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Tonight it’s The Exhibition Before the Exhibition: the Home Run Derby in Anaheim.
As Mark McGwire once famously asked us all, “do you want to know the terrifying truth, or would you rather see me sock a few dingers?” To which we all replied “Dingers! Dingers! Oooh! Aah!”
Then we all savagely turned on him.
Dingers, baby! Isn’t America great?
The beloved Home Run Derby ranks somewhere between the Pinewood Derby and the Kentucky Derby in the list of American Sports Derbies. Where else can you see one-dimensional muscle-bound sluggers ignore every facet of the game except for swinging for the fences, and just try to bash every pitch out of the park? (Other than every single game in the American League, that is?)
Sports fans will be tuning in to catch all the action, mostly because there is no other major sporting event going on tonight. Check here for frequent updates of all the “action.”
Representing the NL, Corey Hart from Milwaukee. Will he wear his sunglasses at night? Hart is tied for third in the NL with 21 home runs.
Matt Holliday from the Cardinals. Holliday, it would be so nice. He’s currently tied for 12th in the NL with 16 homers.
Hanley Ramirez from Florida– he’s currently tied for 27th in the National League with 13 home runs. 27th!
Chris Young from Arizona (not Chris Young the 6’10” pitcher from San Diego) He’s currently 20th in the NL with 15 HRs.
Since Robinson Cano wussed out, Nick Swisher will take his place. Swisher to me really resembles late-period Mike Greenwell. Maybe he owns a go-cart track in Florida too? Swisher currently has 15 home runs, and isn’t in the top 10 in the league in homers.
Also representing the AL tonight, Vernon Wells of the Tranna Blue Jays. Vern is currently tied for 6th in the league with 19 home runs. Does Wells have the worst contract in baseball? Who has a worse contract?
David Ortiz of the Local Nine. Ortiz is tied for 8th in the league with 18 home runs.
Miguel Cabrera from the Tigers. Cabrera in Spanish means bad-tempered, or a goat-herd. Or a bad-tempered goat-herd, I guess. Cabrera is tied for second in the AL with 22 home runs.
This time it COUNTS!
Tonight we’re blessed with 3 announcers: First, Bobby Valentine. Valentine just predicted that Red Sox slugger “Jose Ortiz” will win the Derby tonight. Nothing much else needs to be said about that. Also announcing is Internet Favorite Joe Morgan. And joining them is Chris “The Whole Nickname Thing Was Played Out A Decade Ago” Berman. Yikes.
Bo Jackson just threw out the first pitch. Since it’s a Home Run Derby, he lobs it softly over the heart of the plate.
The Home Run Derby is awesome of course, and probably could not be improved in any way. But for the hell of it, here are some changes I’d make:
1. Each batter has a teammate in the outfield who can try to jump up and reach over the wall to steal home runs from the other hitters.
2. Let inside-the-park home runs count. Every time the ball hits the ground, the hitter has to take off and try to circle the bases before being tagged out.
Chris “Not That Chris Young” Young steps in, and the Derby is under way! He’s taking quite a few pitches here, trying to work the count and possibly draw a walk. Not sure if he’s clear on how this works.
Vernon Wells is up next. After three quick outs, he finally knocks one over the wall. Vern obviously has early dinner plans for tonight, because he is hacking at everything.
With only one out left, he belts another shot out to left, but his next one falls short. Wells finishes with TWO homers. Pretty crappy, but he TAKES THE LEAD! And DOUBLES Chris Young’s total! This is starting to RULE so bad!! Now there’s a bunch of commercials.
Cory Hart is the next slugger. After an out, he starts mashing bombs. FIVE straight homers to take the lead and utterly humiliate Chris Young.
Can you imagine if instead of these clowns we had, say, Red Barber and Harry Caray announcing?
Red Barber: Oh doctor! Cory Hart is sittin’ in the catbird seat, with 12 home runs and only 8 outs.
