To some, Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby is a heated competition that deserves attention as such. To many more, though, it is purely entertainment.
For those, like Stephen Vogt, who are after entertainment, it’s about unrivaled feats of power and skill. About thunder found in the rarest lumber.
As the Oakland Athletics’ two-time All-Star catcher said:
“I just want to see (Giancarlo) Stanton hit the ball 900 feet.”
Miami Marlins slugger Stanton, perhaps the current game’s most prolific power bat coming into the All-Star Break with 20 home runs, is credited with the two furthest hit homers in the first half — 475 feet on May 6 and 462 feet on April 30.
It’s no surprise Stanton smashed his way to home run glory Monday night, with a record 61 home runs securing the title.
Despite his ability to capture imagination with every leather ride, however, it is Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez who produces the awe-worthy clouts with the highest level of regularity.
Gonzalez boasts 19 big flies on the season, and his average distance traveled (423.7 feet) beats out Stanton (421.8) for the highest in the league by nearly two full feet.
Said Gonzalez, who plays in one of the game’s most hitter-friendly parks Coors Field in Denver:
“I feel like if I hit the ball hard it will go out of any ballpark.”
One statistic justifies that thought. With a 443-foot blast on June 5, “CarGo” claims stake to the fifth-longest homer hit in San Diego’s PetCo Park in 2016 — the longest by any Derby participant.
Although Gonzalez is alone among the participants on the park’s 10 furthest-hit jacks of the year, Wil Myers (19 home runs) brings the home-field advantage, while Mark Trumbo brings a league-leading 28 homers and both Todd Frazier (25) and Robinson Cano (21) have each won the event previously.
The 2015 winner, Frazier offered some advice being the only competitor to have competed in the new timed contest:
“Try to get as many swings as you can, but enjoy it as long as you can. … Hopefully the outs are line drives and not pop flies, because that takes about five or six or seven more seconds.”
Myers, the Padres first baseman and lead-off hitter, added:
“This is a good place to see the ball. They put up a couple new buildings in the backdrop that I really think help the ball fly.”
It was the former-San Francisco Giant Duvall who summed up the entire event best:
‘I like to hit homer runs, So it’s going to be fun.”
The reason so few compete annually, as the game’s most powerful did in seasons past, is the alleged curse attached to the competition. One that took on life when Bobby Abreu mashed a then-single-round record 24 bombs, but was never the same. Pederson himself suffered a similar fate,hitting six jacks in the second half after pummeling 20 in the first half — he has 13 this season.
Of the curse, Frazier said:
“I don’t believe in (a derby curse) at all. …Things don’t change. You know your swing, you’re a professional.”