Monday, July 13, 2009
Home Run Derby: July 13
11:02 p.m. ET
Well, Cruz set a Derby record for HRs by a Cruz. OK, he was also the first Cruz ever in a Derby. Nope, no Jose, Todd, Fausto or Deivi.
10:55 p.m. ET
From ESPN Research's Mark Simon:
Nine champs have won with five HRs or fewer.
10:41 p.m. ET
Fielder hit six in eight swings -- carrying a total of 2,851 feet. That's an average of 475 per bomb.
10:35 p.m. ET
And there it is, at long last, the first 500-foot shot of the night. Prince Fielder hammered one 503 feet.
10:33 p.m. ET
Nelson Cruz hit five HRs of 450-plus in the first two rounds -- as many as everybody else combined.
10:26 p.m. ET
Howard now has 41 total Derby HRs-- as many as Bobby Abreu hit on one night in Detroit!
10:22 p.m. ET
Howard had six homers in last nine swings. But will it be enough?
10:12 p.m. ET
Pujols will be the 12th straight hometown Derby participant not to win -- unless everybody else gets shut out. Last to win: Ryne Sandberg in '90.
10:03 p.m. ET
From ESPN Research's Mark Simon:
Precedent for a big Pujols round?
In 2003, Pujols had a four-homer first round but hit 14 in the second round.
He lost in the finals to Garret Anderson, hitting eight.
9:51 p.m. ET
This is only the second swing-off since they abandoned the old format, which broke ties based on season totals.
9:47 p.m. ET
From ESPN Research's Mark Simon:
Pujols won a swing-off with Justin Morneau in 2007, winning 2-1.
9:41 p.m. ET
Albert Pujols' third homer probably wasn't a homer. A fan reached over the outfield wall and snatched it up. The umpires, though, ruled it a homer. You think anybody was going to have the guts to take one away from Albert in St. Louis?
9:32 p.m. ET
Five homers in the first round hasn't been enough to advance in any of the past five Derbies, except in San Francisco in '07.
9:24 p.m. ET
The sign of the night so far, from a fan seated in right field:
"Finally Pujols Will Get Some Pitches To Hit"
9:16 p.m. ET
The Nationals lost their manager, and they almost lost Ryan Zimmerman. Ryan Howard nearly took out Zimmerman with a line shot down the first-base line, which is where the NL players are camped out.
Zimmerman playfully stared Howard down before going back to his seat.
9:10 p.m. ET
Last year, Josh Hamilton hit 28 homers in the first round. This year, the first five hitters combined have hit 29.
9 p.m. ET
In case you were wondering (after Gonzalez made six straight outs), the last Derby with two zero heroes: 1997 -- Nomar Garciaparra and Jim Thome.
8:57 p.m. ET
Inge with fourth Derby bagel in this decade. Others: Jason Bay 2005, Bret Boone 2003, Troy Glaus 2001
8:54 p.m. ET
Is this the Year of the Pitcher? In the Home Run Derby? Brandon Inge did not hit a homer, and Adrian Gonzalez went six swings without going deep. Finally, he snuck one over the left-center field wall for a homer. He hit only one more out and finished with a measly two.
8:48 p.m. ET
Brandon Inge joked that, as the little guy in the field, he'd need everything to go just right to compete with the big boys in this Home Run Derby. It didn't go well for Inge, who did not hit a homer. That's right, 10 swings, 10 outs. Think he might hear about that a bit when he gets back to the Detroit clubhouse?
8:42 p.m. ET
Prince Fielder threatened the night's first 500-foot homer. His mammoth blast went 497. Before the night's over, something tells me somebody goes deeper than 500 feet -- perhaps the unofficial host of this weekend, Albert Pujols? Maybe Ryan Howard?
8:26 p.m. ET
The ball is carrying well -- doesn't it always in a Home Run Derby? -- despite a soft wind blowing in from left field. Nelson Cruz has already hit a few deep, deep home runs, including one off the second "C" in the "Big Mac" sign on the fašade of the second deck in left field. He topped even that, just a moment ago, going into the third deck. It brought on the first non-Pujols/non-Ozzie Smith standing ovation of the night.
8:13 p.m. ET
Two of my favorite scenes so far:
1. Mariano Rivera taking pictures of his son in the dugout.
2. Justin Upton, in uniform, buying a couple of his Diamondbacks uniform tops at a concession stand at 6:45 p.m. local time.
