There is no doubt that this year’s Home Run Derby will have a lot of work to do to give a better performance than Josh Hamilton gave us alone last year.
But there is also no doubt, for me, that the 2009 Home Run Derby will be better than those of the recent past because it offers something that relatively recent Derbies have not: the game’s true power hitters.
Showcasing three of the league’s leading home run kings, Monday’s Home Run Derby should live up to its billing because those kings are truly the game’s best at hitting the long ball.
Albert Pujols will lead his St. Louis crowd against the likes of Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder and Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard. But it is another contestant, Adrian Gonzalez, who is the NL’s runner-up to leader Albert Pujols.
Combined, the NL’s representatives in the Derby have an astonishing 807 career home runs. The oldest of the four is only 29 years old (Ryan Howard).
Replacing Dustin Pedroia on the AL All-Star team, the AL’s home run leader, Carlos Pena, also joined the Derby to finalize the field on Sunday with Detroit’s Brandon Inge, Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, and Texas’ Nelson Cruz.
The American League’s representatives have a combined 407 career home runs—exactly 400 less than the NL.
Sure, the names Cruz, Inge, and perhaps even Pena may not hold any weight in your mind as a power hitter.
But consider this: Joe Mauer has the least of the foursome. In fact, Brandon Inge, Nelson Cruz, and Carlos Pena are three of the AL’s top five home run leaders this year.
So, I stress "today" when I say that the Derby represents today’s strongmen.
However, I still feel that there is one player, a contestant in the 2006 Derby, who could’ve made this year even more indicative and dramatic—Miguel Cabrera. Though Cabrera only has 18 home runs as of yet this year, there is no question that he is one of the game’s most dangerous hitters.
It’s too bad he’s not on the list.
The 2006 and 2007 Home Run Derbies were unquestionably suited to showcase some great power hitters, but this year’s rendition has the best lineup of contestants perhaps since 2000, which featured Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Carl Everett, Carlos Delgado, Edgar Martinez, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, and Ivan Rodriguez.
Again, along with 2004, 2006 and 2007 had some legendary power hitters, but no Home Run Derby this decade is more indicative of today’s MLB lumberjacks than this year.
Still, I expect a great home run derby, not from one guy, but from every contestant.