The Home Run Derby should be sports' ultimate skills challenge. Considering that hitting a baseball is arguably hand-eye coordination at its apex the exhibition that stages a cartoonish competition for the masters of this craft should be a can't miss experience. Unfortunately long ago the greedy hand of the dreaded four letter mashed so much bloat into the proceedings that to watch the modern home run derby is often best left to your Uncle Hank, who goes to Hooters every Friday and has a permanent odor of deep fryer about him.
I know that these trappings of excess have always been front and center in the Home Run Derby. The contest's very nature, after all, is an exercise in excess. Excess power, excess muscles, excess "stuff" that helps you get muscles, etc. But at its best the derby encapsulates the childlike notion that baseball has Avengers-like superheroes. Quasi-humans performing feats beyond the scope of understanding and allowing us to believe that truly anything is possible.
So if watching the derby on mute tonight (seriously, watch it on mute) sounds like a your idea of fun than by all means do so. Enjoy the spectacle. Watch Chris Davis swat dingers with the same casual, somewhat exasperated ease of a concert pianist playing chopsticks. Lose yourself in Robinson Cano planting his right foot impossibly close to home plate before magically rotating around the fixed point of that foot and unleashing a power that seems wholly Kryptonian. Watch and see if Yoenis Cespedes manages to swing a bat so hard that the friction with the air sparks a fire. Gaze curiously as a man throws a baseball at a bowling ball. Why is he throwing a baseball at a bowling ball oh my god that bowling ball has arms holy shit that bowling ball is Prince Fielder BOOM!
The derby is the sports equivalent of an entire bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. Grab a spoon and indulge a bit. But, please, do yourself credit, have some self respect and keep that volume turned off.
As a bonus please enjoy this highlight clip from the 1993 derby, which is the entire decade of the 90's concentrated into 70 seconds:
- If common belief is correct and Ken Griffey Jr. is among the few great home run hitters of his era unaided by steroids than his pure talent and ability becomes even more amazing. Seriously imagine 20-25 year old Griffey, a fleet-footed centerfielder with 70-80 grade power playing in the modern game. There would be no one like him in the game today. Griffey was many things. Chief among them he was one of the most amazing baseball players humanity has ever produced.
- If you stare long enough at Juan Gonzalez' jerry curl you pass out and wake up wearing Hammer Pants at Lilith Fair.
- By far my favorite part of this video other than everything is the clip from :8-:10 where, after seeing the entire contingent lined up you see Barry Lamar Bonds, obviously concerned that being in that close of proximity to lesser beings would leach him of his talent whirl and stride away from everyone the moment the group photo is taken. It's how I imagine every Barry Bonds experience being. The only negative is that the 20 year old footage is not sufficiently hi-res to capture Bonds' glorious cross ear ring.
If so inclined feel free to use this as your Home Run Derby open thread. Enjoy the spectacle all.