by Colin Donohue
I thought I’d do a little live blogging tonight about Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby. Not the most exciting event to live blog about, but it’s a start. Starting slowly so that I’m in game shape, as the cliche goes, by the time a regular season starts.
The Home Run Derby Field
I’m getting a late start on this live blogging thing. So you know, I’ve picked Adrian Gonzalez to win this thing. That’s a bit of a dark horse selection, and I like choosing a guy who may be a little in the background. Nelson Cruz is another player who could swing his way to a win. Of course, Pujols, Howard and Fielder are the big boppers. Fielder has a big, looping swing, which might suit him well to this competition. Howard is a hulking first baseman with great power, but his average is so low, that he might struggle to make solid contact consistently tonight. Pujols, of course, is a freak of nature. Never count him out.
8:33 p.m.: Cruz has already batted. He hit 11 home runs in the first round. Fielder is at bat now. He has six homers and five outs. He’s hit a couple that have looked like lazy fly balls, but that big uppercut swing carried them out of the park. That’s why he has a shot in this thing. (Just finished tagging this thing and, by the way, Fielder hit 11 home runs.)
8:45 p.m.: Inge is batting, and he has no home runs through five outs so far. I read Justin’s last post, and he’s sure right about one thing. The dude is an AUTHORITY on basketball. Most knowledgeable person I know. If you have an NBA question (or a college b’ball question for that matter), you go to Justin. He’s got the answer. But I think Justin isn’t giving himself enough credit in the other sports arenas. He knows a little something about baseball, and I think he knows quite a bit about football. The only sport he may be deficient in is hockey. But we’ll fix that during the upcoming season. I’ll get him watching some hockey. (I was watching some Caps highlights today. Man, I miss the hockey season. Can’t wait for that to start up again.) Oh, and Inge got the goose egg. You hate to see that. A professional baseball player should at least be able to knock one out when the ball is coming at you at less than 50 mph from less than the standard 60-feet-6-inches. But a guy like Inge really isn’t built for derby competition. He’s a gapper normally who is able to turn on a few mistakes and straight pitches during the season. My derby pick, Gonzalez, is up now. Let’s see what happens. He already has one out.
8:50 p.m.: Gonzalez already has six outs. Wow. Isn’t that always the way? A professional athlete lets me down again.
8:53 p.m.: The key to this thing is being patient. You have to wait for your pitch. Take as many as you want. Then, when it comes, you really have to square it up, power through the zone and turn those hips. Gonzalez has the power, and he seemed like a guy who could have success in this competition. A sweet left-handed swing and good timing. But tonight, he looked a little slow to the ball and impatient. He hit two homers, and that won’t be enough to move on. (Case in point, he just swang at a pitch off the outside of the plate. In the home run derby. C’mon, guy. We don’t care that you can reach out there and hit a double up the gap.)
9:16 p.m.: Sitting here watching Howard bat, I think of that baseball anomoly. Left-handed swings always look prettier than right-handed ones. You never hear about a sweat right-handed swing. I’m not sure why, but lefties just have a more fluid-looking motion. (This isn’t true for everyone, of course. Fielder, for example, just has a violent uppercut.) But watching Howard, he looks effortless when he puts wood on ball. He just takes a simple cut and the ball flies. He plugged sever dingers in his at bats, which places him in third so far. Cruz and Fielder have 11 and the lead.
9:20 p.m.: This home run derby, so far, is missing the flair and drama of derbies past. Of course, last year we all remember Josh Hamilton putting on a show in the first round in New York. He hit 20+ homers. That was worth watching. Or a few years back when Bobby Abreu hit an incredible 41 round trippers in a single derby. Just wow. This year, we haven’t seen any player go on big-time homer streaks, and we haven’t really seen any long, long balls out of the park. These guys have to pick things up a little bit. Make it more interesting. Mauer is up now. He’s attempting to become the first guy since Ted Williams to hit .400 for a season. He sits at .373 right now. He’s not a home run hitter naturally, but he has such great bat control that he might be able to sneak up and make this thing interesting for the sluggers.
9:29 p.m.: Pujols is about to come bat. Maybe now something exciting will happen. Mauer got five, so he’s out of the competition. Cruz, Fielder and Howard are guaranteed to move on. Pujols needs more than six to advance, which he should be able to do. I’m hoping the freak of baseball nature can spark this derby into something a little more electrifying.
