Growing up, the Home Run Derby was always my favorite part of baseball’s All Star weekend. I used to love it. Â I remember my dad telling me about the Home Run Derby TV show that he used to watch with the old stars like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Mickey Mantle; and there was just something inherently exciting about seeing baseball’s biggest and best stars step up to the plate with one thing on their mind: swinging for the fences.
And, of course, this was back in the late 80s and early 90s when my love for the long ball was still untainted by steroids. Â It was the same innocent awe with which I watched Big Mac and Sammy’s 1994 1998 (thanks Scott)Â pursuit of Roger Maris.
Times have changed now, and the home run isn’t quite what it used to be. Â And neither is the Home Run Derby. Â Maybe it’s because of steroids, maybe it’s just because I’m older, or maybe it’s because my childhood heroes like The Big Hurt and The Kid are no longer sweet-swinging for the fences the night before the All Star Game anymore. Â For whatever reason, the Home Run Derby is no longer must-watch TV for me now. Â I’m still interested in it, but I don’t plan my night around watching it.
With all that being said, I had the opportunity to re-watch last year’s Home Run Derby this past weekend. Â They replayed it on either ESPN or the MLB Network, I don’t remember which one, but I sat through the first hour of it just so I could watch Josh Hamilton put on the most amazing 10-out sequence in the history of the Derby. Â I didn’t get to watch the entire thing last year, but after seeing highlights and hearing people gush about it non-stop (especially here in Dallas), I had to watch.
And my goodness, it was everything it was cracked up to be and more. Â I could not find the actual TV broadcast on YouTube, but there is plenty of amateur video available from people who were in the stands that night. Â One of them is below:
I have never seen a baseball player in that kind of zone before. Â And as the fans realized how hot Hamilton was, they seemed to cheer louder and louder with each successive blast. Â As the announcers said repeatedly, Hamilton may have only broken Bobby Abreu’s single-round record by four, but the difference in the sheer power on display was night and day. Â
Josh Hamilton wasn’t just hitting home runs, he was murdering baseballs and attacking bleachers. Â He appeared to be doing it so effortlessly too. Â And even though this comparison has been made millions ofÂ times over the past 16 or so months, I could not help thinking about how much Hamilton’s incredible story reminded me of one of my all-time favorite movies: The Natural.
Amazingly, Hamilton was not actually crowned the champion last year. Â Justin Morneau of the Twins won it all (as you can see from the chart below). Â But Morneau winning was simply a technicality based on the rules. Â The lasting memory of the 2008 Home Run Derby was Josh Hamilton’s record first round, for everything it was and everything it represented. Â We love baseball because it can provide such magical and majestic moments; last year, Josh Hamilton certainly provided that.
But that was 2008. Â
Tonight, eight players will do their best to provide an encore to Hamilton’s marvelous performance from last year. Â Here are the 2009 Home Run Derby participants:
2009 Home Run Derby Participants
American League Home Run Derby Participants
- Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
- Brandon Inge, Detroit Tigers
- Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers
- Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays
National League Home Run Derby Participants
- The Greatest Player Alive Today and Maybe Ever, St. Louis Cardinals
- Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres
- Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
- Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
At first glance, one thing is pretty clear: this has to be the biggest disparity ever between the stature of the players competing for the AL and NL, respectively. Â I have never been so underwhelmed at a Home Run Derby roster as I am looking at the AL. Â In fact, there is not one guy in the AL that I’m looking forward to seeing. Â All I hope is that Joe Mauer does incredibly well and then suffers a post-HR Derby dropoff like so many others have. Â The same goes for Brandon Inge. Â The best thing that could happen this weekend for the White Sox (who were screwed out of a couple additional All Star spots, damnit) would be Mauer and Inge screwing up their swings. Â Come on guys…you can do it!
The NL, however, has the kind of stars that fans want to see in the Home Run Derby. Â Albert Pujols willÂ be competing in front of his home crowd, which is just great. Â Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder are the kinds of behemoth mashers that harken us all back to the days and memories of guys like Babe Ruth. Â
If the NL guys don’t hit double the amount of HRs that the AL guys hit, I’ll be surprised.
