Matthews: HR Derby Ain't What It Used To Be

posted by Bob Matthews - 

REMEMBERING WHEN THE HOME RUN DERBY WAS A MUCH BIGGER DEAL

Baseball’s Home Run Derby and the NBA’s Dunk Contest have much in common. They were great ideas when they started and must-see warm-up acts for All-Star Games for a long time. The athletes were glad to be chosen and eager to display their slugging and acrobatic leaping talents.

Unfortunately, the Home Run Derby and Dunk Contest have seen better days. The very best sluggers and dunkers usually pass up invitations. Most of the participants now are second- or third-rate performers.

For example, here are the brackets for Monday night’s eight-man Home Run Derby and where the players rank on this season’s HR list:

1-seed Jesus Aguilar (Milwaukee) 24 HRs (6th) vs. 8-seed Rhys Hoskins (Phillies) 14 HRs (t59th)

2-seed Bryce Harper (Washington) 23 HRs (t7th) vs. 7-seed Freddie Freeman (Atlanta) 16 HRs (t39th)

3-seed Max Muncy (Dodgers) 21 HRs (t13th) vs. 6-seed Javier Baez (Cubs) 18 HRs (t24th)

4-seed Alex Bregman (Houston) 19 HRs (t19th) vs. 8-seed Kyle Shwarber (Cubs) 17 HRs (t34th).

Of the top 12 HR hitters this season, only two will be in the Home Run Derby: Aguilar and Harper.

The 10 sluggers who won’t be participating are J.D. Martinez and Jose Ramirez (each 28 HRs); Mike Trout, Francisco Lindor and Aaron Judge (each 25 HRs each); Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts and Manny Machado (each 23 HRs each); and Nelson Cruz and Giancarlo Stanton (each 22 HRs).

The Home Run Derby began in 1985. The roll call of winners is impressive: Ken Griffey Jr. (3 times), Prince Fielder and Yoenis Cespedes (2 times each); Dave Parker, Darryl Strawberry, Wally Joyner, Andre Dawson, Eric Davis, Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken Jr., Mark McGwire, Juan Gonzalez, Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Tino Martinez, Sammy Sosa, Luis Gonzalez, Jason Giambi, Garret Anderson, Miguel Tejada, Ryan Howard, Vladimir Guerrero, Justin Morneau, David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

UNITED SOCCER LEAGUE ADDS SIX TEAMS...WILL THE RHINOS RETURN?

The rapidly expanding United Soccer League will add six cities for the 2019 season – Austin, Birmingham, El Paso, Hartford, Memphis and New Mexico.

The USL has 33 teams this season. The six new teams will make it at least a 39-team league for next season. The big question: Will the dormant Rochester Rhinos return to make it a 40-team league?

AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER RACE IS A BEAUTY

The 2018 American League Most Valuable Player race is among the most-contentious I’ve ever seen.

My frontrunner is Boston first baseman/DH J.D. Martinez. His batting line: .329 batting average (113-forf-343); 68 runs; 22 doubles; 1 triple; 28 HRs; AL-most 79 RBI; .392 on-base percentage; .644 slugging percentage; 1.036 OPS. The Red Sox are 24-3 in games when he homers this season. In his last 165 games, he has 60 HRs and 155 RBI.

He has lots of MVP competition, including:

Boston teammate Mookie Betts (.352; 76 runs; 23 HRs; 16-for-18 stolen bases; 1.123 OPS), who has the advantage of being a Gold Glove right fielder.

Houston’s Jose Altuve (.333; 126-for-378; 62 runs; 9 HRs; 44 RBI; .944 OPS). The hit machine is the MVP of the defending champions.

Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor (.296; 28 HRs; 62 RBI; .944 OPS) and underrated teammate Jose Ramirez. (.296; 28 HRs; 67 RB I; 19-for-22 stolen bases; 1.103 OPS.)

Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout (.314; 71 runs; 25 HRs; 15-for-16 stolen bases; 1.075 OPS).

New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge ).279; 25 HRs; 60 RBI; .952 OPS) – and teammate Giancarlo Stanton(.2376; 22 HRs; 54 RBI; .862 OPS) is a few hot streaks away from joining him.

Oakland’s Jed Lowrie (.290; 16 HRs; 62 RBI; .863 OPS).