8:10 p.m. ET
Earlier Monday, Ryan Howard predicted the fans at Busch Stadium would certainly be rooting hard for Albert Pujols to win the Home Run Derby, but that the knowledgeable crowd would also get behind the rest of the contestants because people in St. Louis respect good players.
Well, they certainly were polite during introductions -- no boos were heard, not even for NL Central rival Prince Fielder. But the roar for Pujols rang loud and clear. If Pujols doesn't win, a lot of folks here are going to go home quite upset.
7:35 p.m. ET
OK, with the Derby about 30 minutes out, let's review the format and rules.
• Each player gets 10 outs per round.
• The four players with the highest number of HRs advance to second round.
• HRs carry over from the first round.
• The two players with the highest cumulative number of HRs in the first two rounds advance to the championship round.
• HRs from the first two rounds do not carry over to the championship round.
• Highest total in the championship round claims the crown.
• Pretty simple. Each player gets 10 outs per round.
• If two or more players are tied at the end of a round, a swing-off will decide which player advances.
• In the swing-off, each player will get five swings to hit as many HRs as possible.
• If the participants are still tied after five swings, they will go again, this time taking three swings.
• If there is still a tie, the process will repeat, with three swings, until there is a winner.
6:05 p.m. ET
When Pittsburgh lefty Zach Duke made the All-Star team as a replacement for San Francisco's Matt Cain, he joined teammate Freddy Sanchez on the National League roster. It marked only the third time since 1994 that two Pirates have made the squad.
Brian Giles and Jason Kendall represented the Pirates in 2000, and Sanchez and Jason Bay made it in 2006.
That's not bad considering the Pirates have made their biggest waves this summer with a flurry of trades orchestrated by GM Neal Huntington. The biggest deal, which sent outfielder Nate McLouth to Atlanta, resonated throughout the Pittsburgh clubhouse.
"That one was tough to swallow, for sure,'' Duke said. "Nate's been a friend of mine since 2001.
"But when you see the pieces we've got, you start to figure out that there's a little purpose to it. I know they're trying to build something, and it's going to be a pretty exciting time in a few years. I don't know if I'll be around to see it or not.''
5:55 p.m. ET
Is there a less likely All-Star in town than A's rookie Andrew Bailey?
A year ago this time, he was in Double-A. And not only that. The way he was pitching, he wasn't exactly a candidate to appear in any Double-A all-star games -- since he happened to be 1-8, with a 6.18 ERA.
But then the A's moved him to the bullpen and got him to add a cut fastball. And the rest has been one of the most amazing baseball stories of the year. That same Andrew Bailey now leads all AL relievers in strikeouts (with 60 in 51 2/3 innings).
"When I went to the bullpen, I didn't take it as a demotion, because I still had a name on the back of my jersey," the 25-year-old right-hander said. "So when I went to the bullpen, I said to myself, 'I want to pitch well enough to make it to the [Arizona] Fall League.' So that happened.
"Then I went to the Fall League and said, 'I want to pitch well enough to make the big league team.' And then that happened. Then, going into big league camp, I just said, 'I just want to make an impression, so late in the year, if they need an extra arm, I'd be one of the first ones that they think of.
"Well, it just so happened that I [survived] every cut. Then I went to San Francisco for the Bay Series. And then I made the team. So the whole year has just been a roller coaster. It's all happened so fast. And now put this on top of it."
5:40 p.m. ET
Tim Lincecum never made it to the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium last year because he reportedly was suffering from dehydration and the flu. The running joke was that he also might have been suffering from excessive exposure to the New York City nightlife.
Lincecum is the starting pitcher for the National League this year, so the chances that he'll be a no-show in St. Louis are nil. He also has entrusted Giants teammate Matt Cain to keep an eye on him in advance of the game.
"I have a three-foot leash that Timmy isn't allowed to go out of," Cain said. "I think he learned a lot last year, and he'll have plenty of hydration. He'll be more acclimated to St. Louis. We were just here a week or so ago, so he'll be all right."
5:30 p.m. ET
Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill is particularly appreciative of his first career All-Star Game appearance, given that he spent the final four months of the 2008 season on the disabled list. Hill suffered a concussion on May 29 of last year in a collision with teammate David Eckstein and never returned.
This year, Hill leads American League second basemen with 114 hits and 20 home runs.
