Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there … with a Home Run Derby!!
Home Run Derby Recap
Every year on the Monday before the All-Star Game, eight players from the All-Star Teams come together to see who has the biggest penis who can hit the most home runs. It’s quite the event, as four National League players and four American League players slug it out until only one is left standing, with bragging rights for an entire year. Monday, July 9th, 2012 was no different.
Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees (20 home runs in 2012), winner of the 2011 Home Run Derby, was captain for the American League team. Along with himself, he chose Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays, 27 home runs in 2012), Mark Trumbo (Los Angeles Angels, 22 home runs in 2012), and Prince Fielder (Detroit Tigers, 15 home runs in 2012). Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers opposed him as captain of the National League team, and chose Carlos Beltran (St. Louis Cardinals, 20 home runs in 2012), Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins, 19 home runs in 2012), and Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado Rockies, 17 home runs in 2012) to hit with himself (12 home runs in 2012). Stanton pulled out last minute, so Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates was chosen to replace him (18 home runs in 2012).
Before the Derby even started, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the picks for both sides, because life wouldn’t be life if people didn’t always find something to complain about. First, the National League. Matt Kemp has been injured for most of the year, yet he was allowed to participate in the Home Run Derby and be on the All-Star team. The new MLB collective bargaining agreement has made it a rule that pitchers chose for the game have to be able to pitch in order to be on the team (effectively ending the days when the staff was made up of all-stars that had just pitched two days before and were taking bench space away from others who could have come). Why is the same thing not done with the position players? Matt Kemp, while a fantastic baseball player, hasn’t had as long of a season as most of the other players. So why does he get to make the team instead of some other players? There’s also the matter of how the Derby teams are chosen. Many players have said they don’t like competing because it messes up their swing. But what made Stanton or McCutchen or Gonzalez more deserving to participate than Ryan Braun (24 home runs), Jay Bruce (18 home runs), or Hunter Pence (16 home runs). Each of those three would have as good of a case for participating as anyone who actually did.
The American League Derby team was even more controversial. Since the game was in Kansas City, many felt that it would have been very respectful to the city and to the fans for K.C.’s own slugger, Billy Butler, to participate in his first-ever all-star season. But Robinson Cano decided not to, and was booed for the entirety of the Derby (and will probably be booed tonight during the game, as well). Choosing Jose Bautista to compete was smart, since he leads the majors with 27 home runs right now. But the American League All-Star Team is absolutely loaded with power hitters this year. Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, and Josh Hamilton are all sitting on your bench, and not one of them competed. All of them have more home runs than Fielder, and many have more than Cano and Trumbo. Now, I’m sure a lot of the picks have less to do with team camaraderie, and more to do with personal glory. After all, no matter what league you play for, at the end of the Derby there can only be one winner. So maybe Cano wanted to give himself the best chance to compete. Who knows for sure.
For those who are unaware, the rules for the Derby are simple: Each player must hit as many home runs as possible before making ten outs (any hit that’s not a home run is an out). In Round One, all eight players compete. The top four then move onto Round Two. The home run totals from the first round are carried over and added to that of the second, with the top two moving onto the final round. In the Final Round, home run totals are erased, and both players just swing for the fences. In the event of a tie between two players in any given round (where the tie directly effects who can move onto the next round), all tying players are given five swings to hit as many home runs as possible. If they are still tied after that, then each one gets three swings until the tie is broken.
The first round started strong, with seven home runs each from Carlos Beltran and Mark Trumbo. Of course, the big hits came from Jose Bautista, who had 11. Carlos Gonzalez and Andrew McCutchen had four each, and Prince Fielder had five. The biggest surprises (or happiest surprises, if you’re a Billy Butler fan) were one home run from Matt Kemp, and zero from Cano. Kemp is understandable, as he’s still on the Disabled List, and probably shouldn’t be competing at all. Cano, however, is somewhat embarrassing. If you’re the reigning home run champ, captain of the A.L. team, and looking to make a statement to the K.C. fans that are booing you, you don’t put up a goose egg. Ultimately, it was Bautista, Beltran, Trumbo, and Fielder moving onto Round Two.
That’s when Prince decided it was time to make a statement of his own. Already behind the eight ball with only five home runs, Fielder turned it on and launched 11 home runs, bringing his total to 16. His experience and raw power helped propel him to the top of the pack, and so far ahead Trumbo and Beltran that neither could catch up. Beltran hit five more home runs for a total of 12, while Trumbo hit six for 13. The disappointment of the second inning was Bautista, who only added two more home runs, tying Trumbo at 13. With the tie came a swing-off between “Joey Bats” and Mark Trumbo. Trumbo showed his inexperience with only one home run in five swings. Bautista showed his inexperience (?) by only hitting two. Ultimately, Jose and Prince would go on to battle each other in the Final Round.
Fielder never looked back at that point. While Bautista was taking some swings in the batting cage, Fielder hit eight home runs before recording his second out. Prince would record four more for 12 in his round. By the time he finished, Fielder had the top five longest home runs of the evening, hitting 28 total. Bautista took a while to find his groove, and never quite got there again. Jose only hit seven home runs in the final round, leaving Prince as the Home Run King.
The win by Fielder is the first-ever Home Run Derby Champion for the Detroit Tigers. It makes Prince only the second person to win more than one Derby (Ken Griffey Jr. being the other), and the first person to win a Derby in both leagues (winning in 2009 for the Milwaukee Brewers). It was a blast to watch Prince perform, and for a Detroit fan, I have to hope that he has found his swing, and in the second half will be lighting up opposing pitching.