July 11, 2011
Love it or loathe it (especially if you're listening to Chris Berman calling play-by-play), the Derby has become almost as anticipated as the All-Star game itself. That's largely due to some impressive displays of power from baseball's most famous sluggers. The Home Run Derby might go on too long for some, but almost every year, someone makes it worth watching. Inevitably, there are also some "sluggers" who make you wish you hadn't spent time watching.
The five best Home Run Derby performances
5. David Wright(notes), 2006: The Mets' third baseman didn't win the Derby at PNC Park, but his first-round total of 16 is one of the highest in the event's history. That didn't leave him much for the semis and finals, however, and he eventually lost to Ryan Howard(notes).
4. Mark McGwire, 1999: The Derby may have finally become a television event when the game's most famous slugger, coming off his then-record 70-homer season, took on the Green Monster. McGwire went deep 13 times in the first round, more than twice what any of his competitors managed. Yet he didn't even make the finals, hitting only three homers in the second round.
3. Jason Giambi(notes), 2001: Hitting home runs at Safeco Field is not easy, but that didn't stop Giambi from going deep 14 times, twice what the next closest slugger totaled. Once again, though, a strong start didn't guarantee a win, as Giambi finished third in the second round with six homers.
2. Bobby Abreu(notes), 2005: Viva Venezuela! Representing his country in the first and only International Derby put some sting in Abreu's swing. He hit 24 first-round homers at Comerica Park, easily the highest total ever achieved. Abreu finished strong, too, hitting 11 to beat out hometown favorite Pudge Rodriguez for the trophy.
1. Josh Hamilton(notes), 2008: Abreu's record only lasted three years, as Hamilton brought out the big bat on arguably the sport's biggest stage. The first-time All-Star put on a slugging show, launching 28 homers out of Yankee Stadium in the first round. No one else hit more than eight. But following a familiar theme among this top five, Hamilton didn't have much left for the subsequent rounds and lost out to Justin Morneau(notes).
(The lesson seems clear. Slow but steady may win the competition when it comes to the Home Run Derby. But fast and furious win the hearts and minds of the fans.)
The five worst Home Run Derby performances
5. Brandon Inge(notes), 2009: Inge had 14 homers in the season's first half, an effort that helped him win the AL Final Vote. But he was probably miscast as a slugger by whomever picked him for the competition: Inge failed to hit a single ball out of Busch Stadium.
3. Troy Glaus(notes), 2001: As mentioned, hitting home runs at Safeco Field is not easy. But it's even worse for a right-handed hitter. Glaus hit 47 homers in 2000 and came into the Derby with 22 on the season. Yet he didn't hit a single ball over the wall.
2. Richie Sexson, 2003: U.S. Cellular Field is a launching pad. Sexson had 25 homers by the All-Star break and went on to hit 45 for the season. How did he only manage to hit one, measly home run in Chicago's notorious bandbox?
1. Jason Bay(notes), 2005: Was it the burden of representing Canada, with the home country a mere four miles away from Comerica Park? Did some visitors from nearby Windsor turn up the pressure? Bay swung as if wrapped in a maple leaf flag, putting up a big, fat zero. Woe, Canada.
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