HBT LiveBlog: David Ortiz wins the Home Run Derby

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10:41: Nearly two and a half hours later, David Ortiz is your 2010 Home Run Derby champion. He defeated Hanley Ramirez 11-5 in the final round. I’m pretty proud to say he was my choice all along.

By the way, I’ll be back for next year’s slam dunk contest. Should be fun.

10:26 PM: David Ortiz sets the bar pretty high, slugging 11 homers in the final round. It’s all on Hanley right now.

10:18 PM: The real star of the night, according to Joe Morgan: David Ortiz’s shoes.

10:13 PM: Yep, Hart does nada. We’ll see Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz in the finals.

10:08 PM: Hanley Ramirez cranked 12 bombs, tying him with David Ortiz with 21 total. We might have a homer-off here, which is exactly what this competition needs. Bonus time. To be honest, I kinda hope Hart is a big ol’ dud here.

9:55 PM: Through two rounds, Cabrera has 12 homers. Hart already has 13 going into the second round, so M-Cab is out.

By the way, the beat reporters care more about Will Ferrell. (picture courtesy of Adam McCalvy of MLB.com)

9:46 PM: My pick is still in the mix. David Ortiz clubbed 13 homers in the second round, many of them prodigious blasts, to give him 21 total. Miguel Cabrera is next.

9:34 PM: 80 minutes later, here are your semi-finalists: Cabrera (7), Ortiz (8), Ramirez (9) and Hart (13). Phew. Fortunately, many of you are still alive in the contest.

9:21 PM: Jorge Arangure of ESPN with the line of the night:

This is a perfect event for Hanley Ramirez since
he doesn’t have to run anything out
.”

Seriously, you can’t top that. Don’t even try.

By the way, Hanley hit nine homers. We’ll see him in the next round.

9:13 PM: Bobby V on announcing: “Everyday it gets tougher.”

9:12 PM: My pick, David Ortiz, just finished with eight home runs. Dude was parched, so he had to take a break to get a drink. I’m getting the feeling that the ESPN booth would love it if Ortiz won, so I’m starting to feel dirty about my selection.

8:56 PM: Holliday started off slow, but rallied to hit five bombs, passing Swisher. He topped out around 497 feet. Impressive.

8:48 PM: Swisher finishes with a total of four home runs. Of course, Alex Rodriguez had to upstage him in the booth. What a jerk!

8:39 PM: Corey Hart has finally put some life into this thing, setting the all-time record with 13 home runs in the first round. Okay, I’m lying, but if you know these things, I have pity on you.

On a side note, the more I hear “back, back, back,” it sounds like a quack.

8:28 PM: Vernon Wells finishes with two home runs, one of them with the help of a fan. Hey, at least this thing is moving fast.

8:22 PM: Chris Young finishes with one home run. That isn’t going to get it done. Maybe he should have brought Juan Gutierrez with him.

8:17 PM: Our contest is officially closed. Good luck to all who entered!

8:10 PM: Kruk favors Cano. Bobby Valentine likes “Jose” Ortiz. Interesting. Dark horse.

8:06 PM: Berman, didn’t you know that Jeff Francoeur leads the league in SAR (Smiles Above Replacement)?

8:03 PM: David Ortiz was just grooving to “Soul Sister.” Is it too late to change my vote?

7:58 PM: See, here I was prepared to put the show on mute when Berman came on, but now I need to start a few minutes early with Train in the house.

7:53 PM: We’re about to get underway, so here is how this thing works. The derby will consist of three rounds. In the first, each player will have 10 outs to hit pile up as many homers as they can. The top four move ahead to the semi-finals. The two finalists are determined by the first and second round scores combined. Get all that? Okay, let’s watch some taters.

7:28 PM: We’ve already had enough people jumping on their soapboxes about silly
exhibitions over the past week (I’m all LeBron-ed out), so I’ll
spare you my thoughts on the Home Run Derby. Sure, it goes on for
entirely too long, but I almost always watch.

The Home Run Derby gets
underway at around 8pm ET, but check back here every now and again for
my random observations on the event. It won’t be every minute, but I will chime in from time-to-time. Also, feel free to add some banter in the
comments section.

And remember, there’s still some time to enter HBT’s Home Run Derby
contest
! As Drew announced Sunday, the winner gets to write a guest post on HBT.
You’ll have the opportunity to write about anything you want, as long
it’s loosely baseball-related. Just be sure to read the fine print. I’m
pretty sure we reserve to right to keep your soul for the rest of
eternity. No biggie.

With that out of the way, here are our competitors:

NL: Corey
Hart (MIL), Matt Holliday (STL), Hanley Ramirez (FLA), Chris Young
(ARI)

AL: Miguel Cabrera (DET), David Ortiz (BOS), Nick Swisher
(NYY), Vernon Wells (TOR)

My pick: Since John Kruk already picked Robinson Cano, I’m going
with Al Kaline. Okay, if you really want to know, I have a good feeling about David Ortiz in that ballpark.

Let’s hope this thing ends before Craig wants the keys back to the blog.

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

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A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.

Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.

Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.

Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.

The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.

Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?

On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.

Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.