Home Run Derby Reboot
During the early part of this decade, the annual Home Run Derby on ESPN often eclipsed the actual All-Star games itself, what with guys like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, and Ken Griffey Jr. jacking bombs out of the park. Of course, then the steroid controversy descended on the game and “mysteriously” the Home Run Derby totals (despite the Bobby Abreu abberration in 2005) took a nose dive, with players advancing by hitting just 4-5 homers a round. This year, the contest that had stagnated in recent years was given a major reboot:
The excitement began when this guy (Josh Hamilton) stepped to the plate and began launching bomb after bomb to both right and center field at Yankee Stadium. Hamilton, a consensus pick to win the contest, is recovering from severe alcoholism and drug addiction, and has quickly become the feel-good story of the major league season. It’s pretty hard not to cheer for this guy. I remember Jason Giambi getting hot like this and finish with 14 in the first round in 2001, but Hamilton breezed passed him like he was standing still. Next came Abreu’s 24-homer first round in 2005, and Hamilton lapped him quickly as well, ultimately finishing with a remarkable 28 homers in the opening round.
After that point, the rest of the Derby probably seemed pretty dull in comparison to most fans. However, Twins fans had another reason to keep cheering:
While Hamilton stole the show, Minnesota Twin Justin Morneau was the epitomy of consistency, hitting 17 homers throughout the first two rounds and out-dueling a likely tired Hamilton 5-3 in the finals to take home the silver trophy. For Twins fans, this is a remarkable event. In the history of this home run-hitting contest, the Twins have had very few entries in the event, and for good reason:
1985: Tom Brunansky (4 HR)
1989: Gary Gaetti (0 HR)
2002: Torii Hunter (3 HR)
2007: Justin Morneau (4 HR)
Thus, I fully expected Morneau to bow out early in the competition and was incredibly excited to see him take home the prize. I am glad that Morneau will get some national recognition, as he really should be starting in tomorrow’s All-Star contest.
Overall, the Home Run Derby came back in a big way tonight!!
Preview: AL All-Stars vs. NL All-Stars. Overall, the NL leads the annual midsummer classic 40-36-2. However, the AL is currently on a ten-game winning streak and is looking to creep closer to the “Senior Circuit” in the standings. Here are the lineups and starting pitchers for the contest:
1. Ichiro Suzuki RF; 2. Derek Jeter SS; 3. Josh Hamilton RF; 4. Alex Rodriguez 3B; 5. Manny Ramirez LF; 6. Milton Bradley DH; 7. Kevin Youkilis 1B; 8. Joe Mauer C; 9. Dustin Pedroia 2B; SP- Cliff Lee
1. Hanley Ramirez SS; 2. Chase Utley 2B; 3. Lance Berkman 1B; 4. Albert Pujols; 5. Chipper Jones 3B; 6. Matt Holliday RF; 7. Ryan Braun LF; 8. Kosuke Fukudome CF; 9. Geovany Soto C; SP- Ben Sheets