Your 2014 Home Run Derby Live Blog

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11:51: Cespedes wins 9-1. Frazier never had a chance. It’s Cespdes’ second win in a row. He’s the first to repeat since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998-99. They are the only two to have done it.

11:39 PM: Cespedes has five homers against four outs in the finals and is looking strong.

11:30 PM: So the final is Cespedes vs. Frazier. Gotta like the defending champ here. Frazier won the coin toss and elected to go second in the final round.

11:27 PM: Bautista has only three homers against five outs. Maybe he’s cold too. He got that first round bye. So he last hit in, like, 1979.

11:23 PM: Cespedes got seven homers. Now it’s Bautista’s turn. I feel like seven is enough on this night, especially seeing as though Bautista has had a long layoff. But what the hell do I know? I thought that Stanton was going to crush his enemies, see them driven before him and hear the lamentations of their women.

11:19 PM: Tweet of the night here, from our own D.J. Short:

11:17 PM: This is gonna end around midnight Eastern. Back in the 1950s they did Home Run Derbies during the day so the kids could see them.

11:15 PM: Bring back steroids.

11:11 PM: If I hadn’t spent all day calling the Home Run Derby dumb, I’d make some trenchant argument about how the new format with the bye for the first round winners iced Stanton and put him at a disadvantage, but I really can’t do that. Let’s just call it all dumb and hail our new Todd Frazier overlords.

11:09: PM: Stanton hits … zero homers. He is done. I have no words. If this contest wasn’t already stupid, I’d call it stupid.

11: 04 PM: The pace of this thing has really slowed down. Todd Frazier takes his semifinals hacks. He got one homer. Now it’s Stanton’s turn. Maybe the long delay iced Giancarlo, but I kinda doubt it. He’ll hit more than one homer if he uses his foot to hold the bat.

10:56 PM: The fates were not on Jones’ side. Three homers. He gone. The semis are now set: Frazier vs. Stanton in the NL, Cespedes vs. Bautista in the AL.

10: 50 PM: Cesepedes hit nine homers, including a 472-foot job. Adam Jones: good luck, dude.

10:43 PM: Now Cespedes and Adam Jones, head-to-head. But before this we had a high school drum line on the field. Because this isn’t going on long enough.

10:37 PM: Todd Frazier beats Tulo in the second round, 6 homers to 2. Frazier was my darkhorse. He’ll get murdered by Stanton, but I like that he’s advancing.

10:30 PM: So, second round. In the A.L., it’s Cespedes vs. Adam Jones with the winner facing Jose Bautista in the semi finals. In the N.L. It’s Todd Frazier vs. Tulowitzki. The winner of that goes on to be eaten, alive and whole, by a naked, fire-breathing Giancarlo Stanton..

10:23 PM: Todd Frazier got one homer in his three swings, Morneau none, so Morneau is done and Frazier advances. In the AL swing-off Donaldson got one homer in three swings. Cespedes: two. The defending champ goes on. He’s still alive.

10:17 PM: We have two ties in the first round. In the NL it’s Todd Frazier and Morneau in a swing-off to see who advances. In the AL it’s Cespedes and teammate Josh Donaldson. Each player gets three swings. If they’re still tied after three they get one more. If still tied one swing at a time until someone advances. Kind of like a spelling bee.

10:16 PM: Yoenis Cespedes is up. He’s the last guy in the first round. He’s also last year’s champ. This year: three bombs.

10:09 PM: Justin Morneau comes up and, again, gets a big huge round of applause. He only hit two homers, though, so that’s kind of a letdown for the former Twin and former Home Run Derby champ. A nice parting round of applause too.

10:07 PM: I skipped the high schoolers’ final round to go get a hot cocoa. Because it’s freezing. It’s July 14 and it’s freezing. I’m way better with this than I was with the heat last year, but man, it’s cold here.

10:oo PM: Josh Donaldson finishes with three homers, but everyone is still talking about Giancarlo Stanton.

9:55 PM: Stanton’s sixth and final homer of the first round went to the tippy tip of the upper deck in left. That was just insanely far. All of the assembled All-Stars are freaking out. It’s probably worth noting that Stanton’s pitcher, Mike Redmond, was throwing a lot harder than Derby pitchers usually do.

9:52 PM: A fan gets Stanton’s second homer by going over a rail and almost killing himself. Stanton’s third homer is 465 feet into the top deck in left. This is fun.

9:50 PM: Giancarlo Stanton is coming up next. Hold on to your butts, you guys.

9:47 PM: The other high school kid, Luken Baker, gets six homers. So both the high school kids beat the snot out of Puig, Dozier and Frazier.

9:43 PM: Adam Jones had a nice round. He was ripping it deal pull to left for the most part, which is the smart move. He finishes with four.

9:37 PM: Puig turned in the worst first round so far. Zero homers. He was not very selective swinging at everything. When he made contact he went to center and the opposite field. Worst of all: no bat flips. I need a moment. 😦

9:35 PM: PUIG TIME PUIG TIME PUIG TIME PUIG TIME

9:33 PM: Two high school kids are now competing in the between-the-big-leaguers portion of the evening. Josh Naylor and Luken Bakaer. Naylor hit three, so I guess that’s better than Frazier and Dozier.

