2010 Home Run Derby: Where Have All The Sluggers Gone?
After watching Monday's Home Run Derby, I couldn't help but notice the names on the board just didn't carry the anticipation and ambiance of years gone by.
David Ortiz certainly has his place in history as a clutch power hitter in one of the most storied venues in all of baseball. However, he must have had the same feeling Yao Ming has standing amongst his fellow countrymen.
Ortiz stood a head and shoulder above the competition, and although the other competitors hit some deep dingers, there has certainly been some premiere, although likely juiced up, sluggers who outrank this year's competition.
Here is a list of the Top 10 Home Run Derby participants of the last 20 years who made the event more exciting than it is today.
10. Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod appeared in three Home Run Derbies ('98, '01, '02), two with the Texas Rangers and one with the Seattle Mariners.
Rodriguez only hit a combined nine home runs in the competition, but garners a ranking for a higher volume of participation.
The slugger is another speedy infielder-turned power hitter on the list, and brought in quite a crowd while participating in All-Star break festivities.
9. Ryan Howard
The lefty power hitter has followed the lead of past HRD champions, as 12 of the last 15 winners have been left-handed hitters.
Howard won the derby in 2006 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. He hit 23 home runs total in that competition, beating out fellow National Leaguer David Wright by one home run.
With eight home runs in the first round and ten in the second, the crowd was on its feet in admiration.
Howard continues to be a premier power hitter in the bigs, and no one will forget his HRD performance just a few years ago.
8. Jason Giambi
Although Giambi only participated in three derbies consecutively, he topped the 20-home run mark each time, including 24 in 2002, when he was the winner.
Putting this list together required a non-bias opinion due to the fact that with Giambi added to this list, there are a total of five known steroid users in the top ten.
However, in the era at which these athletes played, steroids were not-well researched nor outlawed by MLB.
Giambi was a clutch piece to the Athletics and most certainly the Yankees in the early to mid-2000's, and in my opinion he deserves his place on this list and in the history books, but will probably be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
7. Frank Thomas
Although Thomas was outhit in total home runs by Albert Belle in 1995 at the Ballpark in Arlington, he captured his title as Derby Champ.
He competed in two contests, hitting a combined 20 home runs, a large number for the era while competing against names like Manny Ramirez, Mo Vaughn, Raul Mondesi, and Sammy Sosa.
6. Barry Bonds
When Bonds first came into the league with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was known primarily as a base stealer with decent power.
However, over the years he stopped taking bags one at a time and began rounding the bases on a single swing.
Bonds participated in six HRD's from 1992 through 2004. Bonds was only crowned champion one time (1996), but his ability to remain a fixture in the competition is what warrants him a ranking on this list, not to mention all the home runs he's hit when it actually counted.
The single-season leader for home runs with 73, Bonds is forever in the record books, and forever a name thrown in to the discussions of the use of asterisks in the those very books for his steroid use.
5. Mark McGwire
By now, we all know McGwire had a little extra to his power, but in his time he electrified crowds in sold-out ballparks across the country with his ability to hit the long ball.
From his time in Oakland as a Bash Brother with Jose Canseco to setting the single-season home run record as a St. Louis Cardinal, McGwire's best Home Run performance was in the 1999 derby at Fenway Park.
The Green Monster makes every home run that much more special, and McGwire was able to belt 16 of them, and he didn't even make it to the final round!
In the format of the late 90's, the derby champion had to win each round in order to advance. McGwire hit an eye-popping 13 in the first round, but was only able to muster 3 in the second round, getting beaten out by Jeromy Burnitz and Ken Griffey Jr.
But for that first round, everyone stood in awe as one after the other skied over the monster and onto the streets of Boston.
4. Bobby Abreu
Of the single Derby performances in history, Abreu's ranks almost at the top. Not known as a pure slugger, Abreu banged out 41 bombs over three rounds in 2005 while on his way to winning the competition.
What makes his feat even more impressive is the venue in which he hit them. Detroit's Comerica Park is infamous for the strange dimensions of the outfield and a flag pole in the field of play in left-center field.
The beautiful backdrop of the Motor City coupled with the ball in high flight off the bat of Abreu is certainly one of the shining moments in this event's history.
The icing on the cake: Abreu received his trophy on behalf of his native Venezuela.
3. Sammy Sosa
Although Sosa's image has been forever tarnished by steroid use, no one can forget the chase to beat Roger Maris' mark for single-season home runs and the competition between Slammin' Sammy and Mark McGwire.
Sammy also participated in several Home Run Derbies in the mid-90's and early 2000's.
Sosa participated in a total of five HRD's in his career, winning it all in 2000 at Turner Field in Atlanta.
That year Sosa hit 26 home runs, including 11 in Round 2 while a member of the Chicago Cubs.
Sammy went on to hit 50 home runs that season, one of four years in which he hit 50 or more home runs.
2. Josh Hamilton
No individual Home Run Derby participant has ever hit as many home runs in a single year as Josh Hamilton's 35 in 2008 at Yankee Stadium.
On one of the world's biggest stages, Hamilton recorded one for the ages that all other HRDs are now being compared to.
Hamilton hit an astounding 28 home runs in the opening round, also a HRD record.
Near the end of his round, Hamilton poured it on with blast after blast while onlookers stood in amazement and disbelief.
His performance in this competition may never be matched again, and for this reason, he is near the top of the list.
1. Ken Griffey Jr.
Junior participated in eight derbies in his amazing career, and provided a spark in just about every one of them.
Griffey was crowned champion three times including back-to-back titles ('98, '99) and a two-round playoff loss to Juan Gonzalez in 1993.
In his career, Griffey has hit over 600 home runs and is a fan favorite for his all-out effort style of play.
Most notably, he is considered one of the best "pure" sluggers of all time, having never tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.
With his career stats, high number of Derby participations, and ability to send crowds into a frenzy with a single swing, Griffey is crowned on this list as the best Home Run Derby participant of all time.
Honorable Mention: Albert Belle, Jim Thome & Cal Ripken Jr.
Albert Belle, Jim Thome and Cal Ripken Jr. combined for nine HRDs while Ripken won the whole thing in 1991.
Ripken also took home the All-Star game MVP that year and is one of only three players to homer in the Derby and also in the All-Star Game.
Garret Anderson accomplished that feat in 2003 and joined Ripken as the only players to hit a home run in the Derby, a home run in the All-Star game, and be crowned All-Star game MVP.