The Home Run Derby has, in my opinion, always been the best part of the Major League All-Star Break. Even with the actual game itself (more on this later), the Derby is the most entertaining because it’s a perpetual display of the most exciting offensive part of the game.
Despite the excitement of the Home Run Derby, it always ran too long. The addition of the hit clock has been a great change. Each at bat is limited to four minutes, unless the batter earns a 30-second bonus by hitting two 440-foot bombs.
The clock is so great because it keeps the Derby from going all. Night. Long. The one that comes to mind is Josh Hamilton’s hitting display at the 2008 Derby at Yankee Stadium. Hamilton hit 28 dingers in the first round, 32 more in the second round, and it felt like he would go forever. Of course, Hamilton was exhausted and hit just three in the final round and lost to Justin Morneau by a count of 5-3.
Monday night’s Home Run Derby saw five hitters surpass 15-plus dingers in the first round, even with the clock. The highlight of the night came in the Justin Boar-Aaron Judge matchup in the opening round, as the pair combined for 45 long balls to close out the opening round.
Before an anticlimactic final round, Judge went head to head with Cody Bellinger for the matchup of the night in the semifinal round. Bellinger effortlessly hit swatted 12 homers in his four minutes. Of course, Judge topped that by one to advance.
As expected, Judge went on to win the Derby. The thing that was most impressive to me was how effortlessly Judge consistently dropped 500-foot bombs. He hit balls to the opposite field that looked like he missed and were set to drop as routine fly balls in right field, but instead the baseball kept sailing to the upper deck. It was amazing to watch Judge’s display of hitting throughout the entire Derby as he easily matched his opponents’ totals.
As much as I love the addition of the clock, I could have watched Judge hit homers all. Night. Long.
Photo by Brigham Berthold