Monday, July 9, 2007

Live-blogging the ESPN Century 21 Home Run Derby

Welcome to the 2007 In Dayton We Trust Home Run Derby live-blog. I'm usually awful at deadline writing, so we'll see if this floats.

6:58 p.m.: All times Eastern. Rarin' to go here. My on-scene correspondent is as well, though she's apparently too busy to take my calls. That bitch. We'll check back later.

Here are the participants in this year's derby, which is watched by more people than the Division Series, according to Jayson Stark:

(NAME, team, HRs season, HRs career)

PRINCE FIELDER, Milwaukee, 29, 59
VLADIMIR GUERRERO, Anaheim, 14, 352
MATT HOLIDAY, Colorado, 15, 82
RYAN HOWARD, 21, 103
ALEX RIOS, 17, 45

Notably absent: Barry Lamar Bonds. In the spirit of Baseball Tonight "analysts," I think I'm going to say "Barry Lamar Bonds" as many times as I can tonight, like the meow guy from Super Troopers.

Full coverage on I'll be back in an hour with predictions and such. In the meantime, let's bitterly envy how good San Franciscans have it.

8:11 p.m.: Boomer, to crowd: "Say hello to Joe Morgan"
... Boomer: "...Dusty Baker!"

My brain just groaned.

8:13: Question: If a ball falls in the water and someone dives into that logjam of kayaks, couldn't he theoretically find himself stuck under the kayaks? And, like, drown?8:18: My prediction: Vladimir Guerrero wins it. The smart bet is to go with a left-hander like Ryan Howard or Prince Fielder, but I like Vlad because of the redemption factor. The first time he participated in the Derby, in 2000 at Turner Field as an Expo, he hit two home runs. Two. And now he's "excited" to be in this year's Derby, partially because he wants to do better. There's also this article from the LA Times, titled, "Guerrero looks for an edge at Home Run Derby." Does that make it sound like he isn't taking this seriously and isn't in it to win it?
First set of dispatches from my correspondent:

7:52: Yes boomer! am five feet away. i am sitting right next to aaron roward
8:02: Just talked to saito and coach frank robinson. david wright on my left
8:02: Barry bonds and i are right next to each other
8:03: Im on national side
8:16: hamels utley hoffman young

I've got a message pending to her: "Meche! Where is meche?"
8:27: Matt Holliday... wow.

8:29: Boomer: "Back back back back back... gone!"

8:31: Fly ball to center... Bermuda's Triangle out there with the kids circling like sea gulls... someone call for it! Call for it! No? Not even a stab, kid? Okay.

Current scoreboard:
Matt Holliday: 5
Justin Morneau, 4
8:36: Barry Lamar Bonds-Peter Gammons interview. Barry Lamar Bonds has addressed Gammons by his first name three times, I think both to patronize him and soften his questions. Sadly, it's working. Where's Jim Gray when you need him? UPDATE, 7/12: Interview transcript here.

By the way, you know what Yogi Berra said about making predictions? "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." Of course, half the things attributed to Berra he never actually said -- that's a paraphrase of a Berra quote, by the way -- but I think he said this one. Just a hunch.

Wait, did someone just bat?

(Magglio Ordonez: 2 home runs.)

8:44 p.m. Up next... POOHOLES.

I'm getting a satellite feed of's Derby coverage during ESPN's commercials, and I gotta say... those guys at MLB, however hardworking they might be, are 100 percent unenlightening.
8:45: Did the farmer in Grant Wood's American Gothic dress Alex Rodriguez for his interview? A model of simplicity and understatedness: dark tan suit, white shirt, black tie, leather-band watch... what the hell? $26 million a year can't buy a man a suit not picked out of Wal-Mart?

Really, his wife should dress him every day.

Matt Holliday: 5
Justin Morneau, 4
Albert Pujols: 4
Magglio Ordonez: 2
8:54: Alex Rios, four home runs in five outs. How big of a letdown would it be if he won this contest?

