The All-Star break is here, which means that the Home Run Derby is here. The Derby has, for me, had a weird parallel/perpendicular path to the Dunk Contest during NBA All-Star Weekend. One of the Dunk Contest's core problems in the last five or ten years has been the complete lack of star-wattage involved. Dwight Howard competed a few years ago, sure, but this season, a guy named Jeremy Evans competed. No, wait, he won. A guy named Jeremy Evans won the Dunk Contest and I've literally never heard of him in my life. This might not be remarkable to you, because you're not an NBA fan, but I am an NBA fan. I know who players are. I watch the TNT and ESPN games with some frequency. I play fantasy (and tend to play it quite well with my co-manager Migs).
The lowest-profile Derby competitor, by contrast, is Mark Trumbo, and even he has "finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting last year" on his resume. The other seven guys are legit stars, household names as far as baseball goes. The MLB equivalent of the NBA's dunk contest would feature a Derby roster as follows:
For the American League: Jonny Gomes, Trevor Plouffe, Chris Davis, and Cody Ross.
For the National League: Adam LaRoche, Tyler Colvin, Jed Lowrie, and Paul Goldschmidt.
See, there are some legit power-hitters in there, right? Some guys you'd expect to go yard a lot in a Derby? And yet nobody would tune in to watch this! Nobody wants to see Jed Lowrie vs. Cody Ross in the Home Run Derby. No, baseball has it right, despite the Derby coming with those "changed swing mechanics" that parallel the NBA's "going to hurt my knees jumping that hard" excuse that stars use to get out of the Dunk Contest. Baseball has legit, marketable stars in the Derby.
So why have I come to mostly disregard the thing? Three reasons come to mind, the first two of which are ripped directly off from Ian and Riley at the PRODCAST, which you really ought to be listening to:
- It's really long. So long. Oh my god how long it takes. I don't have time for this!
- Chris Berman. backbackbackbackbackbackbackbackback /dies
The sharpest contrast to dunking is this: home runs are at heart routine. All of baseball is, at heart, routine, except for those occasional rare moments of spontaneity on defense that produce remarkable athletic creativity on par with similar displays in other sports. The Dunk Contest is full of guys trying to do something you haven't seen before (though of course one huge complaint is that there isn't anything we haven't seen before), to wow you with a dazzling display of inventiveness combined with sheer skill and force. The Derby? It's full of guys swinging the bat real hard a bunch of times in a row. They're not doing anything different from what they do nearly every single time they come to the plate. They're just doing it with low stakes and a compliant pitcher.
Maybe there's something to be said for the numbness one experiences upon seeing David Ortiz hit his 18th homer of the second round, three hours into the contest, but I'm not going to be the one to say it.
If I had to give a recommendation, I would steal from an old version of Triple Play Baseball for, I believe, the OG PlayStation—longest cumulative home-run distance wins. The best part of the Derby is seeing the ball fly 480 feet off of some enormous slugger's bat, right? So why not let that count more than the 360-foot wall-scraper? ESPN is estimating these distances in real time anyway, so unless there's some persistent bias in these measurements that would undermine the integrity of the contest (cough), the technology to accomplish this rule-change seems to already exist.
And now the daily recap:
Pitcher of the night: Bartolo Colon, 8 2/3 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K
Yeah, it's the Mariners, but check this out: 93 pitches, 79 strikes. Isn't that completely incomprehensible? He threw something very close to a complete game (though it wouldn't have been complete in this case—the teams went 13) and only had fourteen pitches called balls. We have all seen innings in which a pitcher has thrown 14 balls. Hell, one time I saw Oliver Perez throw fourteen balls in one at-bat.
Hitter of the night: Neil Walker, 5/5, 2B, HR
Andrew McCutchen (see below) also had a great night, but who can resist the "five-for-five"? Maybe it's time to start applying a Tim Lincecum discount, though. If your extra-base hits all come against the Giants' floppy-haired starter, maybe you apply a 15% reduction to the number of total bases you earned on the night. So in thise case, Walker drops from nine to 7.65. Acceptable?
Defensive play of the night:
Injuries of note:
Nick Hagadone, who was just optioned to AAA by the Indians, inflicted an injury on his own hand. This apparently qualified him for the disqualified list—he will not be paid as long as he is there, which is unfortunate for him because he might be there the rest of the season.
Relatedly, Hanley Ramirez left the Marlins' game with a cut on his finger that he sustained whilst punching a fan. A cooling fan! The kind that blows air! Calm down.
Brett Lawrie left Saturday's game early and missed all of Sunday's with a tight back.
Giancarlo Stanton had knee surgery on Sunday. Four to six weeks is the official word.