"I keep saying it over and over, but I'm just blessed to be in a uniform," Hill said. "For four months last year, I was doing nothing, and there were some thoughts that maybe I'm not coming back. You don't forget how quickly something can be taken away from you like that."
4:20 p.m. ET
I asked Joe Maddon whom he most enjoyed picking for the American League All-Star team. His answer was Tim Wakefield.
Maddon also said he might have Brandon Inge catch during the All-Star Game. Inge responded to that possibility by saying, "I burned my catcher's glove last winter. But as Bob Uecker said, 'The best way to catch [a knuckleball] is to run back to the screen.'"
When asked whether he would be fine if he gets the chance to catch Wakefield, Victor Martinez didn't sound all that excited: "I'll do it, but I've never caught [a knuckleball]." Joe Mauer, meanwhile, pretty much echoed Martinez's words: "I'd rather hit against Wakefield than catch him."
2:55 p.m. ET
Jonathan Papelbon is looking forward to a more relaxing All-Star appearance than the one he had last year in New York.
"Hopefully I don't have to wear a bulletproof vest to the parade," Papelbon said.
Papelbon's then-pregnant wife was reportedly threatened during the parade a year ago.
"At first I was taken back by it, then it really started to bother me," Papelbon said. "By the end of it, I was just like, 'Get me off this thing.'"
Papelbon also created a stir by saying he should close the game at Yankee Stadium, a comment that many viewed as a shot at Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.
"He understands my competitiveness," said Papelbon, who has spoken to Rivera since last year about his comments. "It was no shot at him. The [closer] role is what it is today because of that guy."
And when does Papelbon feel like pitching in this year's game?
"Of course I want to [close the game]," he said. "But there is no reason Mo shouldn't save this game. I guess I am going to have to wait until he retires. But do I want to? Of course. It's probably not going to happen, though."
2:20 p.m. ET
Hanley Ramirez on why his batting average is up and his home runs are down while hitting in the third spot in the Marlins' batting order:
"I'm hitting with more people in scoring position, so I'm cutting down my swing."
--Jorge Arangure Jr.
2 p.m. ET
Miguel Tejada on why he thinks he's in a better position this time as a free agent:
"I'm in better position because I'm giving teams more options," Tejada said. "I can play third base or I can play second base."
Tejada on playing third:
"I've always put that option out there of playing third base."
Tejada on giving up playing shortstop:
"I like playing shortstop, but I love playing baseball."
--Jorge Arangure Jr.
1:50 p.m. ET
Albert Pujols is the unofficial host of this All-Star Game, with it being here in St. Louis and all. And Pujols dressed the part during this afternoon's National League news conference. He was the only player of the National League All-Stars to wear a suit and tie. Miguel Tejada was the only other player to wear a tie but decided not to go with the sports coat.
Other random items from this afternoon's NL player availability:
-- Tony La Russa, who will be one of the coaches for the NL, was the only no-show.
-- The two players who drew the least media attention were, not surprisingly, Pittsburgh's Zach Duke and Freddy Sanchez.
-- The player who drew the biggest crowd? Well, Pujols, of course.
1 p.m. ET
Ryan Zimmerman weighed in on the firing of Nationals manager Manny Acta, saying that somebody has to be held accountable when a team is losing as much as Washington has.
"It's tough, but it's something you have to go through," Zimmerman said. "Unfortunately for him, he's not going to be around to see us grow up.
"Obviously it doesn't all fall on him. He has his ways, and it didn't quite work out the way the front office wanted."
Zimmerman said the losing has gone on so long in Washington that even those within the organization have become accustomed to it.
"There needs to be some accountability," he said. "There needs to be a little more sense of urgency."
11:45 a.m. ET
It took Roy Halladay about three minutes to be asked about being traded. All the talk, which should only continue as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, is getting to Halladay.
"It has been tough," Halladay said. "I do enjoy being in Toronto so much. You'd like to be three games up and not have to deal with this."
11:30 a.m. ET
Charlie Manuel just announced his starting lineup for the National League for Tuesday's All-Star Game:
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Chase Utley, 2B
Albert Pujols, 1B
Ryan Braun, RF
Raul Ibanez, LF
David Wright, 3B
Shane Victorino, CF
Yadier Molina, C
Tim Lincecum, SP
Joe Maddon countered with this lineup for the American League:
Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Derek Jeter, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Josh Hamilton, CF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Aaron Hill, 2B
Roy Halladay, SP
--Nick Pietruszkiewicz, baseball editor