By Tom Cushing
Tin Cup MomentUploaded: Jun 12, 2014
Somebody named Collin Cowgill hit a 14th inning walk-off homerun for the Anaheim Disneys Tuesday evening, handing our Athletics a fairly rare defeat in the process. In ten years, he may have to remind even his mother of that achievement.
But in ten years, every baseball fan will still buzz about The Throw launched by A's left fielder Yoenis Cespedes earlier in the contest. After bobbling a Mike Trout double down the line, Cespedes recovered and launched a precision Cuban missile strike to A's catcher Derek Norris, 300-feet away, at home plate. Norris easily tagged-out Anaheimer Howie Kendrick to keep the game tied.
It was stunning to watch, as despair at the miss-play was quickly overtaken by joy at the tag and stupefaction at the sheer athleticism of the feat. An instant classic to be debated as among the best throws, ever. The internet lit-up with adoring tweetery, and he trended on facebook. It was an odd bit of actual baseball attention for the A's, whose excellent team record goes routinely unnoticed. Ten years after Moneyball, the team remains the Island of Misfit Toys, mostly journeymen with particular skills, assembled by mad Dr. Beane and well-deployed by Mr. Melvin.
So, how did the perpetually penurious A's end-up with a star and all-tools talent like Cespedes? When he defected three years ago, there was considerable interest in him among well-heeled teams, but also doubts about his major-league readiness. Only the A's offered both blindingly good money ($36 million over four years, a huge gamble for our Locals), and an instant opportunity to play in The Show. I recall seeing his first At-Bat in Spring Training. Far from being an undiscerning free-swinger, he walked on five pitches. It was a good sign of great things to come.
Like many instinctive athletes, Cespedes has shown a flair for the dramatic. He hit homers in both his first MLB game, in Japan that year, and at the home opener at the Coliseum. The latter might have left earth orbit if it hadn't collided, still on the rise, with Mt. Davis. He's excelled in the Play-offs, and won last year's All-Star Game Home Run Derby going away, with a punctuating bat-flip (at about 8:14 on the video) at the end. That success amazed everyone-not a-die-hard A's fan, meaning nearly everyone. His former Cuban teammate, the temperamental Jasiel Puig has gotten more ink, to-date, in media-frenzied LA; Cespedes is a special player, though, and arguably a better fit for the team-oriented A's. Those two will be fun to watch, head-to-head, at this year's Derby.
Before Tuesday, his arm strength and accuracy were under-appreciated, although not without his trying. He'll often appear to 'nonchalant' a ball hit his way, hoping to lure a runner into trying to take an extra base; he'll also challenge them with a stare-down worthy of an uber-alpha dog. The Anaheim nine in particular has been slow to get the memo; he has thrown them out four times in the last two weeks part of his majors-leading nine outfield assists. Interestingly, his may be only the second-best arm in the Oakland outfield the league now knows not to run on his book-end, right-field Gold Glover Josh Reddick.
As of last week, Cespedes was sixth among American League outfielders in the fan-based All Star voting. New totals come out on Sunday. He may become the second A's rep voted onto the team this year, as Josh Donaldson currently leads the tally at third base. Brandon Moss is also worthily in the running. However that goes, his Tuesday fantasyland toss has secured him as sure a place in MLB annals as that last golf shot, over the water at the US Open, in the movie Tin Cup (video has a bit of ungolfly language in it). The Throw was made not far from Hollywood, and had the considerable advantage of being real.