Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton looked like the odds-on favorite to win the 2014 Home Run Derby Monday night after clubbing six homers in the first round. He didn't hit a single one in the semifinals, though, and the new format may have been the culprit.
The Home Run Derby took on a different look this year as the leading home run hitters from each league in the first round received byes to the semis. While it was technically a reward, Stanton believes that it contributed to his struggles in the semifinal round, according to Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald.
"It made a bigger difference than I thought it would," Stanton said. "I kind of have to find something to do in that time, stay warm. It's definitely a speed bump I couldn't get over in this one. But it was still fun."
Staying warm was quite literally an issue for players as temperatures at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota dipped below 60 degrees with rain playing a factor as well. Perhaps taking some cuts in the batting cage would have helped Stanton perform better, but it is easy to say in hindsight.
As pointed out by Marc Carig of New York Newsday, a lot of time passed between Stanton's first round of swings and his semifinal appearance:
Not sayin' this is dragging, but when Giancarlo Stanton hit the first time, he was still answering to "Mike."— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) July 15, 2014
Eventual winner Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics wasn't impacted by the new format, but he had to compete in the quarterfinals, which may have ultimately worked to his advantage.
Did Stanton's bye to the semifinals adversely impact his Home Run Derby performance?
Like Stanton, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista failed to reach the finals despite getting a bye straight to the semis, so there may be something to Stanton's claim.
Despite Stanton's Home Run Derby appearance reaching a disappointing, he made it clear that he would love to do it again, per Navarro.
"For sure," Stanton said. "I've got to bring it back to the NL."
Stanton's mammoth power was on full display in the first round as one of his gargantuan blasts would have exceeded 500 feet had its path not been interrupted, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Giancarlo Stanton the new NL leader with 6 HR. One HR had a projected distance (if it had continued its descent) of 510 feet— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 15, 2014
That goes to show that Stanton certainly has what it takes to win the Home Run Derby, but things simply didn't work in Stanton's favor. Cespedes was the best hitter Monday night; however, the result might have been different if Stanton didn't have to sit around.
Major League Baseball deserves credit for trying something new, but issues are always going to arise. Now that the potential pitfalls of this particular format are apparent, it will be interesting to see how the league handles the Home Run Derby moving forward.
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