For my money, the MLB All Star Game is the best All Star Exhibition the four major sports has to offer. I don’t care about your feelings on the game “meaning something.” It has no bearing on how great the entire weekend is for the game and the fans alike. Think about it: the celebrity softball game is absolutely horrible but is still ten times better than the NBA celebrity game. (Justin Bieber won MVP, need I say more?) NHL All Star weekend is second behind the MLB because of the captains’ selections as well as the skills competition but the game itself has little physicality and an absurd score regardless of the netminders. The NFL? Hell, they’re contemplating abolishing the Pro Bowl all together. But, none of the four All Star compeitions has anything quite like the Home Run Derby. Hell, the Kentucky Derby isn’t half as compelling at the Home Run Derby and that has twice the amount of steroids and infinitely more booze being consumed.
The competition which used to take place on a weekly basis now comes down to one night a season with eight of the best sluggers the game has to offer. Sure, there was that one year when the World Baseball Classic was making its debut so Hesop Choi and Jason Bay were involved, making it almost unbearable to watch. But other than that one blemish, the Home Run Derby is the epitome of competition amidst a laid back atmosphere. Players lining the field watching their guys whallop monsterous blasts. Little leaguers whiffing on routine fly balls like assholes. State Farm giving away houses for some reason. It’s a great event. So great that I’m sure some of you degenerates out there (*ahem* K.M. *ahem*) are even considering putting a couple dollars on the event. Want the inside track on who is the smart bet and who to stay away from? Read along and thank me later.
Don’t Get Caught Up In Nostalgia
Carlos Beltran is returning to the town where he made his name. He enters this competition hitting many more home runs than any of his competitors in Kansas City, but this means little if anything at all. If someone had hit more home runs at Kauffman Stadium than Beltran, he should have been barred from the competition all together. But, many will believe the “Beltran coming home” aspect will be enough to give him the win. Don’t buy the hype. If anything, this scenario will put more pressure on Beltran to perform. As Adam Wainwright will tell you, Carlos Beltran ain’t a big fan of pressure. Now, it would not surprise me to see Beltran make it past the first round in the least. But after that, I don’t see him making it to the final pairing. Especially as the eldest member in the Derby.
What About Youngin’s?
I actually love the first timers, but they are always a risky bet. When David Ortiz is in this competition, you know he is good money to mess around and make the final pairing. When Josh Hamilton is in the Derby, you know someone in the nosebleeds is catching a souvenier they didn’t expect. But Mark Trumbo, Carlos Gonzalez, and Giancarlo Stanton are unknowns in this years Home Run Derby. In my eyes, I think CarGo is the dark horse of the field. I could see him hitting two homers and siting right back down for the rest of the night. Or, I could see him belting 15 per round. He is impossible to judge. A certain other website we’ll just call “Reacher Bleport” gave CarGo a 5% chance of winning the Derby. That’s just down right disrespectful. If I were putting down money on person, I would not feel comfortable with Gonzalez as my pick but I’m not going to give the man a snowballs chance in hell.
Now, Stanton and Trumbo? I would be exactly 0% surprised if they were the final pairing. Stanton is my favorite to win the event and he should be yours too. The man was crafted by the baseball gods to belt home runs. Two and a half seasons in to his young career and that’s all he has done. Stanton was tailor made for this competition and I would be shocked if this were the last time he ever competed in the Home Run Derby. Meanwhile, Trumbo is no slouch himself. After filling in for Kendrys Morales last season, Trumbo made a name for himself by leading the Angels in homers and RBI as a rookie. This season, despite the arrival of Albert Pujols, Trumbo is leading the Angels in homers and RBI yet again. The kid can flat out slug, and slug he shall during the Derby. Like I said, I wouldn’t be surprised if both made the final pairing, but given the chance to pick either out of this group I’d take Stanton.
The Prince Vs. Joey Bats
Two seasoned vets of the Derby: Prince Fielder and Jose Bautista. Fielder has already won the event back in 2009 as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Bautista made his Derby debut last season but only managed four home runs and did not qualify for the final four. So who is the safer play here? I’m going with Fielder in this case. After winning in ’09, Fielder only managed nine long balls in last season’s showcase. Going back to the early ’90s, former winners who experience a lull such as Fielder’s have come back strong in their next appearance (Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, etc.). As a matter of fact, if Ortiz were in this year’s Derby I would pick him outright to win the whole thing because of this alone. But he is not, so I am giving Fielder the edge. Although, Bautista is not a bad pick here. After his measily four from last season, I expect Joey Bats to come in with a chip on his shoulder and look to prove he belongs in the contest. While the Derby means nothing on a macro level, these guys still have pride. Hell, sign Jason Bay up for another one of these things, I bet he’d qualify for the second round if he has any semblance of Canadian pride. All that said, Bautista will be a popular pick to win the whole thing, but I expect Fielder to have a better showing this year.
