Results tagged ‘ Adrian Gonzalez ’

My Tweak to the Home Run Derby Selection Process

Everyone might remember I had some reservations on the new “Captains” format for the State Farm Home Run Derby. After thinking about it for a day, it might have some legitimate merit, but maybe it can be tweaked a bit, just like the selection process. Hopefully today I can outline my ideas, and maybe some day M L B will take credit for it ( just kidding).

The Captain format did take the selection process out of Major League Baseball fingers, but it ended up being a collection of “buddies” taking turns hitting a baseball more than a competition that let fans from all over the country, and other countries outside the United States see our budding stars. Sure American League Captain David Ortiz made an overall very impressive four-some, but even Ortiz made sure to mention several times that he picked his “boys”.

So why not make the American League and National League leaders at the All-Star Break the Captains in the future? That would give more of a guarantee to the assembled baseball fans the best long ball hitters from both leagues at the top of the equation. In 2011, that would have made Toronto Blue Jay Jose Bautista and St. Louis Cardinal Lance Bergman the first 2 players selected for the Home Run Derby. Combined the pair have crushed 55 balls into the stands heading into the All-Star Break.

From there I would love to trash the current “Final Vote” premise and re-institute it with 8 names from each league to have a week’s worth of voting to decide the final 3 candidates to stand with Bautista and Bergman as members of both the American and National League squads. Sure there is still the horror of the large market teams stuffing the ballot box, but I have a solution to keep multiple players from each squad off the final selection team.

To keep the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Cardinals and possibly the Dodgers from stuffing the ballot boxes, there can be no multiple players selected from the same franchise. That ruling would have split up the 2011 pairings of Adrian Gonzalez and Ortiz, plus would have made either Rickie Weeks or Prince Fielder the Brewer possibly selected to the team. This rule would have also eliminated Matt Holiday since Bergman would have been the Cardinals representative.

Such a regulation would keep an unbalanced Home Run Derby squad that should of included players like Cincy’s Jay Bruce, White Sox Paul Korneko, Ranger Nelson Cruz or even Oriole’s Mark Reynolds.

This system also has a flaw or two that need to be ironed out, like this year’s winner Robinson Cano might not have been picked with this format since Mark Teixera and Curtis Granderson had more Home Runs heading into the break than Cano.

Sure there are thing to be worked out, and holes to fill by players not wanting to participate, but M L B could get those “Yeahs” or “Nays” at the conclusion of the All-Star voting and hype up the Home Run Derby selection process with an entire week of plugging certain players, or maybe even trying to get a up-and coming player most of the country has not seen hit the ball like the Marlins Mike Stanton a chance on the big stage.

M L B made an honest effort this season to correct some past Home Run Derby wrongs, and they are steps in the right direction. Now by also involving the fans in the process, we can get a more suitable and diverse selection that will have people again excited about the event.

Watching Bautista and Weeks struggle last night was painful at times, and there is no doubt some people changed the channel……With a few slices and dices, the Home Run Derby can come back in Kansas City for the 2012 All-Star game lean, mean and pounding balls after ball into those fountains. That would be a pure joy to watch.

2011 State Farm Home Run Derby: 1 Wild Swing, then a Golden Blast

From spinning golden orbs to a basic “pick me” format for the participants of the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby, Major League Baseball has tried to bring a few more entertaining and exciting ideas to the forefront for their showcase Mid-Season Classic. But like a sharply hit ball down into hardened clay, M L B has committed at least one error on the play.

Buddy System” Team Format is Kaput

By deciding to appoint two League Captains, Brewers Price Fielder and Red Sox David Ortiz, it was thought the process might instill some added excitement. Instead it is ended up looking more like those dreaded “pick-Me” games we all experienced as kids on the Nation’s sandlots. Cliche’s do form within Leagues, and that apparently has made it way into the hallowed H R Derby.

