Monday, July 15, 2013

My dream derby

If you're a baseball fan, you probably already know about tonight's Home Run Derby festivities.

It's a nice little precursor to the following day's All-Star Game. While winning the Derby doesn't get the victor's league home field advantage or any of that jazz, it's still a fun event.

Although I've always thought the actual rules for the event are a tad more complicated than necessary (I'm still not one hundred percent clear on which homers carry over to the following round), it fills a very primitive need for a lot of baseball fanatics.

While I love seeing a good sacrifice bunt or a perfectly executed hit-and-run, I'd be lying if I didn't enjoy seeing guys blast mammoth dingers from time to time.

Trouble is, that need gets quenched for me about 20 minutes into the Derby. After that, I can't say I pay much attention to the event.

I guess I can understand why Pirate fans would be angered about NL captain David Wright picking Michael Cuddyer over the up-and-coming Pedro Alvarez for the event, but, after all, it is just an exhibition. (Alvarez eventually got in due to an injury to CarGo, anyways.)

It'd take a lot to get me legitimately interested in a Home Run Derby. If I had the ability to select any players from any era of baseball history, well, then I'd certainly have my eyes glued to the TV.

After some thought, this is what I'd deem my "Dream Derby".

National League

Competitor #1 -- Hank Aaron

For the first of four National League selections, I'd have to go with Henry Louis Aaron.

With 755 career four-baggers, the man is the legitimate all-time home run king in my eyes. (I could write a whole post on that topic, but we'll hold off on that for now.)

If you stop and look at the numbers, Aaron was probably the most consistent home run hitter in history.

His 755 career dingers are even more jaw-dropping when you consider the fact that he never hit more than 47 in any single season. Still, he hit at least 20 every year from 1955 to 1974.

If those aren't stellar Derby credentials, I don't know what are.

Competitor #2 -- Willie Mays

The first two National League selections weren't all that difficult for me.

Aaron and Mays are both no-brainers.

Many consider Willie Mays to be the best all-around player in big league history. I tend to be of that mindset as well.

While he had exceptional speed and Gold Glove ability in center, the man could hit homers like nobody's business. His 660 career taters still ranks fourth on the all-time list.

As the above card shows, Mays is one of the extreme few to have a four-homer game under his belt as well.

Although I remember watching him on old Home Run Derby episodes on ESPN Classic as a kid, I'd love to see what a guy like Mays would do in today's game. He'd still be able put on a show in today's Derby.

I don't think there's much doubting that.

Competitor #3 -- Dave Kingman

This is where the real fun of my "Dream Derby" starts.

While baseball history has probably seen dozens and dozens of better home run hitters than Dave Kingman, "Kong" is my third nominee for the National League Derby roster.

His 442 career jacks are good for 38th on the all-time list. However, if someone were to break down the average home run distance throughout the annals of baseball, I'm sure Kingman would rank somewhere near the top.

I doubt "Kong" hit many cheap dingers in his career. I've seen the clip of him clubbing a homer into the front porch of a house across the street from Wrigley many times in the past.

I can't imagine what he'd be able to do in a Home Run Derby.

Competitor #4 -- Gavvy Cravath

This, I think, would be the best part of my "Dream Derby".

I'd absolutely love to see how some of the dead ball era's sluggers would stack up in today's game.

Before a guy named Ruth came along, Gavvy Cravath was likely the greatest home run hitter in baseball.

He either tied or held the NL lead in homers for six of seven seasons between 1913 and 1919, hitting a career-best 24 in 1915. (By the way, his eight homers in 1918 were best in the Senior Circuit.)

Besides having one of the coolest names in history, Clifford "Gavvy" Cravath would be an absolute treat to watch in today's game.

I think he'd be able to knock a couple out of the park, too.

American League

Competitor #1 -- Babe Ruth


Not much of a surprise here.

As the man who officially made home runs a "thing" in the game of baseball, George Herman Ruth would be the man I'd most want to see in a "Dream Derby".

His 29 homers in 1919 were more than most American League teams that year. His 54 dingers the following year were almost four times more than the National League leader, Cy Williams. (Williams led with 15 that season.)

