2011 State Farm Home Run Derby: 1 Wild Swing, then a Golden Blast
From spinning golden orbs to a basic “pick me” format for the participants of the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby, Major League Baseball has tried to bring a few more entertaining and exciting ideas to the forefront for their showcase Mid-Season Classic. But like a sharply hit ball down into hardened clay, M L B has committed at least one error on the play.
“Buddy System” Team Format is Kaput
By deciding to appoint two League Captains, Brewers Price Fielder and Red Sox David Ortiz, it was thought the process might instill some added excitement. Instead it is ended up looking more like those dreaded “pick-Me” games we all experienced as kids on the Nation’s sandlots. Cliche’s do form within Leagues, and that apparently has made it way into the hallowed H R Derby.
Sure the team’s picked have power, resilience and even a bit of history competing in this event, but some elements are missing, like a hometown guy getting a chance to impress the home folks.
Several years ago when the game was in St. Louis, Albert Pujols held court and brought the entire Nation into his love fest. Why didn’t Fielder possibly pick Diamondback Justin Upton as a Home Run participant, he does have the swagger and swing to line up against this bunch of competitors. Shouldn’t D-backs star Upton get the same hometown privilege?
If you look at the scheduled teams, from each League, more than a few “friendships” seem to creep into the selection process. For the American League, Ortiz picked Boston teammate Adrian Gonzalez. That by itself doesn’t seem harmless, but is well within the scope of powerful swings that could send more than a few balls spinning high into the night sky.
Ortiz then selected two fellow Dominican Republic stars from American League East divisional rivals, New York Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano, and Toronto’s Jose Bautista. The selection of Bautista is warranted considering his slam-tastic 2010 season, and his 31 Home Runs in 2010 make him a viable threat of launching one towards the Moon with every swing.
But the selection of the charismatic Dominican Cano might be reaching a bit here. Sure Cano has hit 14 round tippers, but that total is easily shadowed by his own pinstripe teammates Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixera who each have 25 dingers coming into Sunday’s final games before the break.
The “Buddy” system seems alive and well in the A L East thanks to Ortiz for the Home Run Derby. Possibly mixing it up a bit and including Texas Nelson Cruz ( 20 HR) or maybe even Final Vote winner White Sox’s Paul Korneko (22 HR) would make a more well-rounded squad.
But Fielder also made a few visible faux pas of his own by looking past Upton who might only have the same number of Home Runs (15) as his older brother B J at this moment. But this All Star Game is Arizona’s time to shine, and omitting Upton to the Home Run Derby party just seems wrong in so many ways.
Fielder also included his Brewers teammate Rickie Weeks in the pot along with Cardinals OF Matt Holiday to making a 3-man NL Central core to his squad. Only Dodger Matt Kemp has kept this from also being an exclusive squad within both Fielder’s and Ortiz’s divisions. Missing from Fielder’s choices are guys like Lance Bergman (24 HR) or even perennial Home Run Derby stallion Phillies First Baseman Ryan Howard.
The change was meant to possibly include some names not usually associated with this event, but has been turned into a admiration society between the 8 competitors. That is not a bad thing to do if you are hosting a celebrity charity Home Run event, or even a golf tourney. But it doesn’t belong within the structure of the Home Run Derby. Home Run Derby contestants should be a cross-section of your League, not your friends/teammates.
How interesting that the upper echelon within the M L B office has decided to part with a bit of their Mid-Season Classic gold. More compelling is that now more M L B inspired ballhawks will be descending upon Arizona with hopes of plucking the “golden goose” from the outfield confines. I want to know who the genius was the devised dipping a panel of the M L B regulated Rawlings leather panel in a bath of 24 karat gold.
Think of the proud thrusting up of each arm as a $ 149.99 gift from the baseball Gods is delivered into their leather, nachos or even baseball cap during the “Golden” rounds of the Home Run Derby. Think of the possibility of someone swimming or snorkeling adventure within the Chase Field outdoor pool be supplemented by a possible golden orb sinking to the pool depths. Hope the lifeguard is packing a glove that night.
But in the end, the Boys and Girl’s Club will be the winners in the Golden Ball segment of the final out of each hitter’s appearance. Even as each outfield/stadium fan throws up their prize, the Boys and Girl’s Club will see their account upgraded by $ 18,000 with each Golden orb traveling beyond the walls. Make me wish I had the extra cash and time to zip right on over to hot and humid Arizona and partake in a quest for a golden orb of my own.
Only downside to the event might be the fighting and struggling for each golden missile that transcends into the stands, and hopefully at least one kid will get the treat of a lifetime with a great snag. Wonder if MLBlogs own Zack Hample has figured out the right spot, or the right angle to possibly get one of the prized Home Run Derby balls.
M L B tried two news changes to the State Farm Home Run Derby, possibly striking out with the first. The Golden Ball will go over great with the fans and the assembled army of ballhawks. They still need to work on the Home Run Derby selection process, and I will address my idea for the future selection process tomorrow. So M L B has a current 1-ball 1-strike count of them……Hopefully no fighting in the stands or goose eggs by the selected players put this event into a controversial spotlight for negative web fodder. Hopefully the event will turn out simply…….Golden.