National League Home Run Derby captain David Wright was adamant that Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer—a childhood friend—would excel on the international stage.
Did he ever!
The right-handed-swinging Cuddyer homered seven times in the first round of the 2013 derby, including one that struck a Chevrolet parked in center field. Then in Round 2, he launched another eight and finished in third place overall. In a single night, he nearly matched his entire first-half total.
Just a few days ago, we were all skeptical of Wright's "Ryder Cup captain's pick," to use his own words. Via Kristie Ackert of the Daily News, here's how the captain justified the selection of his fellow Norfolk, Virginia, native:
I grew up with Michael. I think he's of the more underrated players in the game. And, obviously, the friendship had something to do with it. And his production had a lot to do with it. You're talking about a guy that's got 15 or 16 homers. He had a 27-game hitting streak. For me, that was my choice.
Of course, none of us were buying into that rationale.
Bleacher Report's own Joel Reuter had modest expectations for Cuddyer, estimating that he had 10-1 odds of winning. Reuter echoed all of our sentiments in calling him "the clear underdog going into the competition."
Benjamin Klein omitted Cuddyer from his analysis of top derby contenders. Instead, he wrote in depth about Pedro Alvarez, Chris Davis and Prince Fielder, all of whom would finish Monday night with fewer round-trippers.
Their opinions were completely understandable.
In his first 12 MLB seasons, Cuddyer only amassed 20-plus home runs three times. He has posted very pedestrian power numbers despite spending the bulk of his career in friendly offensive environments like the Metrodome and Coors Field.
The trajectory of his swing didn't seemingly suit the derby, either. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Cuddyer's ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio in recent years has been significantly higher than the league average. He's not accustomed to swinging for the fences.
However, the 34-year-old put on a stellar performance that had Twitter users raving:
What are the odds of Cuddyer hitting the truck twice!? #HRDerby— Rick Neva (@rickneva) July 16, 2013
I gotta give it to Cuddyer tht was a great run.— Ray Osterhout (@TheColdBoner) July 16, 2013
Michael Cuddyer has surprised people. Old guy can hit!— Michael Aleman (@Mike3_A) July 16, 2013
We cannot ignore Cuddyer anymore.