Here we are, the Monday before the All-Star game. That means one thing and one thing only… Tonight is the Home Run Derby.
Some people have begun to bitch and moan about how the Home Run Derby has run its course. They complain that after years of seeing some of the game’s most fierce sluggers take glorified batting practice, the event has somehow lost it’s luster and allure. These same people also say that since the dirty underbelly of Major League Baseball and steroids has been uncovered, that people are no longer as excited. They argue that no longer are we seeing Herculean freaks of nature bashing balls a quarter of a mile, or in some instances out of stadiums. What they’re trying to get at is that Home Run Derby has become watered down.
I say, “who cares?” This isn’t like the NBA All-Star weekend where the slam dunk contest has gone from the likes of Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkens, and Kobe Bryant to non-all-stars and bench players. This event still draws some of the games best sluggers. Who wouldn’t want to watch them rear back and swing as hard as they can for as long as they can in the hope that they send enough baseballs flying into the night sky? Seriously, what’s not to love about that?
This year’s contest will be no different than some of the great home run battles we’ve seen in the past. The two headliners for tonight’s derby are arguably two of the best home run hitters in the game. Jose Bautista leads the universe in home runs over the past two seasons and Prince Fielder hits some of the most titanic blast since his father Cecil, back when he was playing for the Tigers. Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Robinson Cano, Matt Holliday and David Ortiz? They aren’t exactly slouches themselves when it comes to home runs. Arguably the one weak link in this year’s Home Run Derby is Rickie Weeks. He’s known more for his speed than anything else, but even still he has managed to hit 17 home runs (only 5 shy of teammate Fielder)
This probably won’t go down as the most epic Home Run Derby I’ve ever seen. The top spots are reserved for the Home Run Derby’s of my childhood, the one’s that were headlined by the like’s of Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, and Mark McGwire. It’s understandable, those were my formidable years when what I was watching seemed damn near impossible. I still remember when Griffey hit the warehouse in Baltimore back in 1993. To this day, even having been through the steroids era, his still remains the only player to accomplish that feat. (Can anyone tell I had an epic man crush on Griffey back then? Hell… I still do. Can someone please find either the fountain of youth or build me a time machine. We need 20 something year old Griffey back… the world was a better place.)
Despite all of that, I still look forward to watching tonight. Yes, it won’t be with the same wide-eyed captivation of years passed. In fact, I’ll probably half watch it, only managing to look up from my laptop when I hear that crack of the bat when you just know that someone’s getting a souvenir. I could care less about gold home run balls, and hit it here signs. I just want a good show. I want the kind of epic theater that this event is able to generate even if in the grand scheme of things it’s 100% meaningless. That’s why I watch it. That’s why any of us watch it.
So what do I expect from tonight’s Home Run Derby? Honestly, I’m not really sure. This year is a new setup in which Fielder and Ortiz were captains and picked their team from any player, all-star or not, that they wanted. Is it two teams against each other or is it still an individual competition? Has anyone answered this? Regardless I expect Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista to put on a show. Something tells me the competition where you’re supposed to swing as hard as you can to hit the ball as far as you can will be dominated by the player that does that with every swing he takes. The man is a beast and he comes in red-hot in terms of hitting home runs.
Prince Fielder also has a shot to win this thing and maybe even Matt Kemp can pull an upset, but let’s get one thing straight… Jose Bautista has been the undisputed home run king for a year and a half now, hitting them out at a pace not seen since the steroid era. Sure it may be fishy, and sure people can have their doubts, but he’s the king. It’s time he come and take his crown under the brightest lights and biggest stage he’ll probably see all year.
All hail the king.