The Major League Baseball All-Star break is about the fans, but it's also about the players.
For them, it's a three-day respite from the 162-game grind of the regular season that serves as a celebration of the sport as a whole.
Of course, it's also a time that allows for a little bit of reflection on the first half of the season and a whole lot of anticipation of what's to come in the second half.
One of the biggest on-field storylines to watch over Part 2 of the 2013 campaign is the incredible race for the American League MVP, which is shaping up to be quite the two-man competition between reigning winner Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers and upstart Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles.
How unbelievable have these two sluggers been? Historically unbelievable.
Both players have reached the 30-homer, 90-RBI marks at the break, something that's never been done before—by even one player in the first half of a season, let alone two. And to think they're in the same league.
While Cabrera leads in RBI with 95, Davis is just two behind, and he's out in front in homers with 37, good for seven more than Cabrera, who is No. 2. Naturally.
Oh, and Cabrera is batting .365, which is 24 points ahead of Yadier Molina, who owns the second-highest at .341. Davis? He's hitting only .315.
The pace that Cabrera and Davis have established is so remarkable that apparently they're not even fully able to grasp the scope of it. When asked Monday about being the first player to do the 30-90 trick by the break, Cabrera acknowledged he wasn't even aware of the achievement. Instead, he simply offered a "Wow!" upon learning of his feat.
It's not as if Cabrera and Davis aren't keeping tabs on what the other is doing, though.
"It feels like every time I don't hit a homer, [Miguel] hits two," Davis said.
Cabrera's response? "Right now, he's got a lot more than me! He just hit homers in four straight games, and I only hit one in that time."
This AL MVP chase is a like a bout between two great heavyweights who are doling out blow after blow from their respective batter's boxes. This battle should be exciting and fun to watch over the final two-and-a-half months, and with the way Cabrera and Davis are hitting, it may come down to the final bell.
Favorite Home Runs?
Given that Monday was the Home Run Derby, it felt fitting to ask some of the event's participants about their favorite homers—both those hit with their own bat and those they enjoyed watching.
Here are the answers, starting, of course, with the MLB home run leader to this point.
Chris Davis, Orioles: "The broken bat home run [hit against Pirates left-hander Tony Watson on June 13, 2012]. Has to be. The reason that's my favorite is because I looked like a complete idiot right after I hit it. I went straight cave man. I'd never done anything like that, so that was pretty special."
Michael Cuddyer, Rockies: "Probably my first walk-off home run [on April 19, 2006]. It was a pinch-hit at-bat while I was with Minnesota, and it came against J.C. Romero, who was a former teammate at the time. My first grand slam was also cool; that was in 2002. And you always remember your first one [also in 2002]."
Cuddyer's grand slam actually was the second homer he hit in the majors, so he had a pair of memorable ones to start his career. As for his favorite all-time dinger...
"I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, so when he hit a home run in his first playoff series [in the 1995 AL Division Series against the Seattle Mariners], that was one of the cooler moments for me just because I was so excited that he finally made it to the postseason and then hit a home run. So that's my favorite all-time home run."
As for the man who finished as the derby's runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes...
Bryce Harper, Nationals: "The home run I hit off Jonny Venters [on May 26, 2012]. Just to get a hit off him is so special—he strikes me out every time, it seems like. So I remember going up to the plate and thinking to myself, 'I get to face Jonny Venters, and he throws 98 miles per hour with a slider.' I wound up hitting an opposite-field home run to left field off him, which is one of my biggest ones."
For his favorite all-time blast, Harper went a little more recent vintage than Cuddyer and stayed within his own organization:
"Jayson Werth last year in the NLDS to force Game 5 against St. Louis. To be able to share that moment with Jayson and our team, it was incredible to be a part of that. The fans were going nuts because it was at home, and he was going crazy rounding the bases. I remember being on deck and thinking I might have to try to hit a homer to win the game, but then he did."
Judging by Harper's showing in Monday's Home Run Derby—he finished second by hitting 24 total, with eight in each round—it would have been fun to see him get a shot to hit the walk-off last October.
Harper's still searching for his first game-ender, but one imagines he has plenty of time to experience that feeling. He is, after all, still only 20.
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