Yoenis Cespedes sprained his thumb sliding into second.
AP lede I don't understand of the night:
"Ryan Dempster is too busy watching "Swamp People" to see the stories about him being possible trade bait. He's pitching too well, though, to know that he might be in another uniform by the end of the month."
Hmmmmmm of the night:
"Chicago manager Robin Ventura was ejected in the top of the ninth after charging to the plate to heatedly argue a ball and strike call with home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn.
Ventura was not available to comment after the game because he had to catch a flight for the break -- something that was announced before the game."
I see how it is.
Ozzie of the night:
Re: the Hanley Ramirez injury described above: "A very stupid injury. Very immature, very immature. You hurt yourself because you can't hit? Good hitters don't do that."
Rays: Carlos Pena, 2/5, 3 Ks, 1 3B
The triple tied the game in the ninth and was Pena's first three-bagger since ... oh, last year. Darn.
Indians: Casey Kotchman, 3/5, HR, 3 RBI
The man has a .299 OBP on the season, so let's give him shout-outs when we can, hm?
Tigers: Jhonny Peralta, 3/4, 2 2B, HR
You can't argue with eight total bases in four trips to the plate. Well, you could, but why would you? You'd lose.
Cubs: Team with RISP: 4/5
Only Anthony Rizzo failed to come through in the clutch. Dusty Baker would've had him keelhauled and then demoted.
Mets: Daniel Murphy, 3/4, SB
It was all singles, but he stole a base and he managed to see just eight pitches in those four trips, so it's worth mentioning. It's amusing. Come on, guys, where are you going?
Braves: Michael Bourn, 2/5, SB
The steal was Bourn's 25th of the year, which is third in the league. It was not so long ago that multiple players with this many steals at the All-Star break would have caused us all some measure of surprise because of the de-emphasis of steals due to the high scoring environment. (It's possible this statement isn't true. Maybe three guys stole 50 to 60 bases in 2001. But it feels true.)
Phillies: Jason Pridie, 2/3, 2B, HR
Of course it's that Jason Pridie. Do you know any others?
Nationals: Ian Desmond, 2/4, HR, 2 SB
The Nats victimized the Rockies for six steals, with two each by Bryce Harper, Roger Bernadina, and Desmond. The homer was Desmond's 17th of the year, so a 20/20 season is well in reach for the shortstop.
Giants: Tim Lincecum, 3 1/3 innings, 7 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR
At some point, he's going to go under the knife, right? This can't continue.
Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, 3/5, 2 HR
Getting warmed up for the Derby isn't such a bad idea.
Brewers: Ryan Braun, 2/4, 2B, BB, 2 2B
One of the steals was of third, which is a pretty awesome thing for a guy whose slugging percentage is just south of .600 to do.
Blue Jays: Colby Rasmus, 2/4, 2B, HR, 2 BB
Rasmus hasn't gotten on base like you'd hope this year (.328 OBP), but the power is there (.494 SLG). Oh, and the Blue Jays saw 211 pitches in their game with the White Sox.
White Sox: Alex Rios, 3/5, 2 2B, HR
Did you know that Rios is hitting .318/.352/.522? That's really good! I thought Rios was awful.
Marlins: Heath Bell, 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 1 K
That was good enough to lose the game in the ninth. Again. Nice signing, guys.
Cardinals: Joe Kelly, 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 5 K
I don't know who the hell Joe Kelly is or how he got away with a five-walk game in six innings. But he exists and it happened.
Angels: Brad Mills, 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K
When "spot-starts to get us to the All-Star break intact" go horribly awr-- wait.
Mariners: Felix Hernandez, 7 2/3 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K
The three walks were a bit uncharacteristic, but the one run while pitching into the eighth is pretty much what you're going to get from Felix against the A's every single time.
Reds: Weird thing: Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce each stole a base in this game, and each steal was the fifth of the season for that player.
Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt, 2/3, 2B, HR, BB
You don't think "25 doubles at the break" when you think "Paul Goldschmidt," but that's what he's got. Trevor Bauer only allowed two hits in six innings, by the way.
Twins: Nine hits in thirteen innings, all singles. Way not to support Cole DeVries (7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 R) you guys.
Rangers: Ian Kinsler, 4/7
All singles. No steals, no walks, nothin'. I love lines like that.
Yankees: Ivan Nova, 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 10 K
Nova's last double-digit strikeout outing was also a six-inning affair, this one back in May against the Reds.
Red Sox: Pedro Ciriaco, 3/4
Ciriaco is filling in for Dustin Pedroia. That's a pretty good imitation, even if it's all singles.