I do like the captain selection for the Home Run Derby. Maybe one of these years the All Star Game wont have home field advantage on the line for the World Series and both rosters will be filled out by captains a la the NHL All Star Game, but I digress. The 2011 Derby winner and current captain Robinson Cano should be the odds on favorite to win the event. Cano is one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Average, homers, the man does it all. Cano is looking to become the first back-to-back Derby champ since Griffey in ’98-’99 and he just might do it. If Matt Kemp were 100% healthy, I’d probably give him a more realistic shot in this event. But, I can’t imagine he’ll be going full tilt boogy when he isn’t projected to return to the Dodgers until after All Star Weekend. I mean, could you imagine if he aggrevated his injury on national television during the Home Run Derby and ruined the Dodgers’ postseason chances because of it? That would be a crippling blow to future Home Run Derbys. Players already believe that the showcase messes with their swing and timing (ie: Adrian Gonzalez). If one of the game’s premier players were to get seriously hurt while participating in this thing? Forget about it. The Derby may have to resort to the Dunk Contest layout with only rookies and second year players. I don’t see Kemp giving the contest his all and for that I’m staying as far away from Kemp as possible. (Watch, now he’ll win the damn thing and come back better than ever in the second half. That would be my luck.)
Alright Coley, Enough. Who’s Winning This Damn Thing?
My final four is going to consist of Fielder, Cano, Beltran, and Stanton with Fielder leading the pack early. Bautista and Trumbo just miss the cut while CarGo finishes ahead of Kemp. Coming out of the final four will be Fielder and Stanton where the scores are reset and all bets are off. Finally, my 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby Champion will be…
GIANCARLO STANTON! Seriously, is there any website who gives Stanton more love than TSHQ? If there is, his father must run it. Because this guy gets more love than Derrick Rose gets hate. For those of you who are consistent readers, you realize how much love that actually is in comparison to the Rose hatefest spearheaded by Bryan Doherty. Anyways, Stanton in his first appearance shows the nation what he can do by taking down Fielder and giving the Miami Marlins their first ever Home Run Derby champ. Which reminds me…
Interesting Home Run Derby Numbers By Team
3 – The New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels, and Chicago Cubs are all tied with three team representatives winning the Derby throughout the years. The Cubs and Mariners are going to have to wait for another year in order to claim win #4, but Trumbo and Cano could give their respective team sole possession of first place all time.
0-for-13 – The St. Louis Cardinals, as storied as a franchise could possibly be, have sent the most representatives (13) to the Home Run Derby in the history of the event yet they have yielded zero winners over that time. This is all despite the fact that Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire combined for five appearances during their Cardinals’ days.
75% – The Angels have sent only four representatives to the Home Run Derby yet have walked away with the champion four times. Wally Joiner, Garret Anderson, and Valdamir Guerrero all claimed victories for the Angels to give the franchise the highest winning percentage as a team in this competition. Is it too late to change my pick to Mark Trumbo? Oh well…
14 – 14 teams have never claimed a Derby champion throughout the years. They are: Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Miami, San Diego, Washington, Los Angeles (NL), Cleveland, Colorado, Detroit, Atlanta, Toronto, Houston, St. Louis, and Kansas City. Six of those teams have a shot in this years Derby (Miami:Stanton; LA:Kemp; Colorado:CarGo; Detroit:Fielder; Toronto:Bautista; and StL:Beltran).
132 – Despite only claiming one winner, the Boston Red Sox have slugged more home runs than any other club with 132 dingers. In fact, they are the only club to reach 100 home runs since the events inception (the Yankees have 99). Magic number to watch out for: Robinson Cano – 34 homers.
And finally, 3 again – As a franchise, the Kansas City Royals have only mustered three total home runs in the history of this event. What makes it even worse, is that the Royals have sent two particiapants. Yup… yuck. But, one thing is for sure: Kauffman Stadium will hear well more than three Chris Berman “Back, back, back, back, back”s on this night. You already know I have my money on Giancarlo Stanton. Who do you think is going to take the crown this year? Debate me on Twitter @ColeyMick