Christian Yelich doesn’t listen to sports talk radio, but he’s become well aware over the past few weeks that he has a shot to do something most athletes cherish if he can reach the 20-home run mark over the final three weeks of the season.
And that’s make a local sports personality literally eat crow for doubting him.
Brendan Tobin, a morning show host on 790 The Ticket, proclaimed on Aug. 4 that Yelich, who had not hit more than nine home runs in a season over his first three years in the majors, had “no shot” to finish the season with 20 home runs, and he would “literally eat crow” if the Marlins’ 24-year-old outfielder accomplished the feat.
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Seven Yelich homers later, Tobin, who hosts weekday mornings alongside former NFL running back Leroy Hoard, is growing nervous and listeners are taking delight in his suffering.
“I found out about it,” Yelich said of the bet. “People come up to me all the time about this — like on the streets and they hope I do it. Meanwhile, my approach has never been to hit homers. I guess I’ve got two more to go. We’ll see.”
Yelich said when Marlins fans and listeners began pelting Tobin on social media with pictures of crow and recipes for crow each time he homered, he had no idea at first why they were doing it. But earlier this week, Tobin said, Yelich was approached by former Miami Hurricanes and NFL linebacker D.J. Williams, who makes appearances on 790 The Ticket and explained to Yelich what the bet was all about. Now, a local pub owner wants to host the crow-eating event if Yelich reaches 20 homers.
Tobin, by the way, has nothing to gain if he wins the bet.
“It’s gotten out of hand,” Tobin said. “He’s a good player. The genesis of it was that I used to say on occasion that Yelich hits like a baby deer. He’s a singles hitter. The players I watched when I was a kid were the steroid era hitters, left fielders especially. People are loving him stick it in my face. It’s crazy.
“Nobody has their hot takes have accountability like this. But, I’m a man of my word. I’m not running from it. I’m going to sit down, tuck a napkin under my shirt and eat every single piece. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Yelich said if asked he too would have bet against himself to hit 20 homers.
“I feel like that’s a pretty safe bet going into this year, considering the ballpark we play in is not really good for home runs,” he said. “It’s probably the biggest one in baseball, which is probably the main reason.
“I’ve fouled a few over the fence this year, a few hit the black gate in New York. But, yeah, I think it would be kind of funny to have a media guy have to eat crow, kind of flip the tables on him a little bit.”
Aside from making Tobin eat crow, Yelich (.302, 18 homers, 86 RBI entering Friday) would join exclusive company if he’s able to finish the season with at least 20 homers and a batting average better than .300.
The Marlins have had seven players hit .300 or better with at least 20 homers and 85 RBI in a season: Jeff Conine (1995), Gary Sheffield (1996), Cliff Floyd (2000-2001), Kevin Millar (2001), Carlos Delgado (2005), Miguel Cabrera (2005-07) and Hanley Ramirez (2009). Yelich would become the second-youngest Marlin to join the club, with Cabrera having done it at age 22 and 23.
▪ Manager Don Mattingly said the club has enjoyed getting an extended look at Yelich in center over the past week, and it could continue even with Marcell Ozuna’s return. A Gold Glove left fielder, Mattingly said the Marlins like Yelich’s closing speed in center.
“It’s been a discussion really since last winter of which direction to go with that,” he said. “And it’s hard for any of us to say because we haven’t really seen a whole lot of it. We tried a little bit in spring training to see what it looked like. We had to do it by default this year, and we really like it.
“So I think that’s one of the things we’ve enjoyed watching — the jumps he’s getting. Just like that play he makes at the end of the game Wednesday. That’s closing speed. This field is so big out there in that right-center, left-center gaps. We really want to find the right guy for that position.”
Mattingly said Ozuna “does a nice job out there, too” and getting an extended look at Yelich in center doesn’t mean Ozuna will not be the Marlins’ center fielder moving forward.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (9-10, 3.87 ERA) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Rich Hill (11-3, 1.94), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Jose Urena (3-6, 5.54) vs. Dodgers RHP Kenta Maeda (14-8, 3.29), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.