Monday, July 11, 2016

Phillies History in the MLB Home Run Derby

The MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby has been around since 1985, which means that the greatest home run hitter in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise had an opportunity to participate.
However, Mike Schmidt never took the game up on that opportunity. This despite Schmidt being an NL All-Star in 1986-87 and even elected to the team in the year in which he retired of 1989.
It's not as if Schmidt was coasting out of his career in those years either. 
At age 35 in 1985, the only year in a nine-season stretch in which Schmidt did not make the team for the midsummer classic, he banged 33 home runs.
Then in 1986, Schmidt won the 3rd of his career NL MVP Awards while blasting an MLB-high 37 home runs. He would rip another 35 the following year.
But in that first-ever MLB Home Run Derby in 1985 at The Metrodome in Minnesota, it was Dave ParkerDale MurphySteve GarveyRyne Sandberg, and Jack Clark highlighting the proceedings.
In 1986, it was Parker, Darryl Strawberry, and Hubie Brooks for the NL in a scaled-back affair. In 1987, Andre Dawson and Ozzie Virgil, of all people, repped the senior circuit. 
There was no Home Run Derby held at Riverfront Stadium in 1988
, cancelled due to torrential rains.
When the All-Star Game came to Veteran's Stadium in the summer of 1996, the NL lineup for the Derby consisted of Jeff BagwellBarry BondsEllis BurksHenry Rodriguez, and Gary Sheffield.


The Phils' home run leader that year would be catcher Benito Santiago, who banged 30 long balls. But only closer Ricky Bottalico made the NL All-Star roster from a Phillies team that was continuing to collapse following the glorious 1993 campaign.
It wouldn't be until 2004 that the Phillies would get their first-ever representative at the Home Run Derby. 
At Minute Maid Park in Houston, big free agent signing Jim Thome was leading baseball with 28 homers at the break. But Thome lofted just four balls out of the park in the contest, and was out after the first round.
The following year of 2005 at Comerica Park in Detroit would prove the Phillies first victory. 
With 18 homers at the break, right fielder Bobby Abreu was middle-of-the-pack among the participants. But Abreu would put on a show, smashing 24 first round homers en route to a record 41 total to win the crown.


The 2006 Home Run Derby at PNC Park in Pittsburgh would be yet another Phillies showcase, this one as part of the Ryan Howard coming out party. 
'The Big Piece' was in his first full MLB season, leading baseball with 28 homers at the break, and on his way to the NL MVP Award when he edged out the Mets' David Wright by 23-22 in the finals to take the crown.


Howard would return to defend that crown in 2007 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. But Howard, along with the contest's co-favorite Prince Fielder, was knocked out when he came up short in the first round, putting just three homers over the wall.
In 2008 at Yankee Stadium in New York, the Phillies would have a rep for the fifth straight season. 
This time it was 2nd baseman Chase Utley, who was leading baseball with 25 homers at the break in a season that would, of course, culminate in a World Series crown.
But Chase was able to deposit just five balls into the stands, knocked out in the first round that featured Josh Hamilton blasting 28 homers to break Abreu's single-round record.


In 2009 at Busch Stadium in his hometown of Saint Louis, Howard was back for another crack at it. He ripped seven in the first round, advanced to the second, and led that round with eight homers. 
However, his 15 total left him just short of both Fielder and Nelson Cruz. They each had blasted 11 in the opening round and 17 and 16 total respectively, and advanced to the Finals.
And despite the Phillies continuing their winning ways over the next couple of years, that would prove to be the last time that a slugger from the team was invited to participate.
Howard would lead the team with 31 bombs in 2010, while Jayson Werth had 27. In 2011, Howard banged another 33, with Raul Ibanez' 20 as the next highest.
In 2013, Domonic Brown made the NL All-Star roster thanks to a red-hot stretch in which he ripped 16 homers between May 2nd and June 8th. 
But despite his 23 homers at the break, Brown hit just four more in the 33 games leading to the All-Star Game, and was not invited.
No Phillies player has been out of the mid-20's in homers over a full season since Howard's last big year of 2011. 
Who will be the next Phillies slugger to get an invitation to the MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby? Perhaps in the next couple of years, 3rd baseman Maikel Franco will have a big first half, and find himself taking a shot.


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