What does it mean to be a "slugger?" We all know the answer, don't we?
Being a slugger means gripping it and ripping it. It means hitting the crap out of the ball and not even waiting around to see where it falls.
It means pointing to a spot in center field and then hitting it there. It means putting dents in signs. It means splashing down in McCovey Cove. It means hitting a ball in Cincinnati that comes to rest in Kentucky.
Being a slugger means being the most powerful, terrifying, and exhilarating species of professional athlete in all of sports.
In honor of the 2010 State Farm Home Run Derby, whose lineup was announced on Tuesday, here is the list of the Top 10 Sluggers in Baseball.
To date, Major League Baseball and State Farm have announced only six of what will eventually be eight participants in this year's Home Run Derby. They are:
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays
Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers
Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
Honorable Mention: It is important to recognize that in 2010, we are watching the sun set on the careers of some of the most feared sluggers of all time.
And while they are not current amongst the most feared sluggers in the game today, any list of great sluggers baseball without even a passing reference to these guys would be incomplete, at best.
Thus, we remember the exploits of Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Jason Giambi, and the recently retired Ken Griffey Jr..
When Pena is on, he's worth about 40 home runs and a .250 batting average.
When Pena is slumping, he can still take an opposing pitcher out of the park despite not being able to hit his weight.
All Pena does is swing for the fences, and it has made him a major league All-Star.
The last National Leaguer to hit 50 home runs in a season, Prince Fielder is scary in part because he is as wide as he is tall. When he gets his momentum behind a ball, he crushes it.
Though he is off to a slow start—OK, a slow half—for the Brewers in 2010, Prince's career average for 162 games is 38 home runs, and last year his 46 home runs were second only to Albert Pujols in all of baseball.
Speaking of Home Run Derbies, Josh Hamilton put on one of the greatest power displays of all time in 2008 when he crushed 28 home runs in the opening round of the Home Run Derby, beating the previous record of 24 set by Bobby Abreu.
As for regular season contests, Hamilton is regularly amongst the league leaders in home runs when healthy, as he was when he finished eighth in the league in home runs in 2008, and as he is now, tied for second in the AL with 20.
Mark Reynolds comes from the Dave Kingman school of home run hitting: grip it and rip, situation or outcome be damned.
After finishing fourth in the NL in home runs last season with an even 40, Reynolds is currently third in the NL with 19 dongs.
All of this despite the fact that he is hitting just .220 with a major league leading 113 strikeouts and a .484 slugging percentage.
This is a guy who, if he could make contact with the ball even 30 percent of the time, would hit 60 home runs per year.
The 2008 American League leader in home runs, Cabrera has 229 career dongs, averaging 33 per 162 games, despite the fact that he has spent his career in two of the most spacious ballparks in baseball, Florida's Joe Robbie Stadium (or whatever they're calling it this month) and Detroit's Comerica Park.
He currently has 20 home runs, which is good for second in the majors, along with a major league leading .631 slugging percentage. His eight intentional walks, the ultimate sign of respect for power, currently lead the AL.
What boggles the mind is this: he is only 27 years old.
Everyone's newest favorite player coming off his All-Star snub, Votto is currently leading the National League, and is tied for the major-league lead, with 21 home runs.
He also leads the NL with a .418 OBP, a .599 slugging percentage, a 1.017 OPS, a 169 OPS+, and 173 total bases.
Maybe next year, Joey.
Adrian Gonzalez, the 28-year-old first baseman for the upstart San Diego Padres, had 153 career home runs in four-and-a-half full seasons and small parts of two others. His 162 game average for home runs is 32.
But consider this: Gonzalez plays in the most pitcher-friendly stadium in baseball, Petco Park. For his career, he has hit 97 home runs on the road vs. just 56 at home.
Let's put this in better perspective: out of 40 total home runs in 2009, Gonzalez hit 28 at home. This means that if Gonzalez had been playing in a pitcher-neutral park in 2009, he likely would have hit 56 or more home runs.
Don't even think about pitching to him if you're the home team when the Padres come to town.
Does Adam Dunn hit for average? No.
Does Adam Dunn protect the plate? No.
Will Adam Dunn ever have a four-hit game, or help a team win a game playing station-to-station?
But the big 6'6" left-hander will knock the proverbial snot out of the ball, as he did in 2005 when he hit a home run that left the Great American Ballpark and ended up on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.
Rarely has the phrase "Power to All Fields" been more appropriate than for Ryan Howard.
When Howard comes to plate, the infield defense shifts way over, so that the third baseman is playing behind second base.
But the outfield stays put, playing straight away.
Why? Because Howard has power to all fields. He can make you pay to any part of the park.
And that is a reason to be afraid.
Here's the problem with Albert Pujols: he hits for average like Tony Gwynn, he gets on base like Wade Boggs, and he hits home runs like Harmon Killebrew.
When you have to worry about keeping him from going the other way, keeping him from getting a hit, and not walking him, that's when mistakes are made.
And Albert punishes mistakes.