NEW YORK — For the pride of Cuba, and for the excitement of America, this is the home run derby we would like to see: Yoenis Cespedes versus Yasiel Puig.
Cespedes won the All-Star game home run derby Monday, beating Bryce Harper in the final round. Cespedes said he would have had no problem beating Puig, his Cuban countryman.
“Not to be disrespectful to him at all, but I know him from Cuba,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “This is not the type of competition he would be able to excel at. He’s not really a home run hitter, so I believe I would win.”
Puig, the Dodgers’ phenom, might be more of a line-drive hitter, but he has eight home runs in 151 at-bats. Cespedes has 15 home runs in 307 at-bats.
Then again, the Athletics’ outfielder plays his home games in the pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum, so he laughed at the notion that Citi Field is a tough park In which to hit home runs.
“This stadium may be difficult,” he said, “but it’s not as difficult as Oakland.”
Mike Trout fan
Angels outfielder Mike Trout makes the first of what could be many All-Star starts today. In his first appearance on the fan ballot, Trout was elected a starter. On the player ballot, Trout drew the most votes of any outfielder in either league.
Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds said he considers Trout the best player in the major leagues, and not just because Trout is such a dynamic hitter.
“He can play defense. He can steal bases. He has a good arm,” Phillips said.
“Everything you could think of. And he has a Subway commercial.”
One and done
The Dodgers and Angels have one All-Star each, the first time since 1999 that each team has had a single star. That year, outfielder Gary Sheffield represented the Dodgers and closer Troy Percival represented the Angels.
The Dodgers’ world-record payroll produced the same amount of All-Stars as the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins. Puig might have been in the minor leagues when voting began, but the Dodgers’ roster is stocked with such household names as Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford.
Of course, all but Gonzalez have been on the disabled list, and the Dodgers did not climb out of last place until July. They won 17 of their last 22 games before the All-Star break.
“Small sample size,” said pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ lone All-Star. “We’ve finally got everybody healthy. If we’re doing that for a full season, we would have a lot more guys here. We would have won a lot more.”
And more Cuba
The Dodgers are in on pitcher Miguel Alberto Gonzalez, the Cuban defector now cleared by the Treasury Department to sign with a major league team. It remains unclear whether the Dodgers, or any team, will offer more than $42 million, the Dodgers’ winning bid for Puig. However, other teams are wary of the Dodgers, backed by a new $8.5-billion television contract.