In the third inning, with John Jaso on second and Cespedes on first, Josh Donaldson lofted an Ervin Santana offering into shallow right field. The ball ended up dropping at the feet of three confused Royals, but Cespedes only made it to third base. The 27-year-old would make it no farther, as Seth Smith flied out to left to end the rally.
I suspect interpreter Ariel Prieto will craft some elaborate explanation for why Cespedes didn’t score. Perhaps it will have something to do with how baserunning is different in Cuba, and maybe it is. But the fact is that Cespedes dogged that play — and this is by no means the first time that he has done so — and it ended up burning the Athletics.
Manager Bob Melvin will remain diplomatic, but I’d love to hear his true feelings on the second-year slugger’s atrocious base running. To be fair to Cespedes, it kind of looks like he’s dogging every play, even when he does something incredible. On Thursday afternoon, Cespedes sort of just moseyed over to the ball before uncorking an electric throw to hose Starlin Castro at the plate and preserve the lead.
The thing is, Yoenis Cespedes moves at the pace of Yoenis Cespedes, and that’s it. I think the only guy on the club who might move more deliberately than Cespedes is Grant Balfour in the ninth inning. Though Cespedes has one of the shortest jogs back to the dugout at the O.co Coliseum, he’s frequently the last defender off the field for the Athletics.
Mental errors and lack of effort aside, Cespedes has had a rough time on the base paths in 2013. The awkward slide above sent him to the DL for a couple of weeks, and he’s 2-for-7 on stolen base attempts, good for a 29% success rate. For a guy with the freakish athleticism of Cespedes, that’s inexcusable.
So maybe another ridiculously talented Athletics left fielder can get through to the native of Campechuela, Cuba. Rickey Henderson is currently an unofficial roving baserunning instructor in the organization. Just this week, he was up in Sacramento helping Jemile Weeks learn the outfield. Perhaps Henderson can make a stop next weekend when the team returns to Oakland.
The talent is clearly there with the man known as “La Potencia.” It’s just a matter of whether or not Cespedes feels like exerting it. Maybe Henderson can help.