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.

Free agents who sign with new teams are not disloyal

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Most mornings my local newspaper is pretty predictable.

I know, when I navigate to its home page, that I’ll find about eleventeen stories about Ohio State football, even if it is not football season (especially if it’s not football season, actually), part 6 of an amazingly detailed 8-part investigation into a thing that is super important but which no one reads because it has nothing to do with Ohio State football and, perhaps, a handful of write-ups of stories that went viral online six days previously and have nothing to do with anything that matters.

Local print news is doing great, everyone.

I did, however, get a surprise this morning. A story about baseball! A baseball story that was not buried seven clicks into the sports section, but one that was surfaced onto the front page of the website!  The story was about Michael Brantley signing with the Astros.

Normally I’d be dead chuffed! But then I saw something which kinda irked me. Check out the headline:

Is Michael Brantley “leaving” the Indians? I don’t think so. He’s a free agent signing with a baseball team. He’s no more “leaving” the Indians than you are “leaving” an employer who laid you off to take a job at one of its competitors. This is especially true given that the Indians made no effort whatsoever to sign him. Indeed, they didn’t even give him a qualifying offer, making it very clear as of November 2 that they had no intention of bringing him back. Yet, there’s the headline: “Michael Brantley leaves Indians.”

To be clear, apart from the headline, the article is unobjectionable in any way. It merely recounts Ken Rosenthal’s report about Brantley signing with the Astros and does not make any claim or implication that Brantley was somehow disloyal or that Indians fans should be upset at him.

I do wish, though, that editors would not use this kind of construction, even in headlines, because even in today’s far more savvy and enlightened age, it encourages some bad and outmoded views of how players are expected to interact with teams.

Since the advent of free agency players have often been criticized as greedy or self-centered for signing contracts with new teams. Indeed, they are often cast as disloyal in some way for leaving the team which drafted or developed them. It’s less the case now than it used to be, but there are still a lot of fans who view a player leaving via free agency as some kind of a slap in the face, especially if he joins a rival. Meanwhile, when a team decides to move on from a player, either releasing him or, as was the case with the Indians and Brantley, making no effort to bring him back, it’s viewed as a perfectly defensible business decision. There was no comparable headline, back in early November, that said “Indians dump Brantley.”

Make no mistake: it may very well turn out to be a quite reasonable business decision for Cleveland to move on from Brantley. Maybe they know things about him we don’t. Maybe they simply know better about how he’ll do over the next year than the Astros do. I in no way intend for this little rant to imply that the Indians owed Brantley any more than he owed the Indians once their business arrangement came to an end. They don’t.

But I do suspect that there are still a decent number fans out there who view a free agent leaving his former team as some sort of betrayal. Maybe not Brantley, but what if Bryce Harper signs with the Phillies? What if Kris Bryant walks and joins the Cardinals when he reaches free agency? Fans may, in general, be more enlightened now than they used to be, but even a little time on talk radio or in comments sections reveals that a number of them view ballplayers exercising their bargained-for rights as “traitors.” Or, as it’s often written, “traders.” I don’t care for that whole dynamic.

Maybe this little Michael Brantley headline in a local paper that doesn’t cover all that much baseball is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an example of how pervasive that unfortunate dynamic is. It gives fans, however tacitly, license to continue to think of players as bad people for exercising their rights. I don’t think that belief will ever completely disappear — sports and irrationality go hand-in-hand — but I’d prefer it if, like teams, athletes are likewise given an understanding nod when they make a business decision. The best way to ensure that is to make sure that such decisions are not misrepresented.