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Derby delivers memorable moments in dynamic affair

Cespedes shines in new format to maintain title; Morneau receives warm welcome

MINNEAPOLIS -- As baseball returns to its natural state -- a game in which pitching is once again dominant -- you take the home runs where you find them.

The 2014 Gillette Home Run Derby would be a logical place to look. And, yes indeed, home runs could be found here. True, these are home runs hit against batting-practice pitching, but again, if you're way below your long-ball quota, this was the logical place to be.

Monday night at Target Field, there were some impressive displays of power. But nobody was as impressive as Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics. He won the Derby for the second year in a row. There has only been one other back-to-back Derby winner -- Ken Griffey Jr., in 1998-99.

Cespedes closed his half of the show in the finals with a 9-1 victory over Todd Frazier of the Reds. Cespedes drilled a series of no-doubters into the second deck beyond left-center, and for good measure, he put one into the third deck. These balls traveled as though they were flights of home run imagination. There was no power outage for Cespedes.

Cespedes was joined in the Derby field by a teammate, Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson, who got some laughs out of kidding about the competition at the All-Star media session.

"I was trying to get 5-1 odds from him, but he said it had to be 1-1," Donaldson said of Cespedes. "He's got a lot more money than I have, so it's not fair."

Donaldson said he kidded Cespedes, saying: "He might be the defending champ, but I'm the peoples' champ and I'm going to take it back."

In a more serious moment, Donaldson said that he expected that Cespedes would retain his position as king of the Derby. As it turned out, this was a completely reasonable expectation.

There were other impressive Derby displays. Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays hit home runs in bunches in the first round. Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins propelled a ball into the third deck beyond left field. This could fairly be described as a majestic shot. It could also be described as sub-orbital.

The Minnesota fans reserved their greatest affection for a former member of the Twins, Justin Morneau. He was a star, and he won the 2006 American League MVP Award while playing for a series of very good Minnesota teams. In fact, Morneau won a Derby title while wearing a Twins uniform.

More recently, Morneau's career was sidetracked by post-concussion syndrome. But he has come back in a big way with the Colorado Rockies this season. The Twins fans cheered Morneau repeatedly, and they cheered him as though he would always be, for them, that MVP-caliber player. It was touching. Morneau did not advance beyond the first round, but in the spirit of the evening, so what?

Home runs were hit without any help from the Minnesota climate. An unusually cold day led into a rain delay for the Derby. This, in turn, was followed by temperatures in the 50s during the Derby. With conditions damp and, even for the upper Midwest, unseasonably cool temperatures, this was not ideal power-hitting weather. And Target Field is no hitter-friendly band box.

But anybody who wanted to be in the presence of power found Target Field the right place to be Monday night.

The new Derby format, which was structured to have a player from each league meet in the finals, might have been potentially intriguing, but it was not completely equitable. The two players with the most home runs in the first three rounds were Bautista and Cespedes. But with this structure, they met in the semifinals rather than the finals. The Cespedes-Frazier final was anticlimactic.

The Derby remains one place where the homer is not an endangered species, but is instead, a way of life. As long as baseball can keep uncovering the occasional Yoenis Cespedes, the Derby will have a reason to live.

2014 Home Run Derby results
AL Rd. 1 Rd. 2 Rd. 3 Final Rd. 3 Rd. 2 Rd. 1 NL
Brian Dozier 2       1 6 2 Todd Frazier
Jose Bautista 10 Bye 4 Cespedes 9   2 4 Troy Tulowitzki
Adam Jones 4 3   Frazier 1     0 Yasiel Puig
Josh Donaldson 3       0 Bye 6 Giancarlo Stanton
Yoenis Cespedes 3 9 7       2 Justin Morneau
Round 1 tiebreakers: Cespedes 2, Donaldson 1; Frazier 1, Morneau 0

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for

Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Morneau