In fact, here are the 2009 Home Run Derby odds and betting lines, at least from one guy. Â Most of the odds I’ve surveyed have been very similar:
- Home Run Derby Favorite – Albert Pujols: +200
- Ryan Howard: +250
- Prince Fielder: +350
- Adrian Gonzalez: +500
- Carlos Pena: +600
- Nelson Cruz: +800
- Joe Mauer: +850
- Brandon Inge: +1000
As you can see, not a whole lot of balance. Â But no one cares who wins the Home Run Derby between the AL and NL; we all just want to see someone put on a magnificent show or see a couple of guys provide some drama by matching eachother HR for HR until the end. Â And if it’s the great Pujols in front of his home fans, even better. Â
Here are the particulars for tonight’s festivities:
2009 Home Run Derby Quick Preview
- 2009 Home Run Derby Date: Monday, July 13, 2009
- 2009 Home Run Derby Start Time: 7:00 ET
- 2009 Home Run Derby TV: ESPN
- Home Run Derby History: Home Run Derby
The final link above is the the Wikipedia page for the Home Run Derby, which provides the history of the event as well as a breakdown of every past derby. Â Below, I have re-created the table of past Home Run Derby champions. Â Tonight beginning at 7:00 ET, we’ll get to see which NL star will add his name to the list…because let’s be honest, if one of the guys from the AL wins it will be a monumental upset. Â (Go Mauer and Inge!!! Help swing the balance of the AL Central with your Home Run Derby title and subsequent second half swoon!)
Home Run Derby Past Champions: All-Time List of Winners
|Year||Home Run Derby Champion||Team||Total Home Runs||Ballpark|
|2009||Someone from the NL||Busch Stadium (STL)|
|2008||Justin Morneau||Minnesota Twins||22||Yankee Stadium (NY)|
|2007||Vladimir Guerrero||LA Angels||17||AT&T Park (SF)|
|2006||Ryan Howard||Philadelphia Phillies||23||PNC Park (PIT)|
|2005||Bobby Abreu||Philadelphia Phillies||41||Comerica Park (DET)|
|2004||Miguel Tejada||Baltimore Orioles||27||Minute Maid Park (HOU)|
|2003||Garret Anderson||LA Angels||22||U.S. Cellular Field (CHI)|
|2002||Jason Giambi||New York Yankees||24||Miller Park (MIL)|
|2001||Luis Gonzalez||Arizona Diamondbacks||16||Safeco Field|
|2000||Sammy Sosa||Chicago Cubs||26||Turner Field (ATL)|
|1999||Ken Griffey, Jr.||Seattle Mariners||16||Fenway Park|
|1998||Ken Griffey, Jr.||Seattle Mariners||19||Coors Field (COL)|
|1997||Tino Martinez||New York Yankees||16||Jacobs Field (CLE)|
|1996||Barry Bonds||San Francisco Giants||17||Veterans Stadium (PHI)|
|1995||Frank Thomas (Yeeessss!)||Chicago White Sox||15||The Ballpark (TEX)|
|1994||Ken Griffey, Jr.||Seattle Mariners||7||Three Rivers Stadium (PIT)|
|1993||Juan Gonzalez||Texas Rangers||7||Camden Yards (BAL)|
|1992||Mark McGwire||Oakland A's||12||Jack Murphy Stadium (SD)|
|1991||Cal Ripken, Jr.||Baltimore Orioles||12||Skydome (TOR)|
|1990||Ryne Sandberg||Chicago Cubs||3||Wrigley Field (CHI)|
|1989||Eric Davis||Cincinnati Reds||3||Anaheim Stadium (LAA)|
|1988||canceled due to rain||Riverfront Stadium (CIN)|
|1987||Andre Dawson||4||4||Oakland Coliseum (OAK)|
|1986||Tie (Wally Joyner, CA; Daryl Strawberry, NYM)||4||Astrodome (HOU)|
|1985||Dave Parker||Cincinnati Reds||6||Metrodome (MIN)|
Enjoy the derby tonight everyone. Â I doubt we’ll see anything like what we saw from Josh Hamilton last year, but the trio of Pujols-Howard-Fielder should at least be good from some compelling long ball drama.
* – Josh Hamilton photo credit: Deadspin