It's pretty common for high profile players to be booed at visiting parks, even if they have done nothing to deserve it other than be really good at baseball. Also typical is for players to be booed when they return home after having spurned their former club either by leaving as free agents or perhaps by bad-mouthing their old team on the way out following a trade.
None of this applies to Yoenis Cespedes, who returns to the Coliseum Monday afternoon for his first ever game against the Oakland A's. I don't know if the cheers or boos will prevail, but I am hoping it's cheers and here's why...
Start with the fact that while his flaws showed up loud and clear, Cespedes did a lot for the A's. Upon his arrival, the A's assumed what Jed Lowrie would term, upon Cespedes' trade to the Red Sox, a "winning identity in Oakland". While the rest of the baseball world was slow to get the memo, Cespedes' A's knew they were good, and in 2012 Yoenis put up solid numbers that were a significant part of why Oakland was suddenly able to play with the big boys.
Of course all of that can be said of Jason Giambi. What stands out to me about Cespedes is that he did not choose to leave, and by all accounts he would have liked to stay. When the A's negotiated a contract extension for Coco Crisp, Cespedes' comment was "Maybe I'm next in line" in the context of telling reporters that he would like to stay beyond his 4 year contract. In fact he noted that the A's were the organization that gave him his chance and that he would like to play his entire career in Oakland.
Was that just rhetoric? Maybe to a point -- had the A's approached him with an offer well below market value, chances are Cespedes would have declined it. But I do think that the sentiment was real, partly because Cespedes made those comments when he had no need to say anything at all. I think that in his heart, he wanted to stay in Oakland and that he would have been very open to any talks if the A's had been inclined to entertain a serious commitment.
Oakland didn't, for good reason: Cespedes, while flashy and consummately talented, is more toolsy than he is great. During his time with Oakland he aggravated fans by flailing at the same slider repeatedly and he struggled to maintain an OBP over .300.
But I do believe that Cespedes gave his heart and soul to the A's, helped the A's to recapture the winning identity they had lost with the Geren years, had both a love and a loyalty to the green and gold, and if media reports are true he cried when told he had been traded.
That's someone worth giving a standing ovation when he is first introduced Monday afternoon. I hope he is received with the same loyalty and love that he gave to the organization. Then throw him sliders down and away.