Sure the team’s picked have power, resilience and even a bit of history competing in this event, but some elements are missing, like a hometown guy getting a chance to impress the home folks.

Several years ago when the game was in St. Louis, Albert Pujols held court and brought the entire Nation into his love fest. Why didn’t Fielder possibly pick Diamondback Justin Upton as a Home Run participant, he does have the swagger and swing to line up against this bunch of competitors. Shouldn’t D-backs star Upton get the same  hometown privilege?

 If you look at the scheduled teams, from each League, more than a few “friendships” seem to creep into the selection process. For the American League, Ortiz picked Boston teammate Adrian Gonzalez. That by itself doesn’t seem harmless, but is well within the scope of powerful swings that could send more than a few balls spinning high into the night sky.

Ortiz then selected two fellow Dominican Republic stars from American League East divisional rivals, New York Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano, and Toronto’s Jose Bautista. The selection of Bautista is warranted considering his slam-tastic 2010 season, and his 31 Home Runs in 2010 make him a viable threat of launching one towards the Moon with every swing.

But the selection of the charismatic Dominican Cano might be reaching a bit here. Sure Cano has hit 14 round tippers, but that total is easily shadowed by his own pinstripe teammates Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixera who each have 25 dingers coming into Sunday’s final games before the break.

The “Buddy” system seems alive and well in the A L East thanks to Ortiz for the Home Run Derby. Possibly mixing it up a bit and including Texas Nelson Cruz ( 20 HR) or maybe even Final Vote winner White Sox’s Paul Korneko (22 HR) would make a more well-rounded squad.

 But Fielder also made a few visible faux pas of his own by looking past Upton who might only have the same number of Home Runs (15) as his older brother B J at this moment. But this All Star Game is Arizona’s time to shine, and omitting Upton to the Home Run Derby party just seems wrong in so many ways.

Fielder also included his Brewers teammate Rickie Weeks in the pot along with Cardinals OF Matt Holiday to making a 3-man NL Central core to his squad. Only Dodger Matt Kemp has kept this from also being an exclusive squad within both Fielder’s and Ortiz’s divisions. Missing from Fielder’s choices are guys like Lance Bergman (24 HR) or even perennial Home Run Derby stallion Phillies First Baseman Ryan Howard.

The change was meant to possibly include some names not usually associated with this event, but has been turned into a admiration society between the 8 competitors. That is not a bad thing to do if you are hosting a celebrity charity Home Run event, or even a golf tourney. But it doesn’t belong within the structure of the Home Run Derby. Home Run Derby contestants should be a cross-section of your League, not your friends/teammates.


Golden Orbs Will Fall from the AZ sky

How interesting that the upper echelon within the M L B office has decided to part with a bit of their Mid-Season Classic gold. More compelling is that now more M L B inspired ballhawks will be descending upon Arizona with hopes of plucking the “golden goose” from the outfield confines. I want to know who the genius was the devised dipping a panel of the M L B regulated Rawlings leather panel in a bath of 24 karat gold.

Think of the proud thrusting up of each arm as a $ 149.99 gift from the baseball Gods is delivered into their leather, nachos or even baseball cap during the “Golden” rounds of the Home Run Derby. Think of the possibility of someone swimming or snorkeling adventure within the Chase Field outdoor pool be supplemented by a possible golden orb sinking to the pool depths. Hope the lifeguard is packing a glove that night.


But in the end, the Boys and Girl’s Club will be the winners in the Golden Ball segment of the final out of each hitter’s appearance. Even as each outfield/stadium fan throws up their prize, the Boys and Girl’s Club will see their account upgraded by $ 18,000 with each Golden orb traveling beyond the walls. Make me wish I had the extra cash and time to zip right on over to hot and humid Arizona and partake in a quest for a golden orb of my own.

Only downside to the event might be the fighting and struggling for each golden missile that transcends into the stands, and hopefully at least one kid will get the treat of a lifetime with a great snag. Wonder if MLBlogs own Zack Hample has figured out the right spot, or the right angle to possibly get one of the prized Home Run Derby balls.