9:30 PM: Bautista finishes with ten homers. Lots of line drives. Boom.

9:28 PM: Jose Bautista is putting on a clinic. He has eight homers and only five outs so far. Some of his bombs havae gone far.

9:25 PM: In between hitters they panned to a luxury box in which Bud Selig and Hank Aaron were sitting. They announced Hank and the crowd went wild. But Hank didn’t know he was on the JumboTron until Bud Selig nudged him and pointed, like every kid you ever see on the JumboTron. Cute.

9:22: Tulo hit four. He now has the NL lead. Remember: you don’t just want to advance. If you lead your league after the first round, you get a bye into the semis.

9:18 PM: Now it’s Troy Tulowitzki. His first one didn’t go out, but was a towering fly ball to the wall. The kids manning the outfield missed it. I think the announcers should taunt those kids more.

9:13 PM: They probably should’ve kept chanting. He ends his first round with two. Now that this is getting going, it is going faster now that there’s only seven outs. So I suppose there’s that.

9:11 PM: The crowd is chanting “DO-ZIER! DO-ZIER!” I guess it’s helping. He now has two homers.

9:09 PM: Brian Dozier leads off for the AL. It’s still raining, BTW.

9:08 PM: Welp, maybe not. Frazier only managers two homers before his seven outs were up.

9:06 PM: There is a giant rainbow over Target Field. All the rain was worth it, you guys.

9:03 PM: Todd Frazier leads off. His brother Charlie is pitching to him. I like Frazier in this, by the way. Maybe not to win, but I bet he does well.

9:00 PM: Ceremonial first pitches from Dave Winfield, Jack Morris, Paul Molitor and Joe Mauer. Jack Morris threw his out to the score.

8:56 PM: Justin Morneau was just introduced. He got a TREMENDOUS round of applause from the folks in Minnesota. Very nice moment. Three guys later Brian Dozier was introduced. Almost — not quite, but almost — as big a round of applause.

8:52 PM: They are beginning to take the little tarps off the mound and the batters box. Which, under normal circumstances, I’d say meant we’d be underway soon. Except they have a trophy thing sitting out there and keep saying the “pre-event festivities” will get going soon. So who knows when the big strong men will start hitting bombs. Which is all we really wanna see now.

8:34 PM: As the rain continues to fall, they are now showing the old “Home Run Derby” TV show on the JumboTron. It’s the Mickey Mantle vs. Harmon Killebrew episode. This is way cooler than the actual one, to be honest.

source:

8:24 PM: This is the current radar:

source:

I’m guessing they’re not going to bang this thing but it ain’t gonna get going at 8:30 either.

8:02 PM: Welp, we’re off with a bang. First official announcement of the evening: the Derby being delayed until 8:30. Where did I put that card with $4.50 left on it for the self-serve beer machine?

7:50 PM: Why live blog this? Like I said earlier this afternoon, the Home Run Derby is kinda boring, so if I don’t commit to live-blogging it I’ll have a hard time paying attention. Give me a task and I can keep my mind focused on anything. Even this.

If you haven’t already, do check out our Home Run Derby preview. And think who you might pick to win it in the unlikely event Giancarlo Stanton falls into an open manhole before it begins. Because I think he’s got it in the bag.

BUT THAT’S WHY THEY PLAY THE GAME! Or, in this case, that’s why they hold the exhibition. And who knows? Maybe the weather has totally thrown this out of whack. It’s cold here right now — about 60 degrees and falling, with a steady wind and on-and-off rain — so maybe that will change the equation. Maybe the guy from Canada will do better.

Keep refreshing this post for stunning insights and analysis as the evening wears on. And on.

And on.

 

Goose Gossage, Pete Rose and “unwatchable baseball”

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There are a lot of things that, in my view and in the view of many others, are suboptimal in today’s game.

You’ve either heard me go on about them in the past year or two or you’ve heard others go on about them, but a short, non-exclusive list includes the view that there are too many home runs and strikeouts now, bullpen use has changed the nature of the game in less-than-great ways, and the game-going and sometimes merely game-viewing experience has become prohibitively expensive for some and annoying in many respects to everyone, to the point where it has become a barrier to even enjoying the product in the first place.

While I never hesitate to make my views known on these matters, I also acknowledge that I do not have a monopoly on wisdom with respect to them. Indeed, there’s a lot to be said about all of these issues — both in support and in pushing back against my views on them — to further the discussion. Baseball has been around a long time, it changes more often than our nostalgic view of its history suggests, and all of us have our blind spots. The only way to deal with that stuff is to talk more about it, to add more voices to the conversation and, perhaps most importantly, to accept that we’re never gonna settle on anything definitive. One person’s ideal game is one person’s “unwatchable” game and it has always been thus.

Are there are limits to who we should talk to about all of this, though? For example, do we really need to know what Goose Gossage and Pete Rose have to add to this conversation? Bob Nightengale of USA Today thinks so. Here’s Gossage:

“I can’t watch these games anymore. It’s not baseball. It’s unwatchable. A lot of the strategy of the game, the beauty of the game, it’s all gone. It’s like a video game now. It’s home run derby with their (expletive) launch angle every night.”

