put up more monster numbers in his second year with Oakland.

His 43 home runs in 2017 ranked second in the American League and he was third in RBI with 110. Consider that Davis is the only major leaguer to crack the 40-homer mark in each of the past two seasons, and only Giancarlo Stanton has more total homers during that span (86 to Davis’ 85).

That obviously makes the 30-year-old Davis a valuable commodity.

“Back to back 40-homer years in this ballpark. You guys don’t talk about it enough,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said in October. “When we acquired him (in a trade from Milwaukee) we knew we got a guy with a lot of power. I think we were thinking a 30-homer guy. The fact he’s gone 40 back-to-back is pretty amazing. He fits in perfectly here. I think having that big bat that Khris brings helps guys like (Matt) Olson and (Matt) Chapman.”

So it’s clear the A’s value Davis, and that’s why he hasn’t been traded thus far, as many around the game speculated he might be this winter. But where do things go moving forward?

He’ll be eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before he’s able to test free agency heading into the 2020 season. If you’re an A’s fan, you know where this is going. If July hits and the A’s are floundering in the standings, Davis no doubt will be a trade candidate. He’d have appeal as a proven slugger who would remain under team control for 2019.

But Davis is a rare breed. He loves playing in Oakland and doesn’t hide that fact. The pitcher-friendly Coliseum has done nothing to suppress his power. In fact, he’s thrived. His 26 home runs at the Coliseum in 2017 fell one short of Jason Giambi’s Oakland record for homers by a home player.

It would seem he’d be open to a long-term extension, and the sides reportedly have held past discussions about one. The A’s have designs on signing some of their younger core players to extensions. But you’d have to rank it as a surprise were they to actually complete an extension with Davis, given the money he would command.

More than likely, Beane and his staff will evaluate the team through the first half of the upcoming season, weigh the pros and cons of dealing him, and if he stays, enter through this arbitration process again next winter, knowing that he’ll command even more bucks on another one-year deal.

An ‘X’ factor is how Davis adjusts to his shift from left field to designated hitter. He told NBC Sports California in November that he prefers the outfield but will fill whatever role is best for the team.

The feeling here is that he’ll put up the same numbers that fans have grown accustomed to, and the ball will be in the A’s court as to how long he remains in green and gold.