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Home Run Derby Preview and Predictions

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The Home Run Derby goes off tonight at 8PM. It’ll be on ESPN and streaming at MLB.com.

Say what you want about the Home Run Derby, but it’s a heck of a lot better now in its truncated, three-round, head-to-head, bracketed version than it used to be. The thing moves along nicely, there’s natural building drama and all of that. We like to complain about everything, but the format and entertainment value of the Home Run Derby is pretty darn good and way better than it used to be.

Not that we can’t find something to complain about. This year many will no doubt complain about the lack of star power. Last year we had Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. This year we have Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman — good, but not the pure power beasts we had in 2017 — and beyond them it’s a little anonymous, at least to the casual fan.

My personal view is that that’s OK because it helps introduce folks to players they may not have seen or heard much about. And, let’s not forget, Giancarlo Stanton got eliminated in the first round last year and the guy who lost the final — Miguel Sano — has been playing A-ball down in Fort Myers for the past month. Star power doesn’t mean everything. The dingers take center stage here, not the names.

For 2018, this is who we have:

As we did last year, Bill, Ashley, and I have peered into our crystal ball to tell you exactly what’s going to happen tonight. At least I told you exactly what would happen last year. You may not have heard this anywhere else — I hardly ever mention it because of my natural humbleness — but I picked the whole Derby correctly. Totally by skill and not by dumb luck, I can assure you. As such, if any of my picks are wrong it’s because the thing is rigged.

BILL

Round 1
Jesus Aguilar over Rhys Hoskins
Kyle Schwarber over Alex Bregman
Bryce Harper over Freddie Freeman
Javier Baez over Max Muncy

Round 2
Kyle Schwarber over Jesus Aguilar
Bryce Harper over Javier Baez

Final
Kyle Schwarber over Bryce Harper

 

ASHLEY

Round 1
Rhys Hoskins over Jesus Aguilar
Kyle Schwarber over Alex Bregman
Bryce Harper over Freddie Freeman
Javier Baez over Max Muncy

Round 2
Kyle Schwarber over Jesus Aguilar
Javier Baez over Bryce Harper

Final
Kyle Schwarber over Javier Baez

 

CRAIG

Round 1
Jesus Aguilar over Rhys Hoskins
Alex Bregman over Kyle Schwarber
Bryce Harper over Freddie Freeman
Max Muncy over Javier Baez

Round 2
Jesus Aguilar over Alex Bregman
Max Muncy over Bryce Harper

Final
Jesus Aguilar over Max Muncy

Mike Rizzo and Shawn Kelley almost got into a physical confrontation

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A few weeks back the Washington Nationals designated reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment the morning after he threw his glove into the ground and glared at the Nats dugout in frustration after giving up a homer in a blowout win against the Mets. He was later traded to the Athletics. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said at that time that he thought Kelley was trying to show up his manager and that there was no room for that sort of thing on the team, offering an “either you’re with us or you’re working against us” sentiment in the process.

Today the Washington Post talks about all of the Nationals’ bullpen woes of late, and touches on the departure of Kelley as being part of the problem. In so doing, we learn that, on the night of Kelley’s mound tantrum, he and Rizzo almost got into a physical confrontation:

Rizzo headed down to the clubhouse and confronted Kelley, according to people familiar with the situation. The argument became heated, including raised voices, and eventually it almost became physical, according to people familiar with the exchange. Adam Eaton got between the two of them and separated them before things could advance further . . .

Might I point out that, the fact of this emerging now helps to vindicate Brandon Kintzler who, the day before, was traded away, some say, for being the source for negative reports from inside the Nats’ clubhouse?

That aside, the article does not make anyone look good, really. Rizzo had the backing of his team with the Kelley incident, but the overall story — how did the Nats’ bullpen, which was once a strength — get so bad? — does no favors for Rizzo. Mostly because he seems to have thought that they had so much extra bullpen depth that they could afford to deal away Kintzler, which he says was a financial move, not a punitive trade for being a media source.

Question: when was the last time you heard a baseball man say he had too much relief pitching? Especially today, in which the bullpen has assumed such a prominent role? Seems rather unreasonable to cut relievers when you’re trying mightily to come back from a sizable deficit in the standings, yes?