There are great baseball players.
And there are greatly watchable baseball players.
This week, Yoenis Cespedes gave us the best example of the difference.
Cespedes, the A's outfielder from Cuba, has been largely a local attraction since joining the team last season. But he jumped onto the national stage Monday night during the Home Run Derby at the All-Star game.
You might have seen it. Cespedes won the Derby by slamming approximately 187 home runs, some of which caused tape measures to spontaneously combust and disintegrate.
(I'm exaggerating slightly for effect.)
Cespedes isn't the best player on our two Bay Area ballclubs. That man would be Buster Posey of the Giants. However, Cespedes is easily the best baseball show in our multiple area codes. He is the most compellingly watchable player, in the field with his powerful motor skills and at the plate with his hammer-tong swing.
Who says? I do. Around here, it's taken far too much for granted that we are among just four two-team markets in baseball (five, if you count Baltimore-Washington). This gives us a riveting buffet of players to scrutinize and enjoy. Never more so than this summer. So I decided to make a list of my Top 10 local MLB players who will be the most captivating to watch as we begin the remainder of the season.
Here's a mild shock: Tim Lincecum isn't even in the top five. Who is? Let's go to the scoreboard:
1. YOENIS CESPEDES, A's. His performance in the Home Run Derby had to sell many tickets in Oakland. The A's informally acknowledged this Wednesday by announcing that gates to the Coliseum will open one hour earlier (at 4:30 p.m.) for all remaining Friday home games, giving fans the chance to watch Cespedes in batting practice. It's silly that all teams don't do this as standard practice for every game. So congrats to Cespedes for forcing the issue. He's simply that riveting. And just like Reggie Jackson in another era, he's even fun to watch when he strikes out.
2. BUSTER POSEY, Giants. He's not merely the most consistently productive batter in these parts, he is the entire center of gravity at AT&T Park. You can get a sense for how the Giants are doing in any given game by watching his body language. If his own pitchers are shaking off Posey's signs too much, it probably isn't going to be a good night for the team. My favorite thing to watch, though, is when he's at the plate and dissecting opposing hurlers. They never beat him with the same pitch twice.
3. MATT CAIN, Giants. His current numbers (a 5-6 record, 5.06 ERA) do not make sense to me. Is he hurt? He says not. And he shows no outward signs of lost confidence. But let's watch carefully to see how his solid swagger holds up over the next few months. The Giants can't possibly make a charge to the playoffs without him -- and with his new contract, he needs to be the staff's rock for not just the rest of this season but for years to come.
4. JOSH DONALDSON, A's. The third baseman leads his team in every offensive statistical category. Somewhat uniquely, he feasts on breaking balls -- you can almost see his eyes widen when an opposing pitcher tries to unload a curveball on him. And with his amiably cocky manner, he has the most potential to be a breakout star personality on the A's relatively anonymous roster. (At least until Cespedes masters English.)
5. COCO CRISP, A's. Fun activity for you to remember, the next time center fielder Crisp sprints into the gap and takes away a double with a diving catch: Quickly turn your gaze to the visiting dugout to see the reaction. I'm convinced that some of those catches have been so deflating for A's opponents psychologically, it can affect not just one game but an entire series.
6. TIM LINCECUM, Giants. Self-explanatory, given his status with fans. But odds are, after last Saturday, the rest of the season will be a comedown.
7. TOMMY MILONE, A's. Despite their success, the Athletics still need a starter other than Bartolo Colon to step up big in the second half. Just by the way Milone carries himself, I'm guessing it'll be him.
8. RYAN VOGELSONG, Giants. His comeback from a broken finger begins next month. His future -- and the future of the team's pitching rotation -- is at stake.
9. PABLO SANDOVAL, Giants. His pre-at-bat routine is singular. But his at-bats themselves are now way too predictable. (And his .266 average, with only 20 walks in more than 300 plate appearances, shows it). Yet I'll still be watching the big lug every swing.
10. GRANT BALFOUR, A's. No, the act isn't phony. Balfour is the only major league pitcher with an external internal dialogue, and it's fabulously entertaining.
(As a special local minor league bonus, you can also toss in pitcher Ty Blach of the San Jose Giants, who had a remarkable first half as a starter -- 10-3 with a 2.63 ERA -- and could be bound for big things.)
That's my list. Yours might be different. But I think we can all agree on one thing: We do not live in dull Bay Area baseball times. For this, we should be grateful -- and should not leave our seats too frequently. Even during home batting practice. Especially during batting practice, now that fans can actually watch it.
Contact Mark Purdy at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter. com/MercPurdy.