The home run derby is coming up this week and many consider it the best exhibition event in all of sports. Why not? SportsCenter highlights every home run hit and the most important record in sports in highlighted by the number 755 (unless you think that the new record is 762). I don't even have to tell you what 755 represents but it is a meter of the most spectacular individual event in a game over a career.
Participants from both leagues line up to launch balls into fans of all ages with their own baseball gloves. Since 1985 this exhibition has been a part of All-Star week and all but a handful who have won the event are hall-of-famers or soon to be by the end of their career (excluding those snubbed by voters for PEDs). Griffey Jr. is the only multiple winner of this event, winning 3 times.
Looking back at this event, especially recently, it isn't the big names that you'd typically expect to walk away with the hardware at the end of the night.
2008- Justin Morneau
2007- Vladimir Guerrero
2006- Ryan Howard
2005- Bobby Abreu
2004- Miguel Tejada
2003- Garret Anderson
2002- Jason Giambi
2001- Luis Gonzalez
2000- Sammy Sosa
Sure they are big names that anyone would recognize but these guys don't typically finish the year near the top. Take last year's winner, Morneau. He entered the contest with just 14 HR and finished the year with 23. Vlad entered with 14 HR also and finished the year with 27 in 2007. Howard was an exception in 06 but Abreu only had 18 HR at the break and just 24 to finish the year. Tejada 15 at break/34 at season's end. Anderson 22/29. Giambi 22/41. Gonzalez 35/57. Sosa 23/50. The only guy to lead the league in home runs since 2000 was Howard in 2006. (Griffey did it back-to-back years in 1998-99).
In 2005 Pudge Rodriguez was a runner up after having just 6 HR at the break.
Since 1995 Ryan Howard is the only guy to win the HR derby and MVP in the same season. So is it irony or just that the HR derby messes up a player's swing and potentially their season? Players are backing out before they are even asked. As of the posting of this article there had been no official announcement of AL participants. Can MLB afford this egg on their face or will we be forced to watch Adam Jones, Robinson Cano, Nick Green, and Ryan Freel participate on Monday? I hope not. As long as it's not the likes of Jason Bay, Brett Boone, or Troy Glaus, just a few of the guys who have laid their own egg in the Derby.
And Now You Know! (And Knowing is Half the Battle)