And like the Giants, the A’s have some concerns on which to keep an eye as the Cactus League season progresses.
The threat of Eric Sogard morphing into an egomaniacal clubhouse-chemistry killer in the wake of his improbable “Face of MLB” run is not among them. Sogard has the ego of a wood staple. Nor, it might surprise some of you to read, should there be much concern regarding Yoenis Cespedes.
Sure, his dramatic statistical decline — in most every category save strikeout ratio, which rose in a bad way — was a head-scratcher. You look at the sheer talent in that ridiculous superhero body of his and think, “No way he slumps for long.”
Ah, but virtually everyone slumps in the big leagues — particularly in the wake of great success early in a career, after scouting had identified and learned to exploit even the smallest weaknesses, and especially when the player in question is as strong-headed as he’s strong-everything-else.
Cespedes is nothing if not strong-headed. He had to be that way to escape the clutches of communist Cuba, and his PlayStation exploits on the field and, yes, in the Home Run Derby only reinforced his feeling that his way was the right and only way.
But Cespedes, A’s fans should be heartened to hear, was so suitably humbled by being what amounted to an automatic out for a good part of last season that he’s actually come around to the notion that changes needed to be made.
Maybe it’s helped that his doppelganger from the island, Yasiel Puig, has established himself as a prime example of where stubborn jackassery gets you in the public eye.
Cespedes is a good-hearted kid who really does care how others perceive him, so the last thing he wants is to be seen as a knucklehead of Puig’s order. So he’s trying to shorten his swing, and he’s taking constructive criticism.
In short, he’s making an effort. And as long as there’s genuine effort to complement that insane talent (and, of course, decent health), Cespedes will be the least of the A’s worries in 2014.