Now, America’s Sweetheart, Alex Rodriguez joins the announcers, as his teammate Nick Swisher steps in. Rodriguez manages to come off as smarmy and unlikable even while saying completely inoffensive things. Let’s go back to Red and Harry to call the action.
Hanley Ramirez is next, as Will Ferrell joins Berman and company. Will Ferrell be able to elevate this sad crew, or will they drag him down into their own hellhole of suck?
Let’s go back to Harry Caray and Red Barber.
With one batter left– Miguel the bad-tempered goat herder– three hitters have already advanced to the next round: Cory Hart, Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz. Joining them will either be Matt Holliday, or Miguel Cabrera, if he hits more than five homers.
Cabrera steps in now. He’s sporting hair like Manny Ramirez, circa 2003, the Caribbean Harpo Marx look. In fact, he kind of looks like a cross between 2003 Manny and Pedro.
Ortiz steps in. He’s got 8 home runs, as the first round totals are added to this round. Big Papi gets off to a strong start, belting 8 homers with only two outs so far! That means he’s overtaken Hart for first place.
Ortiz continues to demolish the batting practice pitches, selfishly wasting his energy instead of saving it for the regular season. He’s up to 12 homers this round, with 3 outs left.
He drills another rocket out of the park, and finishes with a 2-round total of 21 homers, in first place by 8 over Cory Hart.
Miguel Cabrera is the next hitter. He starts this round with 7 home runs. Taking a lot of pitches– probably saving his energy– he cracks three homers while only making one out. He’s got to pass Hart’s 13 bombs to move on to the finals.
His batting practice pitcher keeps missing the strike zone. Is Home-run Derby pitcher the most thankless job in sports? You don’t get any attention until you mess up, so you can only look bad, you can never look good. What’s similar? Long snapper in football? Referee? Guy who always sets picks in basketball?
Cabrera’s slowing down a bit, now at 12 total homers with only three outs left. Two soft outs, and he’s down to his last chance. A homer will tie Hart, but an out will finish him. Alas, he flies out to a 10-year-old in center field, and finishes with 12 homers.
Cabrera’s out of the contest, and eventually even the announcers figure that out.
As we sit through more commercials, it’s time for Home Run Derby Trivia! Here’s a few questions:
Who won the first home run Derby, in 1985?
Who won the most home run Derbies?
Who hit 28 home runs in the first round one year?
Hanley “We Traded This Kid, But We Won the 2007 Series So We Can Live With It” Ramirez is next. He crushes one out to left, and “Everyone Hates Chris” Berman utterly loses it. Settle down, Beavis, it’s just a 400-foot batting practice homer.
Hanley cracks three homers while making 6 outs.
Next, Ramirez smacks a couple in a row, and now he’s up to 17 total over two rounds, four behind Ortiz. He’s in second place, ahead of Hart, who still gets to hit.
One out left for Hanley. But he crushes the next three out of the park!
Only one behind Ortiz now, and putting some pressure on Hart. And he blasts another one out! One more and he clinches a spot in the finals. But his next swing results in a grounder to the right side, and Hanley’s done with 21 bombs, same as Ortiz.
Joe Morgan: “Hanley doesn’t swing the bat like a shortstop, he swings it like Alex Rodriguez.” Yeah, A-Rod was a shortstop for only a decade, so that makes sense.
Cory Hart is back, after a nice long vacation since his last time up. He has to hit 8 home runs, or he’s out.
Hart gets off to a slow start, making six straight outs, and Bobby Valentine openly starts laughing at him.
9 straight outs now, as Hart is choking like the Bruins with a 3-0 lead. Can he bring in Chris Young to pinch hit? No he can’t, and finally beardo pops out to shallow left to meekly blow it. That means it’s Hanley Ramirez against David Ortiz for the championship of the world!
As we wait through the commercials before the exciting finals, I have to ask, why do only home run hitters get to have a big TV derby? Home runs are for showoffs. They need a derby for gritty little scrappy players instead of the big home-run bashers.
