Monday, July 14, 2008
Tonight is the annual Homerun Derby contest, which has become a staple at the Major League Baseball All-Star festival since the 1985 season when Dave Parker, the longtime Pittsburgh Pirates slugger but then of the Cincinnati Reds, took the contest held in Minnesota. The Homerun Derby pits a half dozen of baseball's top hitters, usually among the game's biggest sluggers, in a contest to see who can hit the most home runs before making ten 'outs', which come anytime a player swings at a pitched ball and anything other than a home run occurs. Chase Utley of my hometown Philadelphia Phillies, and my personal favorite player in the game today, will be taking part. Chase is currently 3rd in all of baseball with 25 home runs at the break, trailing only teammate Ryan Howard and Cincy's Adam Dunn. He will be trying to become the 3rd Phillie in the past 4 years to win the contest. Howard took the honors back in 2006, and Bobby Abreu won in 2005 when he was still with the Phils. The only multiple winner has been living legend Ken Griffey Jr, who won the contest in 1994, '98 & '99. Many of the games greatest players over the past two decades have won the contest at one time or another including Barry Bonds (96), Frank Thomas (95), Mark McGwire (92), and Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr (91) & Ryne Sandberg (90). The '86 contest is the only one to end in a tie (Darryl Strawberry & Wally Joyner), while the '88 contest was cancelled due to rain. The reigning champion is Angels superstar outfielder Vlad Guerrero, but he will not be taking part, so a new champ will be crowned in tonight's action at legendary Yankee Stadium. This is the final season at the classic "House that Ruth Built", and it's notoriously short right-field porch should beckon to some of the top lefties such as Utley. Lance Berkman of the Astros is having a great season, and has participated four times previously, so he would seem to be a favorite. Also as a fave would be Twins slugger Justin Morneau, the only person who competed in last year's event who is back again. Morneau is a lefty, and so he could make a serious run. But my own pick will be a battle between Utley and the man who I believe will be the eventual winner. That prediction is for Texas Rangers feel-good story, outfielder Josh Hamilton (pictured), to add his name to the winners circle. It should be a fun event, especially in New York as we all begin to say goodbye to Yankee Stadium.