The staggering stats simply go on and on and on.

Although it's since been broken, his 714 career homers will forever live on in the minds of baseball fans around the world. It's still one of the first numbers I think of when it comes to this great game.

My money would be on "The Babe" to win the whole thing.

Competitor #2 -- Mickey Mantle

Another no-brainer here.

Besides the owning the longest homer in big league history (as you can see on the front of this Mantle masterpiece), "The Mick" was easily one of the best hitters this game has ever seen.

A lot of people wonder how much better Mantle could've been had he not been bothered by injuries for much of his career. I try not to dwell on that too much. His 536 career homers are still good for 16th on the all-time list.

No matter how you look at it, "The Mick" remains one of the most hallowed legends in baseball history.

Competitor #3 -- Ichiro Suzuki

From what I've read, Ichiro has had opportunities to participate in the Derby in the past.

Not surprisingly, though, he turned them down. For a guy that prides himself on mainly being a singles hitter, one can certainly see why.

Ichiro's power numbers don't necessarily jump off the page. A .418 slugging percentage and 110 career homers in 13 seasons are fairly modest stats in today's game.

Over the years, though, one thing has become obvious to me. If he wanted to, Ichiro could certainly knock quite a few out of the park. While he doesn't do it often, his home run swings are things of beauty.

Power just isn't his game, though. As a throwback to the singles hitters of the dead ball era, it has been an absolute pleasure to watch Ichiro on a day-in, day-out basis over the past decade-plus. I'll be telling my kids about him one day.

Still, I can't help but wonder how he'd fare in a Derby.

Competitor #4 -- Justin Verlander

My dad first alerted me to Justin Verlander's campaign to be in the Home Run Derby a few weeks ago.

While his efforts were largely tongue-in-cheek, I couldn't help but wonder...

What if?

What if a pitcher somehow took part in the Derby?

In reality, no captain would ever choose a hurler to be on their side of the festivities. Even if Verlander had donated a kidney to Robinson Cano, I doubt he'd ever seriously consider Verlander as a nominee.

And, even if some fun-seeking captain way down the road did pick a pitcher for the Derby, I can't see the hurler's franchise allowing such a thing. It just wouldn't fly.

Justin Verlander's career hitting stats consist of 33 plate appearances. Thus far, he carries a .000 batting average and a .000 OBP in 24 official at-bats.

In my "Dream Derby", though, he'd get his moment in the sun.

And it wouldn't even have to be Justin Verlander. It could be any pitcher, American League or National League.

I just think it'd be a blast to watch.

So, although I'll be tuning in for the Derby tonight, I can't seem to get all that excited about it. (For the record, though, I'm picking Yoenis Cespedes to win.)

I'm not against the competition or anything. Like I said, it's still a fun little exhibition for players and fans alike.

I just think it could be a whole lot better.

Until then, I'll hang onto my thoughts of a "Dream Derby".


hiflew said...

I think it would be great to have the 8 best hitting pitchers have a "Pitcher's Derby" that can take place before the real Derby. As far as them getting hurt, they are elite professional athletes and people need to stop pretending that pitchers are 80 year old grandmothers made of glass.

As far as the real Derby goes, I will pick David Wright to win.

petethan said...

And I thought Gavvy Cravath would be the surprise participant until I got to the end of the post!

Here's what I'd like to see: Go full-on retro and cover the thing by emulating the old Home Run Derby TV show from the '60s. Do it in black & white, have the announcer (NOT Berman) interview the other players at a desk while he's calling the action. Maybe next time the ASG is at Wrigley...

Backstop Cards said...

The idea of a "Pitcher's Derby" reminds me of what we had at the end of some of our track and field meets: the "Fat Man" Relay. We'd have the guys that did the throwing (discus and shot put) race against each other. Good times.

Fuji said...

Nice Cespedes prediction! I'm stoked that he ended up winning it. As for dream derby, I'd love to see Hank Aaron go up against Sadaharu Oh.

night owl said...

"While winning the Derby doesn't get the victor's league home field advantage ..."


(Dear god, please MLB you didn't hear that).