On Tuesday night, A's leftfielder Yoenis Cespedes uncorked a throw for the ages, one that will stand up against those of Dave Parker, Bo Jackson, Roberto Clemente or any other to which you wish to compare it. Someday, you'll tell your bored grandchildren to put down their hoverbikes and watch this video.
The situation: A's versus Angels in Anaheim, bottom of the eighth inning, score tied 1-1, one out with Howard Kendrick at first base and Mike Trout at the plate. Trout — crushing the ball at a .342/.433/.645 clip since I wrote about his slump on May 14, by the way — drilled a Luke Gregerson pitch into the leftfield corner, and while Cespedes got to the ball on one hop, it caromed off his glove and rolled to the wall in foul territory.
Recovering the ball well after Kendrick had rounded third base, Cespedes heaved a perfect peg that reached catcher Derek Norris on the fly — around 325 feet in the air — a split second before the runner slid into home. Norris lowered his glove for the tag and there was no question Kendrick was out. No question, at least, save for whether Norris had actually run afoul of the new plate-blocking rule by placing his left leg in Kendrick's path. Angels manager Mike Scioscia challenged the play, but it was upheld, and after the game, he could only marvel. Via the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, who herself described the toss as "an astounding throw, staggering. A thesaurus’ worth of such words, and maybe a few expletives":
Even the opposing manager was in awe. “When ball rolled into the corner, I thought Howie would score standing up,” Mike Scioscia said. “Cespedes picked the ball up and threw a guided missile that was right on the money. Seems like he does something in the outfield every night.
“Just an incredible throw from that distance, that angle, everything. That was a special play. You just tip your cap on that one.”
Scioscia may have been more inclined toward cap-tipping because the Angels ultimately prevailed in 14 innings on a walkoff homer by Colin Cowgill. Reading Slusser's piece, it's clear that the A's were still abuzz in defeat, as was anyone else who witnessed the play.
We've highlighted some great throws in this space. Last summer, in the early days of Cespedes' fellow Cuban defector Yasiel Puig's ascendance, Cliff Corcoran compared a Puig laser from rightfield to third base to similar throws from Jackson in 1993, Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 and Jeff Francoeur in 2011. Those weren't throws home, however. For my money, the greatest comes from Parker in the 1979 All-Star Game, when he launched a surgical strike that cut down Brian Downing trying to score from second base:
That throw, which came in the eighth inning of a tied game, was actually Parker's second amazing throw of the night; one inning earlier, he had nailed Jim Rice at third base while trying to stretch a double into a triple. Those two plays helped Parker, the defending NL MVP at that point, earn MVP honors for the game, which the NL won 7-6.
Limiting the competition to throws from leftfield to home plate, this 1989 one from Jackson to nab Harold Reynolds is the stuff of legend:
Cespedes' throw can stand with any of those above. Bookmark this — you'll be back to watch it again.