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BuffalOkie Mondays: Bills Players as Derby Sluggers
One of my favorite all-star festivities in all of sport is set to take place at Citi Field tonight, and I thought it would be fun to look at each of the MLB Home Run Derby participants and draw comparisons to different Bills players. I understand the readers of this blog are football fans, but if you’re anything like me, you love baseball, too. And if you aren’t like me, well surely you can at least appreciate a sport that has some idea about how to put on an all-star event.
So without further ado, here are your 2013 sluggers and their Buffalo Bills counterparts.
Baltimore Orioles 1B Chris Davis/Running Back C.J. Spiller
Every time Chris Davis goes to the plate, there is a solid chance that the ball is going to end up 420 feet in the wrong direction for the pitcher. With 37 long balls, he enters the All Star break only two shy of the 39 homers Barry Bonds had at the break during his record run to 73 (very tainted) homers in 2001. It hasn’t always been easy for “Crush Davis”, though. The Orioles slugger spent several years in the Texas Rangers organization bouncing back and forth between the minors and majors. However, Davis found his home in Baltimore and now enters the 2013 All Star break as one of the best hitters in the game.
Sound like anyone you know on the Bills roster? Bills running back C.J. Spiller gives fans the same sense of anticipation every time he touches the ball. With God-given speed, shiftiness and vision, Spiller is a human highlight reel capable of the big play every time he’s got the ball in his hands, and much like Davis, Spiller’s NFL success didn’t happen overnight. The Thriller took a few years to adjust to the pace of the NFL, but when he finally became comfortable, opposing defenses were put on notice.
Yankees 2B Robinson Cano/Defensive End Mario Williams
Cano, the captain of the American League squad, has been a staple of the derby for several years. In 2011, Cano slugged 32 bombs at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. to edge out Adrian Gonzalez for an exciting first-place finish. Naturally, the following year, Cano entered the derby at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City with much fan fair. However, local fans were upset about Cano originally snubbing the Royals’ Billy Butler and Cano skidded to a homerless performance under a chorus of boos.
In March of 2012, Mario Williams came to Buffalo with all the pomp and circumstance that you would expect from a $100 million free agent. Coming off a monster stint in Houston, Williams was poised to explode onto the scene in Buffalo and be the dominant edge rusher that the Bills defense so desperately needed. Well, the honeymoon in Buffalo was rocky, as Mario had an up-and-down season on the field followed by a distraction-filled offseason. All of which have him on shaky ground with a fan base that so badly wants to get behind him. Now, Williams is out to prove that he is still the dominant player he was for the Texans.
Detroit Tigers 1B Prince Fielder/Running Back Fred Jackson
Prince Fielder is one of the best hitters in baseball. Period. He consistently puts up monster numbers, and he even has two home run derby titles to his name. During his time with the Brewers, Fielder was one of the more talked about players in baseball and he always backed up the hype with his performance on the field. Since leaving Milwaukee for Detroit two years ago, Fielder has continued to produce at the all-star pace he always has, however his performance is often overlooked because he bats behind a guy by the name of Miguel Cabrera, who by the time his career is over, will most likely be considered the greatest hitter of his era. Despite the lack of attention, Fielder won’t be slowing down the pace anytime soon – in game action or in the derby.
Much like Fielder, beloved Bills running back Fred Jackson spent several years in the spotlight, but with the emergence of the budding superstar Spiller, he now takes on a secondary role in the backfield. Still, Jackson is only 32 years old and has shown no signs of slowing down. Count on Fred to run with a purpose when he touches the ball (with regularity) in 2013.
Oakland A’s OF Yoenis Cespedes/Cornerback Leodis McKelvin
Yoenis Cespedes has a knack for hitting home runs, and hitting them far. The 15 bombs he’s hit this season have traveled an average of 407 feet. Unfortunately, the young A’s slugger also has a penchant for striking out, and he enters the All Star break with a pedestrian .224 batting average. He is young, but early in his career, Cespedes has a definite “all or nothing” look to his game.
