Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Home Runs and All Stars

Posted by mizzou1028 on July 15, 2008

I have to give a tip of the cap to Josh Hamilton for his performance last night in the Home Run Derby.  I have generally thought in recent years the event has lost some of its luster compared to what it was in the late 90s, but last night Hamilton had me hooked.  It wasn’t just his 28 home runs in the first round, it wasn’t just that he set a single round record, it was the way it was happening.  Three of his blasts were over 500 feet, and as each home run was hit the event became more of the spectacle I used to remember.  The way the Yankee Stadium crowd was behind him only added to the aura. 

Watching Hamilton last night brought back memories of the Home Run Derby I was fortunate to attend at Coors Field in 1998.  At that time the big names would all participate, great home run hitters like Griffey and McGwire.  That was of course the season Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs, and while his derby performance was unimpressive overall (four home runs and a quick first round exit, although one was over 500 feet) it was the workout portion of the day that stood out for me.  I remember standing on the walkway above the left field bleachers amongst a packed crowd, watching McGwire and others hit ball after ball up onto and beyond the walkway.  I remember balls hitting off the scoreboard, flying into concession stands, one clearing the wall entirely into the parking lot beyond.  Perhaps most vividly and even comically, I remember seeing a full cup of beer fly into the air while a fan tried to catch one of the balls (he didn’t).  For a variety of seasons it seemed as though the event had started to decline in popularity and excitement.  Maybe it was because we were disgusted that steroids likely played a role in the colossal blasts of the late 90s and early 2000s, perhaps it was because more and more often the biggest stars would back out (see Alex Rodriguez last night in front of his home fans no less).  Hamilton’s effort last night reminded me of that day because for the first time in several years of Home Run Derbys there seemed to be something to get excited about.  It seemed as the participants were actually into the event and truly were enjoying being involved, actually giving the crowd their moneys worth.  Perhaps the only unfortunate thing was that Hamilton didn’t win, losing to the Twins’ Justin Morneau in the finals perhaps due to fatigue from his first round show.  It turns out this event did not need A-Rod, and maybe it was he who missed out by declining participation in his home ballpark.

The Home Run Derby is of course a prelude to the All-Star Game, which will take place tonight.  It will of course be the final one at fabled Yankee Stadium, so that adds to the lure of the game.  There is a certain amount of irony that the American League will be managed by Terry Francona of the hated Red Sox, a reward for Boston winning the World Series last year, and that three members of the hated Red Sox will be in the starting lineup for the “home” American League.  It is also somewhat ironic that the NL will be managed by the Rockies’ Clint Hurdle, by virtue of the Rockies’ World Series appearance last year.  As bad a season as the Rockies have had, it seems somewhat odd to see Hurdle managing the National League in this event.  Regardless of this, the MLB All-Star Game is clearly the best in sports.  It is the only one where the players actually seem interested in winning the game, quite the contrast to the Pro Bowl where everyone wants to be selected to the game but no one wants to play.  The players will play hard, unlike the NBA where defense is optional anyway especially in an  all-star game, and unlike the NHL where the midseason exhibition has more scoring but lacks the hitting and physical play.  While I’m not exactly a fan of the World Series being influenced by an exhibition (the league that wins tonight will have home field advantage for the World Series), it definitely adds to the event that both teams will try to win. 

As a side note, I am intrigued by tonight’s starting pitchers, the Indians’ Cliff Lee for the AL and Milwaukee’s Ben Sheets for the NL.  If I was making the pick, I think it should be the Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay for the AL and San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum for the NL.  Of course, every pitcher that has been selected to the game is worthy of being there, and it is hard to argue against Lee or Sheets.  I am just hoping the National League can actually win one of these: the AL has won every one of these since 1996, not including the infamous tie in 2002.  Regardless, the MLB All-Star Game is always a fun event and a must see.

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One Response to “Home Runs and All Stars”

  1. I really liked your blog with the Roy Halladay item. I think Halladay will be an instant hall-of-famer.
    I try to follow as much MLB news as I can from Caracas, Venzuela.

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