M L B tried two news changes to the State Farm Home Run Derby, possibly striking out with the first. The Golden Ball will go over great with the fans and the assembled army of ballhawks. They still need to work on the Home Run Derby selection process, and I will address my idea for the future selection process tomorrow. So M L B has a current 1-ball 1-strike count of them……Hopefully no fighting in the stands or goose eggs by the selected players put this event into a controversial spotlight for negative web fodder. Hopefully the event will turn out simply…….Golden. 

2009 State Farm Home Run Derby thoughts

 

Most people call it the “most exciting play in baseball.” I am talking about the one play that can make even a visiting crowd stand up and rise to their feet and cheer and celebrate the true nature of the play. No, it is not a around-the-horn ( 5-6-3 ) double play but the always exciting home run. It doesn’t matter if it is a solo shot or a Grand Slam, people love seeing that ball take its extreme flight path from home plate to its final resting place hopefully in someones hands in the stands.  It is a play that in one swing of the bat can take a game and transform it in so many different directions for the two teams involved in the contest.

It packs the essence of power, of skill and of will power all compacted  in that one solid swing against that little white ball. But it can also hold the hopes and dreams of winning with it’s majestic path towards the outfield walls. There is no other play in baseball that is held in such a high level of respect and admiration when it comes to hitting. 

So we have come to that point just beyond the halfway mark where we celebrate everything that is great about the long ball for one long night. The stage and the players have been set, and their game faces will be different tonight because they will get to also celebrate with fellow teammates and All Stars from both leagues sitting right there within eye sight of the participants.
 

At today’s media day, there will be a million questions thrown at the participants in this seasons State Farm Home Run Derby.  Some asking about totals, distance, or if they can hit the Mastercard banner and win someone some extra spending money for the week. But hopefully someone will remember to ask this one question, this one simple thing that could bring a bold smile to each of their faces. ” What is your motivation for tonight’s event?”

Some of those questions will merit unique answers that might take a player back several years into their past. Others might speak of recent injuries or events that have shaken their core and made them a better player.  And other might just see it as an opportunity to introduce themselves to the world’s audience as both a player and as a person.

The event had grown into a  huge precursor to the All Star Game itself. To say the  Home Run Derby event has taken on a life of its own would not be too far fetched at all. E Bay will be full of 2009 Home Run Derby balls on Tuesday morning, including the gold-colored balls used to escalate the fortunes of charities tonight. For some to be at the event is enough, to celebrate the act of the Home Run and see the cheers of the crowd will be like drinking 5 Amp energy drinks in a row. Sparks will fly, minds will wander and kids will fall all over the outfield trying to catch these hit balls.

Heck, I even took a gander over there today and saw a ball from the 2008 Home Run Derby signed by Hamilton up for bid right now at $ 169.99. But then again that is a “Buy now” option that might not be met. But there is a smattering of about nine past HR Derby balls from 2001 to 2005  all running under $ 40 right now.  It is great that this event has  elevated itself to its current stature in the 3-days events surrounding the All Star Game.

It is hard to even remember that this event might have been made possible by a simple television program stated in the 1960′s. The black and white “Home Run Derby” show was so popular in the 1960′s that it had to have spawned the current event. Even though these shows only pitted two of the best home run hitter of that season, it  did have a huge impact on the future of the art of hitting the long ball. I remember seeing a few dozen of these shows as a kid and trying to copy the swings in Little League. But you did try and copy them because they were your heroes and you wanted to see them blast the ball into the stands with every pitch.

And the Home Run Derby did not hurt its image last season when the world got to see the re-emergence of Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. From the  great personal story of Craig Counsel, his former AAU coach and personal Home Run Derby pitcher, to the struggles and demons Hamilton had to wash away to get back to this stage, it set up a heroes return to the game that impassions him from top to bottom.  And  his shattering of the events record books only goes to show that anyone can take the stage. But how many people remember that he did not win the event?

