The annual MLB All-Star festivities get underway Monday with that beloved summertime favorite, the Home Run Derby. Eight juiced-up combatants, four from each league, will compete to see who can hit the most juiced-up balls over the Busch Stadium fence, and in the process ruin their swings for the rest of the season.
Oh, you don’t believe that bit about ruining the swings? You think it’s an Old Wives’ Tale? Tell that to Bobby Abreu, who tore it up like few before him at the Derby a few years ago, and still hasn’t gotten his stroke back.
Experiences like Abreu’s were probably on the minds of American League power hitters as, one-by-one, they found excuses to not participate in the contest. This is why the A.L. Derby roster is so, well, underwhelming. The only guy there who provides mild intrigue is Joe Mauer, who was known as a slap hitter before he started turning on the ball this year and became a power threat. The other three A.L. contestants, Carlos Pena, Nelson Cruz and for freak’s sake Brandon Inge, give one the feeling of going to see a classic rock band only to discover that the bass player is the sole remaining original member, the other guys all having died or given up music to pursue their love of passing out in puddles of bodily fluids.
The N.L. roster is a little better at least: it features Albert Pujols, representing the host team Cardinals, alongside three fellow first basemen, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard. This makes the A.L. vs. N.L. battle seem like a mismatch on paper, but, as some people never tire of saying, that’s why paper is used for writing and not staging sporting events on. Or quasi-sporting events – actually exhibitions – like the Derby.
As is usually the case with the Home Run Derby, I have no idea who is going to win, nor do I particularly care. I, like most red-blooded baseball fans, will only be watching for the flyball shaggers. There is nothing as funny as watching a bunch of little leaguers running around a huge major league outfield trying to catch flyballs that come a foot from scraping off the moon. One of these days there is going to be a serious collision resulting in multiple compound fractures, and I want to be there when it happens.
Of course, there have been occasions when the Derby has provided more than just inappropriate laughs at the expense of children - I know because I turned on ESPN2 the other day and they were showing one of the past Derbies that I didn’t remember. It was the one at Fenway when Mark McGwire kept hitting balls over the Green Monster, bouncing them off buildings, cars and spectators’ heads with a regularity that tended to suggest either the ball was funny or Mark was. Mr. McGwire, of course, just went on acting like there was nothing the least bit unnatural about the whole thing. You have to admire that about the steroid-era cheaters – their limitless ability to not show how full of shit they were. Only psychotics and Sarah Palin are that good at denying reality.
But why bother dwelling on all that negative stuff? Home Run Derby night isn’t about rehashing the dark episodes of baseball past – it’s about cracking a bag of Doritos, planting yourself in front of the TV and watching guys try to hit fans in the faces with batted rock hard spheroids. Oh, and of course it’s also about the corporate sponsored side contests. My favorite was when Sammy Sosa won some guy a house. You think that guy wanted to give the house back after he found out Sammy was on more steroids than The Man Whose Arms Exploded? Eff no.
It’s the American way baby – having some slimy, lying cheater win you something you don’t deserve. Happy Derby kids!Tags: adrian gonzalez, albert pujols, bobby abreu, brandon inge, busch stadium, carlos pena, fenway park, joe mauer, mark mcgwire, nelson cruz, prince fielder, ryan howard, sammy sosa, sarah palin, st. louis cardinals