Leodis McKelvin possesses a Cespedes-like big-play ability. Every time he touches the ball the former first-round pick has a chance to change the game, as evidenced by his four career return touchdowns. He’s even shown the ability to make plays at the cornerback position. Unfortunately Leodis also possesses Cespedes’s inconsistency and is yet to prove that he can be a reliable day-to-day performer in Buffalo.
Washington Nationals OF Bryce Harper/Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
Bryce Harper is young, athletic, and explosive. The Nationals took a sure thing when they drafted Harper first overall in 2010, and despite the occasional hiccup, he has already shown plenty of signs of becoming the superstar that Washington counted on when they signed him. On display tonight at Citi Field will be Harper’s beautifully violent left-handed swing that is a perfect symbol for the grace and recklessness with which he plays the game.
Much like Harper, Stephon Gilmore was taken in the first round by a team who counted on him to be a game changer for a long time. The second-year Bills cornerback experienced a few bumps in the road during his rookie season, but those are to be expected for young defensive backs. More importantly, Gilmore flashed the athleticism and toughness that have him poised to become a shutdown cornerback in this league for a long time. Like that of Harper’s, a staple of Gilmore’s game is his physicality and reckless abandon with which he plays the game.
New York Mets 3B David Wright/DT Kyle Williams
For the better part of a decade, Wright has been one of the better hitters in the National League. However, despite loads of attention early on in his career, playing on a bad, overlooked team has caused him to be overlooked in recent years. Wright won’t be a favorite tonight, but he definitely has the potential to fly under the radar and surprise some people.
Kyle Williams has consistently been one of the best defensive tackles in football over the past five years. The former fifth-round pick out of LSU is the cornerstone of the Buffalo defense, but much like Wright, he is tragically overlooked as players like Mario Williams and Jairus Byrd seem to garner most of the attention paid to Buffalo’s defense. None of that seems to bother Williams, though. He’ll continue to plug away on the field the same way we have become accustomed to seeing.
Pittsburgh Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez/C Eric Wood
If the thought “Who in the wide world of sports is Pedro Alvarez?” just crossed your mind, that’s ok. You’re probably not alone. While Alvarez is on pace for 40+ homers this season, his name is still relatively unknown around the league. But this season’s success didn’t just come out of nowhere. The power has been brewing for a while, and showed itself in his 30-homer season a year ago. One of the leaders of the Pittsburgh clubhouse, the lack of attention doesn’t seem to bother Alvarez. He’ll enter tonight’s contest with little fan fair, but he may just win the thing,
That brings me to the “Pedro Alvarez” of the Bills’ locker room. Center Eric Wood is one of the most important pieces for the Bills entering the 2013 season. Despite being relatively unknown around the league, Wood is one of the top centers in football. With the departure of guard Andy Levitre, he now becomes the anchor of a Bills offense that, despite plenty of ability, will be in a slight state of flux. If he can avoid the injury bug, the Bills will have a much-needed veteran performer leading the charge in the trenches.
Colorado Rockies OF Michael Cuddyer/TE Scott Chandler
Cuddyer has been in the league for over a decade, and while he’s never been a guy with eye-popping stats, he’s been a model of consistency throughout his career. Cuddyer enters the derby with a modest 15 homers on the year, and while he won’t win the thing, I imagine he’ll hang around for a couple of rounds.
Scott Chandler’s name won’t ever appear on a list of the top tight ends in football, but for the last couple of seasons, he has been a model of quiet consistency for the Bills. In 2011, Chandler hauled in 38 passes and finished the season with six touchdowns. Last season, it was much of the same as the former Iowa Hawkeye caught 43 passes, including another six for scores. While he will never wow anyone with his measurables, Scott Chandler has quietly become a very consistent performer for Buffalo, and you can count on much of the same in 2013.
Colorado Rockies OF Carlos Gonzalez/Safety Jairus Byrd
Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez was selected to the National League squad, but will not be participating.
Much like Cargo, Byrd is…well, you know….
Bonus: I’ve got Davis edging out Alvarez in the final round.