And America ate it up like a hot, creamy plate of mac & cheese. But it was also the kind of message that needs to be delivered to the youth of this country. That even if you hit rock bottom and the depths of despair, with a little faith and the courage to change, the world is at your feet.

But what will be the story this year?  Will it be another coming out party for another one of baseball’s stars. You know one of the great “feel good” stories will be the coming back from injury of Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, which  also rhymes with power, this season. The young catcher has been known for his scattering of hits and his placement of the ball in achieving his current AL leading .373 average. It will be exciting to see him bend his back and thrust that bat to produce some power tonight in the Home Run Derby.

It might also be one of the “coming out” parties I eluded to in the beginning of the blog. Most people associate him with hitting in general. With a good showing in the H R Derby, he will also put his name on you mind when you think of Home Run potential. It is another aspect of his hitting game that might not get the attention it deserves, before tonight’s event.

Then you have someone like the Tampa Bay Rays Carlos Pena, who had been tossed around the league for a few years from teams from the Rangers,Oakland A’s, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees before he got a non-roster invitee invitation to Spring Training in 2007 from the Rays. Pena  has always had the great glove, awesome power and the ability to pull a team together, but they had not all combined together at the same time before his stint with the Rays.

That spring in St. Petersburg, Florida his game came together and his power numbers have been impressive over the past 2 1/2 seasons. Pena has hit 101 homers with 282 RBI  since his Opening Day start for the Rays in 2007. To even hear the story of him dreaming he was going to be on the plane to New York for the opening series after Rays Manager Joe Maddon informed him he was going to Triple-A to begin the season is amazing. 

An unfortunate injury to Greg Norton opened the door for Pena to fly with the team to New York, and he has been with them ever since. Pena has a very natural home run swing, and the rightfield fence in Busch Stadium, which is 335 feet down the line, could play a major role in how he does tonight.  But when you see him lean back and swing through the ball you have the thought in your mind each hit could go over the wall. He has the ability to take any pitch and drive it, so tonight might make people remember his name.

Brandon Inge, here is a guy I have been pulling for all year long for the Detroit Tigers. He has more homers and RBI than Miguel Cabrera, but most people outside of the American League do not even know his name. Because of his pairing with Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino in the All Star Game Sprint Final Vote, he has been dubbed the front part of the “Bran Torino” pairing.

This former catcher, turned third baseman has been doing the same thing for years without the acknowledgments, but tonight he can also get his name out there for future shots at the All Star team. Hidden beneath the names of Magglio Ordonez and Cabrera, Inge has been the consistent power monger on the Tigers this season. With 21 homers and 58 RBI, he is showing his numbers fit right into the program for the Home Run Derby. He even hit two on Saturday night to maybe get some extra momentum going into tonight’s event.

The reason you have seen only AL names listed here is because of the recent video by Harold Reynolds that put all the focus on the NL first baseman getting ready to participate in the event tonight. I am not taking Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder or Ryan Howard for granted at all, but to single out the four first baseman and not even chat about the AL competitors is just wrong.

It is for that reason I want to see Mauer,Inge,Pena and Ranger Nelson Cruz slam the door shut on the National League guys. That is right, I want to see a barn burner where the AL comes out on top…again. I am sorry if it is Albert’s house, but it is our event to win tonight. By Reynolds putting that video out with so much emphasis on the NL and not a word about the AL is good old fashioned bulletin board fodder that will be eaten up by the AL participants.

Let the balls fly where they may, but I am going to throw out my final round prediction here: Mauer versus Inge for all the marbles. And if you want a great story, either one of these guys could win it all tonight. But the best part is all of us get to witness some awesome power tonight, and maybe another player will step from the shadows tonight and become another favorite of the world and of your kids.

 

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