8:56: Erin Andrews is interviewing Jake Peavy. My friend -- a fellow beat writer during our college newspaper days -- had a picture taken with Erin once. I'd post it here, but I don't want to embarrass anyone. (He was in love with her.)

9:05: Prince Fielder's up. He's really fat. Too fat, in fact, for Billy Beane to draft him, as detailed in a scene from Moneyball.

9:10: Fielder hit three home runs. We're on pace for one of the most impotent first rounds in Derby history.

9:12: The Impaler is up and ready to impale.
9:13: David Ortiz breaks out his version of Wonderboy from out of a rectangular cedar box.

9:14: Vlad hits a ground ball with his first swing.

9:14b: No. 1 with five outs.

9:17: He's mashing now. HR No. 5 went to the back rows in front of the giant Coke bottle. It's the longest homer of the day at 463 feet.

9:19: Barry Lamar Bonds and A-Rod are chit-chatting it up like a couple of socially awkward guys at a frat party. Just those two, standing in the corner in the shadows, somewhat close to the keg in the hopes of catching some pretty girl's eye. A-Rod's the one who'd nod "Hi" to those who approach, while Bonds would just chatter away about cheeseburgers and his workout regimen.

9:20: The man who defeated David Wright is up next. Impotent, I'm telling you, impotent. Guerrero is tied with the lead at five home runs.
9:28: Ryan Howard just killed a wall. The outfield wall is dead, because Ryan Howard hit a ball so hard it became a weapon of flying destruction.

(That was really stupid, I know.)

Holliday: 5
Rios: 5
Guerrero: 5
Morneau: 4
Pujols: 4
Barry Lamar Bonds: 0

You know what that means...

SWING-OFF! (Imagine sirens blaring and confetti and balloons falling and all sorts of delightful chaos.)

9:30: Morgan and Baker chuckle over the words "swing-off."

9:33: Prince Albert needs two home runs in five outs to advance. At the rate this competition has been going, two home runs are no guarantee.

9:34: Boomer: "That's to Sausalito!"

A few seconds later: "That's to Alcatraz!"

Pujols is moving on and is now answering, quite seriously, how it feels to move to the second round. He's "blessed," apparently. is interviewing Gil Meche! THE MECHE! THE MECHE IS IN THE HOUSE! And all it took for me to see it is a satellite dish.

I can't type as fast as he can talk, but here's what I was able to get:

Pretty exciting... I'm very thrilled to be a part of this in San Francisco with all these great players.... Blast to watch.... Just trying to enjoy it, take what I can out of this.

I usually say I'm never nervous, I pitched Opening Day against Curt Schilling and wasn't nervous then... I tell you though, I might be a little edgy out there tomorrow.... Hopefully I get a chance to pitch [unlike Mark Redman], leave it out on the field.

Then there was this:

The reason I picked Kansas City is Dayton Moore had a great plan.... We have a great ballclub.... We got off to a slow start, but lately our young guys are getting some confidence and taking great at-bats, and our bullpen has done a great job.... I think we have a bright future, and that's where Dayton Moore comes into play.

9:46: Holliday's hitting them out effortlessly.
9:48: Just saw this message from my correspondent, which she sent at 9:23:
Barry and a rod have been talking behind me forever.
See previous frat boys comment.

9:52: Rios up.
9:58: A bomb to deep center. Absolute bomb. "That was rios grande!" I'll give you two guesses who said that.

No, it wasn't Dusty Baker.

9:59: Some kid fell down. Ha ha!

Rios: 17 total
Holliday: 13

9:58: A Rios-Holliday final would be fun. Unexpected, of course, but they're both good guys, quiet, upstanding citizens, deserving of some publicity...

10:08: Pujols is in the batting cage in the clubhouse, killing people. Wait, baseballs. I don't doubt that if you made a small kid unfamiliar with baseball -- like, say, an Australian Aboriginal -- watch Pujols take batting practice in a sound tunnel, the kid would die of shock.

10:11: Vlad Daddy MERCY. 474 feet!

