Look, I'm certainly no Home-Run-ologist, I'm a photographer by trade. You don't need to be a MLB sanctioned authoritative figure however to realize that this is the weakest group of HR participants assembled since MLB officially sanctioned the competition and made it a regular part of the All-Star festivities in 1985.
Bob Harvey at SBRFORUM.com has an interesting article out on betting on tonight's participants. How is it that only two of the top ten HR hitters this year are in the competition? Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton, Adam Dunn, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero, Paul Konerko...... these guys are all in the top ten. They aren't worthy? There are 49 players that have more HR's than Hanley Ramirez, none of them are worthy?
Tonight competition is a joke with only two or three participants that "people pay to see."
The field rounds out as follows: Miguel Cabrera, Corey Hart (not the singer), Vernon Wells, David Ortiz (weren't the Red Sox about to release him a few weeks back?), Matt Holliday, Nick Swisher, Chris Young, and Hanley Ramirez.
It's a pretty lame field as you can see....
The only thing I could think of when I saw the field is who the worst participants I've seen were. In no particular order, here are a few of my "All-Time Misplaced HR Derby Participants."
Damion Easley - Coors Field, Denver, '98
While DEFINITELY NOT a HR hitter, Easley had 19 HR's in the first half of '98, so I guess that's why he was in. When you think of the fact that there are eight players who have more than that at the break this year who are NOT in, that makes this year's crop of participants even more of a joke. I guess Adam Dunn isn't as much of a HR hitter as Easley was.......... Oh, Two HR's for Easley in '98.
B.J. Surhoff - Fenway Park, Boston, '99
Surhoff, though, had 20 for the Orioles at the break in '99 - which doesn't make a whole lot of sense by itself for a guy with a career slugging percentage of .413 - until you realize that everyone had 20 at the break in '99. Give the guy this: he hit twice as many homers - two - as Sammy Sosa hit in the derby.
Chris Sabo - Skydome, Toronto, '91.
The goggles were cute but they didn't help him. Total HR's = 0.
Hee-Seop Choi - Comerica Park, Detroit, '05
To promote the upcoming World Baseball Classic, MLB changed the derby format to pit players from different countries against each other. Like war! The NL and AL rosters oozed with North and South American talent, but what of the Far East Question? Hideki Matsui didn't make the squad and probably went on vacation, Ichiro probably refused to participate and Kenji Johjima was still in Japan, which left MLB with a Hobson's Choice - either just don't represent Asia, or pick a guy who's not of All-Star breeding. "We must have Asians!" Bud Selig said (no he didn't), so they picked the Dodgers' Choi, a nice lug from Korea who Jack McKeon always thought was from China. He was technically a power hitter - in the sense that Jose Canseco is a writer - and he hit five home runs in the derby, but c'mon. If Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Brunei et all REALLY would have been offended being left out of the derby, then we just should have said no to the United Nations angle.
Jason Bay - Comerica Park, Detroit, '05
Most thought it would be tough to knock homers out of the vast expanses of Comerica and it was - at least for Bay, who hit zero. The Pirates' Bay was representing Canada in the United Nations version of the derby. Both the concept and Bay were a flop. No HR's for you Jason..... One wonders whether this embarrassment was a catalyst for him becoming an American citizen.
Garret Anderson - U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago, '03
The fact that Anderson - who never managed more than 35 dingers for the Angels in any BALCO-era season - actually WON his derby makes no difference. His selection is as curious as the decision his parents made to let him go through life with an incomplete first name. Also, if they ever have a "Line Drive To The Opposite Field" contest, or a "Never, Ever, Ever Say Anything That Gets Quoted In A Newspaper" contest, derby's like that would fit him to a T - but not two T's!
Ray Lankford - Jacobs Field, Cleveland, '97
Not a HR hitter by any metric. He went deep twice.
Hank Blalock - Minute Maid Park, Houston, '04
Hank for the Rangers in '04 hit a lot of homers for a third baseman. The main reason he was added to the derby in '04 probably was because he won the 2003 All-Star Game with a homer against Eric Gagne (yes, it used to be hard to do!) Hank hit three homers (as did Big Papi, to be fair) at the Juice Box.
Ellis Burks - Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, '96
Before moving to 5,200 feet above sea level, his best home-run output had been 21 in hitter-friendly Fenway in 1990. One HR for Burks in the '96 Derby.
Steve Garvey - Metrodome, Minneapolis, '85
The derby was in its first year, so it certainly could use the "I was young, I didn't know what I was doing, I needed the money" defense. But it already had some great power names of the time - Jim Rice, Eddie Murray, Dale Murphy, Carlton Fisk, Jack Clark and Dave Parker, who won the whole thing. Known also for his big forearms, friendly grin and reportedly an uncommon ability to procreate, Garvey did reach the 30-homer plateau - in 1977! - but by the mid-'80s, he shouldn't have been at an All-Star Game, unless it was to do color commentary. He had hit eight, count 'em, eight homers in '84 and an OK 13 at the break for the Padres in '85. Darryl Strawberry, Tim Wallach, Terry Kennedy, Greg Nettles - heck any of them would have been better for the derby. Garvey's fruit bore two homers at the HumpDome.
If you've got any lame past participants you can think of, let me know.
As for this year, it looks as if Miguel Cabrera is favored to win at 11/4 with Big Papi a close second at 3/1. Me, I'm rooting for the mega All-Star that every young boy idolizes, .... Nick Swisher. - David Fry
David is an independent sports photographer currently covering MLB. David will be reporting on his observations as he sees them in stadiums throughout the year.
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