Last night proved that the HR Derby is the best All Star skills event in sports.
CLEVELAND – It’s official: The NBA Slam Dunk Contest is officially dead.
Make no mistake about it. MLB’s HR Derby is the skills competition that is must-see TV now, and it’s isn’t even close.
The show put on Monday night at Progressive Field was one for the ages. You could not have watched it and not think what you had watched was an epic, breath and speech taking event.
Sure, some will say the ball is juiced and that’s why it’s flying out of America’s ballparks at a historic pace.
But this isn’t about that at all.
It was about MLB players flexing their muscles and competing on a grand stage for all to see. It didn’t hurt that $1 million was the prize for the last man standing, either.
The script couldn’t have been written any better in Hollywood. Two rookies, who are also two of the games biggest stars of the future, squared off in the finals and put on a show most won’t soon forget.
The Mets’ Pete Alonso defeated the Blue Jays Vladimir Guerrero, 23-22, to claim the HR Derby crown.
MLB on Twitter
Goodnight. #HRDerby https://t.co/CuFrPv4dDM
It might have been the greatest Home Run derby we’ve ever seen, and that’s not being a prisoner of the moment. It’s just that’s what it seemed and felt like while watching.
Even Magic Johnson, who knows a little something about NBA All-Star, had to chime in about the derby, tweeting, “I just witnessed the most exciting HR Derby in MLB history!”
Let’s face it. MLB has simply done a better job of getting it’s stars to participate in the event, not shun it like the NBA.
Baseball players seem to understand the importance of putting the game on display in the middle of the summer with the whole country watching.
We talked about Harper winning in DC last year and Judge putting on a display suitable for framing – coming back from a 22 to 0 hole to win in Miami two years ago.
Meanwhile, the NBA’s biggest star, LeBron James, has never done a dunk contest over his soon-to-be seventeen seasons.
One reason the players don’t want to soar on command is because the contest is boring and players get what appear to be endless tries.
And the biggest stars don’t respect the event or don’t understand what the All-Star showcase is all about.
But MLB gets it.
Guerrero Jr., just 20, had only eight HRs thus far in his rookie season since being called up, and some loud critics balked at him even getting an invitation.
But Guerrero’s talent is so obvious that there’s no way it could be denied and not put on display for all to witness.
MLB got it right. Big Time.
Hence, it wasn’t a total surprise that he didn’t disappoint. In fact, many people walked away from the ballpark thinking that Guerrero had won and not Alonso, the actual winner.
Guerrero hit a record 91 dingers in the competition, including some tape-measure shots. One was 488 feet and almost hit the scoreboard in left field. It was majestic, indeed.
Toronto Blue Jays on Twitter
We’re watching HISTORY! #PLAKATA ?| #LetsGoBlueJays https://t.co/1TEKh6G4YU
Best of all, the first round was just as thrilling as the final round. Guerrero and the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson each hit a record-setting 29 homers in their matchup.
“That was elite hitting,” Alonso said. “That was some of the best rounds of BP I’ve ever seen – better than the Josh Hamilton round.”
Yes, the HR Derby being off the charts and having the game’s stars involved isn’t new.
In 2008, Hamilton put on a show at Yankee Stadium most there will never forget. And no one was talking about juiced balls back then. Hamilton hit 28 homers in a round to set the record before it was broken last night – twice.
“Everybody did such an amazing job just going out there and showing their stuff and showcasing the young talent in the game,” Alonso said.
Last year, the MLB HR Derby TV rating was 4.1. This year’s NBA Dunk and Three-point contest got just a 3.5 TV rating.
Most would be shocked when given those facts, but they shouldn’t be. The Home Run Derby is simply a better contest.
We saw that with our own eyes last night.