How about a Hit-A-Grounder-To-The-Right-Side-To-Advance-The-Runner Derby? Or a Break-Up-The-Double-Play Derby? Maybe a Choke-Up-On-The-Bat-And-Don’t-Swing-Until-You-Take-A-Strike Derby?
Or all three at once and call it the Eckstein Derby.
Ortiz will bat first. He does his hand-clapping thing and gets focused for this high pressure situation. They show the trophy, which is actually pretty nice– two crossed silver bats. Much better than the weird little World Cup trophy that looks like a detached eyeball and isn’t even a cup.
It’s surprising, I just assumed that the winner of this got an actual Charlie Chaplin-style derby hat to wear around, rather than a trophy. How about a compromise, and give them a solid silver derby hat? Nothing could be better than that I tell you.
David Ortiz starts strong, blasting homers with his first four swings! Morgan mentions that several writers in Boston called for Ortiz to be released. Why doesn’t everyone know already that most sportswriters in Boston hate the Red Sox and want the Yankees to beat them?
Ortiz continues to demolish the ball, up to 8 home runs with only two outs. His pitcher is former Red Sox and Pirates catcher Tony Pena.
Ortiz might be tiring now, as he misses with a couple of swings. 8 homers, 6 outs now.
Big Papi hits a couple more bombs, then misses. 10 homers, with one out left.
He crushes the next one out to deep center, then flies out, ending his night with 11 more bombs, a fine performance for Ortiz.
Hanley is next. While Ortiz was hitting, he told sideline bimbo Erin Andrews that Ortiz was like his father to him when he was in the minors. Get ready for the cliche storyline, the father vs. the son, the teacher vs. the student, blah blah blah.
While more commercials play, I’ll give you the trivia question answers:
The first Home Run Derby was won by Dave Parker in 1985. He was with the Reds at the time.
Ken Griffey Jr. won the most home run Derbies, 3.
Josh Hamilton hit a ridiculous 28 homers in the first round in 2008. Then he fell off the wagon and took drugs, or something.
Hanley Ramirez is ready. The batting practice home run championship of the WORLD is on the line. Hanley needs 11 to tie, 12 to win.
He starts slowly, belting one homer while making four outs. Does this prove that the Red Sox were right to trade him??? Obviously not, as he immediately rips three liners in a row over the center field wall. Maybe Florida will trade him back to us for Lowell and Beckett again? LOL, as the kids type these days.
A couple outs for Ramirez. He pauses, and his kids run out with Gatorade and a towel for him. And now Ortiz comes out and towels-off Hanley!
The drink and toweling don’t pay immediate dividends though, as Ramirez makes a couple of quick outs.
Then a long homer, then a flyout, and Ramirez is down to his last ball, needing six more home runs.
He doesn’t come close, hitting a grounder toward third to end it. That means that David Ortiz is the 2010 Champion of the State Farm McDonalds British Petroleum Home Run Derby Hitting Awesome Dinger Chicks Dig The Long Ball Contest of the Year! What a moment for fans of batting practice everywhere.
Ortiz in a sentimental moment dedicates this victory to his friend Jose Lima, who passed away a few months ago. Well Lima sure knew how to give up home runs, so RIP Jose. Sideline Bimbo Erin Edwards conducts some more awkward chitchat. Ortiz’s little son DeAngelo is out there, along with some guy who looks exactly like Dick Cheney, for some reason.
That’s it for the Derby. Stay tuned for the Dr. Pepper Infield Pepper Game contest on ESPN, followed by the Hip-hop Celebrity Truck Pull, the Prison All-Star softball game, and the Battle of the Cable Network Stars, featuring a pie eating contest between Jon Hamm and Glenn Beck.
But somehow none of these will be the most embarrassing and ridiculous TV show of the week on ESPN; not a mere few days after “The Decision: the PR Suicide of Lebron James.”