We are in for a real treat tonight. Some of the greatest hitters in all the land have been brought together to compete in this year's Home Run Derby in St. Louis. There are a couple of things that strike me about this year's derby; the first being my disappointment in the American League field. Leading to my next point, it is really going to be a race between 3 horses, Pujols, Howard, Fielder. While we may not have any "Boo? Fuck you" moments or 500 foot blasts by Josh Hamilton, this year's derby promises to excite.
What do Evan Longoria, Josh Hamilton, Justin Morneau, Jason Bay, Mark Teixeira, Torii Hunter, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro all have in common? They were all invited to participate in the Home Run Derby this year and declined. Thus, we are left with Nellie Cruz, Joe Mauer, Brandon Inge and Carlos Pena on the AL squad.
Not that these men aren't capable of winning the derby (Carlos Pena is a definite sleeper pick), but they are not really the household names you'd expect. Brandon Inge will no doubt join John Jaha as one of the more obscure Derby participants of all time. I think that all those players declining the home run derby is an insult to the fans. Whatever happened to going to the All Star game and competing in the Home Run Derby being an honor? These guys treat it as a chore and that is pretty disrespectful.
With that said, the NL side is most likely where this year's derby champion will come from. Ryan Howard is a past winner (he also went on to win MVP that year for those who argue that participating in the home run derby ruins your swing for the second half of the year), Albert Pujols has the best power stroke in baseball and will be energized by his home crowd, and if Prince Fielder can get all of his weight behind anything it is going to go a long way. Adrian Gonzalez looks like a mouse and will probably disappoint like he has since I traded for him in fantasy baseball.
I like Fielder, Howard, Pujols and Pena to make it into the second round, and then Howard and Pujols to slug it out in the finals. By this point, it will be anybody's game since the scores reset to zero, and sicne the stadium design does not give an advantage to either righties of lefties. It will all be about who has the most energy left. Because I am a homer, and because he has won in the past, I will give the nod to Ryan Howard. Moreover, Albert might get a little too jacked up from the crowd and use up too much energy early. Regardless of the outcome, I think a final round of Pujols vs. Howard would be epic. Who do you guys like?