538 COMPUTER’S BASEBALL PROJECTIONS

Entering Thursday, here were the projections for the Major League Baseball season:

Projected final records – Red Sox 107-55...Yankees 105-57...Astros 104-58...Cubs 95-67...Mariners 93-69...Indians 92-70...Brewers 92-70...Dodgers 90-72...Diamondbacks +57

Projected run differential – Astros +284...Red Sox +238...Yankees +221...Cubs +172...Indians +147...Dodgers +124...Brewers +83...Diamondbacks +57...Mariners +23

Probabilities to make the playoffs – Astros, Red Sox and Yankees each 99 percent...Indians 97 percent...Cubs 93 percent...Brewers 81 percent...Dodgers 72 percent...Mariners 69 percent...Diamondbacks 48 percent

Probabilities to won the division – Indians 97 percent...Astros 89 percent...Cubs 65 percent...Red Sox 61 percent...Dodgers 56 percent...Brewers 31 percent...Yankees 38 percent...Diamondbacks 27 percent...Mainers 10 percent

Probabilities to win the World Series – Astros 22 percent...Red Sox 17 percent...Yankees 14 percent...Cubs 10 percent...Dodgers 9 percent...Indians 7 percent...Brewers 4 percent...Diamondbacks 3 percent...Mariners 2 percent.

SPRAYING BASEBALL HITS TO ALL FIELDS

The Los Angeles Dodgers (51-42 record) won 3-2 in San Diego Thursday night to take sole possession of first place in the National League West for the first time this season.

Albert Pujols (Angels) hit two HRs Thursday night to tie Ken Griffey Jr. for sixth on the all-time list with 630 HRs.

Cleveland was 74-0 in Corey Kluber’s past 74 starts when his team provided 4-plus runs of support before Thursday night’s 7-4 home loss to the Yankees.

Two hot Yankees: Greg Bird 11 RBI in last 4 games...Brett Gardner 4 HRs in last 7 games.

Boston is 37 games above .500 (66-29) for the first time since 1949 and need go only 34-33 the rest of this regular season to reach 100 wins for the first time since 1946.

Oakland won 6-4 in Houston Thursday night. The A’s are 19-5 in their last 24 games and 53-41 overall. They lead MLB with 69 runs in the eighth inning.

The Mets are 37-54 (they started 11-1) and have their most losses before the All-Star Game since 60 in 1993.

The Orioles dropped 42 games under .500 (26-68) with a 5-4 home loss to Philadelphia Thursday.

SHORT SHOTS

539 computer’s World Cup win probabilities – Saturday’s Third-Place game: Belgium 51 percent, England 49 percent...Sunday’s Championship Game: France 59 percent, Croatia 41 percent.

RIT Chief Communications Officer Bob Finnerty offers a reason to root for Croatia: RIT has had a campus in Croatia since 1995 and current enrollment is around 800. Go Tigars (not Tigers).

The Buffalo Bills preseason game at the Cleveland Browns Friday, August 127 will be carried by the NFL Network. Will Tyrod Taylor and/or Baker Mayfield be playing quarterback for the Browns?

Two Rochester Knighthawks stars are in top form in Major Series A Lacrosse in Ontario this summer. Cody Jamieson has 15 goals and 27 points in 9 games for the Six Nations Chiefs (6-5-1 record) and faceoff whiz Jake Withers is 73-for-95 in 5 games for the Peterborough Lakers (10-1-1).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Friday, July 13

Cody Bellinger (23)...Dante Exum (23)...DJ LeMahieu (30)...Arinze Onuaku (31)...Yadier Molina (36)...Shin-Soo Choo (36)...Spud Webb (55)...David Thompson (64)...Tony Kornheiser (70)...former Buffalo Braves star Bob Kauffman (72). Cheech Marin (72), Harrison Ford (76) and Patrick Stewart (78) are invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, July 14

Marshall Plumlee (26)...Shabazz Napier  (27)...Conor McGregor (30)...Darrelle Revis (33)...Tim Hudson (43)...Robin Ventura (51)...Steve Stone (51).

Sunday, July 15

Tobias Harris (26)...Derrick Favors (27)...Damian Lillard (28)...Peter Ciavaglia (49)...John Stallworth (66)...Jesse Ventura (67).

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

July 13

88 years ago (1930), the first soccer World Cup began in Uruguay...56 years ago (1962), Arnold Palmer won the 91st British Open...33 years ago (1985), the New York Yankees retired the numbers of Roger Maris 9 and Elston Howard 32...25 years ago (1993), Kirby Puckett was MVP of the All-Star Game...4 years ago (2014), Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in extra time to win the 20th World Cup.

July 14

84 years ago (1934), Babe Ruth hit his 700th career home run...31 years ago (1987), the Rookie of the Year Award was renamed to honor Jackie Robinson.

July 15

119 years ago (1090), Detroit’s Ty Cobb his two inside-the-park home runs...95 years ago (1923), Bobby Jones won the 27th U.S. Open...57 years ago (1961), Arnold Palmer won the 90th British Open...40 years ago (1978), Jack Nicklaus won the 107th British Open.

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