10:12: Two outs to go, needs two home runs.

10:12b: Jose Reyes liked Vlad's 474-er. Carlos Beltran just gave him a look that said, "Vlad scares the crap out of me." If I were a pitcher, I would dirty my pants every time the man swung that bat.

10:13: One out left, need one more.

10:14: Taping his fingers. Hmm. I think, somewhere, Mike Scioscia is shaking his head while sipping a Bourbon and muttering, "No, no, no, no, no..."

10:14: Boomer: "Back.......... back......."

It cleared the fence by about five feet.

10:15: There is NO doubt about that one. And the crowd goes wild! Berman's on his feet!

10:16: 503. It went 503 feet. Nearly hit a pink clock. I'm genuinely excited now.


Rios: 17
Guerrero: 14
Holliday: 13 (eliminated)
Pujols: Needs 10 to tie
Kenny Mayne has moved out of McCovey Cove and is standing in the first row in left field.

Chris Berman: "Kenny, is that a plate jacket you're wearing? Because getting hit by some of these balls that are being hit would hurt." [paraphrased]
Kenny Mayne: "I didn't hear a thing you just said, but every time a home run is hit, I'm going to blow this whistle." [Blows orange whistle.]
10:26: I just noticed that it takes a really long time for the ball to actually fly out. Long enough for Pujols to stand at the plate and adjust his batting gloves.

10:28: Pujols needs five homers. Two outs to go.

10:29: Four homers.

10:29b: Three homers.

10:30: Down to his final out.

10:31: Two homers. He's loving this.

10:32: Pujols just tried to call timeout.

10:32b: One homer to tie. Berman's right, there's actually tension here right now.

10:33: At the crack of the bat, I could've sworn he hit the ball 440 feet. Alas, he got jammed. Outfield grass power.

The guy I predicted would win this thing is in the finals. Dante, a Red Sox fan sitting next to me, had Rios winning it. By the grace of God we will avoid bloodshed tonight.Earlier this afternoon, Baseball Today had a podcast in which Peter Pascarelli mentioned this about the Royals: They've scored one run or less 22 times, yet have scored at least 12 runs five times. Pascarelli couldn't figure it out, but I'll give him props for this: he called the Royals' recent win over Tampa Bay "big," as it takes them into the All-Star break on a good note.

In other news... check this out: if the Royals and Pirates combined. It'd be a hell of a pitching staff.

10:41: Joe Morgan likes Vladimir Guerrero, who's currently being interviewed in his native language by someone from ESPN Deportes.
10:47: Vlad needs three to validate me as a bona fide soothsayer.
Other live-blogs going on:
  • Nate Silver, Baseball Prospectus.
    • 7:37 PM. By the way, guys really need to be able to pick their music, just like they pick their pitcher. Pujols lost a ton of momentum when Kansas came on the PA system.
  • Ryan Dragoon, NYJER Please
  • Not here.
10:51: Joe Morgan just made a funny comment about pitchers who watch Vlad being amazed at how many pitches he's taken. It's true, he has taken a lot. And four outs later, he only has one home run.

10:54: Vlad's taken to hitting high fly balls.

10:55: Is anyone reading this?

10:55b: Joe Morgan stands up.

10:55c: We have a champion, Boomer announces.

Congratulations, Vladimir Guerrero, for making me look smart. You win my deepest respect and gratitude for the minute.
11:03: The ESPN talent is signing off. Kenny Mayne's standing in left field... "When everything's said and done, there's nothing left to say or do."

Yes, Boomer, I did enjoy Vlad winning it all. It took a little while for the hitters to get warmed up, but once they did, they put on a good show. Even Baker and Morgan were interesting together, proving two wrongs sometimes does make a right.

See you cats tomorrow. Now let's go burn down the Bronx.

1 comment:

  1. Hey,
    Here's a video and a photo of David Ortiz hitting baseballs into McCovey Cove at a large inflatable model of his new Reebok cleat. Hope you like it.