9:42 p.m.: Well, Pujols added little to the competition. He hit five home runs. But it put him in a three-way tie for third. Each batter will get five outs. Maybe this derby “playoff” so to speak will add some drama. Who will face off against Fielder, Howard and Cruz? And who from that group should I choose? I have to saddle up another horse since my went down so ingloriously in the first round. I guess I’ll hitch my fortunes to Fielder. Of course, my picking a player is ultimately that guy’s death knell. But I’ll take Fielder going forward.
9:51 p.m.: ESPN personality Chris Berman has had his time in the sun. He’s an integral part of the ESPN team, as he’s been there since its founding. So I can understand why he still makes an appearance doing pretty much whatever he wants for the sports network. All that said, he’s way past being effective, engaging or consistently good at his job. He’s become a parody of himself, and I, for one, am sick of listening to the guy. He’s like aging athletes. You know at one point they were fresh and good and important. But they’ve outlasted any effectiveness they once had. Sure, you can coax a good game out of them every once in a while. But, for the most part, they’re cooked. You’re just waiting (and pleading) for the day when they walk away from the game. And at this point, you know it won’t be the most graceful of exits. That’s Berman. It’s time for him to go. Case in point tonight, he said, “Anything can happen in the swing off” in refernece to the derby “playoff” going on now. And he was serious. That’s sad as can be. And the “Back, back, back, back” stuff? It’s tired. As are his some of this other iterations, such as “the New York football Giants” and “the Oakland Rai-ders” (you know, he draws out and emphasizes the word Raiders). I await the day the guy moves on to greener pastures. Maybe he can hang out with another guy who overstayed his welcome: John Madden.
Pujols hit two homers in the swing off and moves on to the second round.
Home Run Derby Round Two
10:16 p.m.: The home run derby really is an interminable affair. All professional sports leagues All-Star games try to have fun, exciting competitions to draw in viewers leading up to the game. Baseball has the derby (and the little watched celebrity softball game). Football has nothing. Hockey has the speed skating, skills and hardest shot competitions. Basketball has the dunk and 3-point shooting competitions, plus the celebrity game and the skills competition. I would say that the NBA does the best (although the dunk contest becomes boring real fast), followed by the NHL. MLB comes in third simply because the NFL has nothing. But we’re almost two and a half hours in, and we still have to see two guys hit in the second round of the competition. I think in the future the players should get a limited number of pitches to take and they should all get seven outs. Cut this thing down and make them swing. The derby needs some speeding up. I guess you could say the derby is a microcosm of an entire baseball season. It’s long and drawn out and could probably be abbreviated in some way. I’m a huge baseball fan, but I’m beginning to think that 162 games might be a little much. What can you prove in a 162 games that you can’t in, say, 145 games? Just a though.
10:30 p.m.: Earlier, I wrote that lefties typically have pretty swings, but righties don’t. Enter Cruz, the exception that proves the rule. What a nice looking swing from the right side of the plate.
Home Run Derby Final
An established slugger vs. an up-and-comer. I’m sticking with Fielder, who just knocked a 500+ foot homer.
10:50 p.m.: Cruz just wrapped up his final round, slamming five home runs in his 10 outs. (They should only get five in the final round.) He really uses his hands well. He has good body control, swinging his hips open and really driving the baseball back. He gets into trouble when he swings open too early, and his back shoulder drops. That’s why he’s alternating between pop ups and homers. Fielder, who’s up now, on the other hand, uses so much of his body. His hands aren’t as soft. But he gets great turn and weight shift. And that’s a lot of weight has to shift. That’s why, when everything lines up mechanically, he can slam some big flies.
11 p.m.: Fielder made short work of the derby, knocking out six homers in seven outs and beating Cruz for the title. I guess I should’ve stuck with Fielder from the start. The guy has just immense power to all fields. When he gets his weight behind his quick swings, he really has no trouble tagging the baseball. He will be a premier power hitter in the league for years and years to come. HERE ARE YOUR HIGHLIGHTS OF FIELDER’S ESCAPADES.
And Major League Baseball, shorten this thing up. It took three hours for the derby to reach its completion, and that’s ridiculous. It was especially so this year, considering how anticlimactic the event was.
That wraps up this initial foray into live blogging. We’ll clean up the kinks. And maybe next time I’ll pick a more exciting event.
In the meantime, make sure you check out Justin’s post below, as he attempts to take a more serious swim into uncharted sports territory. His first cuts at some baseball blogging went well, in my opinion. The dude is going to be an uber-expert in no time. Just wait until we turn him loose on some NHL action. We might have to get him to an NHL game in person and have him blog and live tweet about that. And stay tuned to the blog. Justin and I will have a podcast up within the next few days.