Rose:

“It’s home run derby every night, and if that’s what they want, that’s what they’re going to get. But they have to understand something … Home runs are up. Strikeouts are up. But attendance is down. I didn’t go to Harvard or one of those Ivy League schools, but that’s not a good thing.”

As a matter of editorial philosophy I question whether it ever makes sense to ask Goose Gossage and Pete Rose about anything that is not specifically about Goose Gossage or Pete Rose and even then I’d exercise caution. Gossage has spent the last ten years as every writer’s go-to for easy quotes hating on anything that has happened in baseball since 1988. Rose, in addition to being a loathsome human being who is banned from the game, is also one of those dudes who thinks his generation and his generation alone Played the Game the Right Way. The less we hear from them on this stuff the better, as far as I’m concerned.

Yet, they’re not wrong.

At least they’re not wrong as far as what they’re saying above. That’s how frickin’ messed up baseball is right now. Even Goose Gossage and Pete Rose are on my side of the matter. It’s enough to make a guy sit down and take stock, ya know? At least it’s enough to make me want to be more specific and objective about what it is that bugs me about the game today, so as not to lazily fall into an “everything is new sucks” stance, which I suspect is what animates these two particular stopped clocks.

I think it helps to break it all down into two categories, which lead to very different conversations. One category is the aesthetics of baseball. The other is the structure of baseball.

On the aesthetic side we’re dealing with how any given game plays out. How, on any given night, it seems, that we have nearly a dozen 14-7 games in which the bat boy, or someone quite like him, hits three homers while also taking the mound and striking out 14 guys but somehow getting the loss anyway, with the game ending a crisp four hours and sixteen minutes after the first pitch. This is a slog. It has a lot to do with the juiced ball and the manner in which both hitters and pitchers have been selected for thanks to analytical trends, changes in the strike zone and all of that.

On the structural side we’re talking about the business, economics and leadership of the game and how it has led to a situation in which multiple teams are tanking — telling their fans that, at best, they’ll be competitive two or three out of every ten years — while fielding a roster of players who would have at least a moderate fight on their hands to ensure first place in the International League. This while still charging ridiculous prices for tickets, concessions, and parking while making the games harder and harder to watch on TV without paying for premium cable plans. Nightengale notes that attendance is down something like 800,000 overall so far this year, coming off last year’s 15-year low in attendance. None of this is an accident, of course. When you tell fans you’re not going to try to win while giving them no other incentive to come to the park, you’re going to have fewer fans coming to the park.

As I said, these are two different areas of complaint. I’m open to the idea that my aesthetic distaste for what’s going on in baseball right now is merely my opinion. I’m a middle aged guy and, even if I work extra hard to not be some nostalgic, sentimental simpleton, I’m not immune from falling into that trap of “everything was better when I was 12.” I probably do that more than I care to admit. I don’t think I’m alone in hating the juiced ball game right now, but I also have to nod in deference to people who love it, as I’m sure there are many.

Where I start to become less “it’s all good, everyone’s opinion is valid” about all of this, though, is when observe that a lot of the aesthetic stuff is a direct product of the structural stuff.

  • We have home run fests because we have a lot of guys pitching who have no business being out there but are because a lot of teams are tanking. I think it’s OK to feel differently about a game that has changed because a non-trivial number of teams aren’t interested in competing;
  • We have home run fests because the ball is juiced. MLB denied this for a while and then when it became undeniable they accepted it and claimed it was an accident but now it’s gone on so long it’s an accident that they seem to have no interest in fixing whatsoever. I think it’s OK to feel differently about a game that has changed because of a juiced ball;
  • We have a legion of high-velocity strikeout pitchers because that’s who front offices have all, almost uniformly, decided to favor, and it’s been helped along by a redefinition of the strike zone — there is no wide strike anymore — that has made control or finesse pitching close to impossible. I think it’s OK to feel differently about a game that has changed because of a lack of creativity and a lack of latitude to be creative when it comes to talent development;
  • We have front offices who see no incentive to be creative when it comes to talent development because — thanks to baseball revenues being substantially detached from winning baseball games — there is no upside to going against the prevalent orthodoxy and/or taking any financial risks. And with that, we go back up to bullet point number one.

Again, it’s OK to like the current state of baseball. It’s OK to presume that some of us — be it Goose Gossage, Pete Rose or me — are turned off by it to some extent because we’re just crotchety old dudes who hate change. But it’s fair to say that, like most change in baseball, it has not been exclusively organic. Like most change it is the product, at least in part, of a change in circumstances and incentives. Though, in this case, that change is not necessarily benign. It’s driven by a bottom-line mentality that, while always present in baseball, has far more of an impact on the game on the field than it has in a very, very long time because it’s a bottom-line mentality that can afford to be indifferent about the winning and losing of baseball games.

Maybe history will prove me to be a crank when it comes to this stuff. But I feel like it’s worth examining the roots of the aesthetic issues in baseball via reference to what led to them. If it’s garbage-in, is that which comes out not garbage?