MLB All-Star Game: Crafting a Home Run Derby with all-time participants
The Home Run Derby returns to Coors Field in 2021 for the first time since 1998, and the first time in baseball since 2019.
New York Mets star Pete Alonso will be returning to the Derby to defend his 2019 crown, and it should be a great time had by all (except for the baseballs, of course).
But, we’re not here to talk about this year’s Derby. We’re here to talk about who would make for the greatest Derby if all bets were off, including players who have taken part in Derby’s past and present. Let’s go!
1. Ken Griffey Jr.
The Kid is an all-time Home Run Derby icon.
The winner of three of these exhibitions (1994, 1998, 1999), Griffey is arguably the coolest player of all time. The Swingman participated in eight Home Run Derby events, both as a member of the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds, and the backwards hat became a symbol of all things cool in baseball in the 90s and early 2000s.
But, Griffey isn’t the only player to win the Derby more than once…
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2. Prince Fielder
A two-time winner of the contest, once as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers and the other with the Detroit Tigers, Fielder is one of the more likable players of his generation.
How do you not have the player who orchestrated maybe the coolest walk-off home run celebration in MLB history when he jumped on the plate and all of his teammates fell back? You can’t NOT have him!
Fielder is the only multi-time winner to do so for different organizations.
3. Yoenis Cespedes
The third and final multi-time champ of the event, Cespedes has been an enigma within the game for years.
Before his uncertain future in the game after an injury side-stepping a wild boar on his ranch, one thing was for certain – Cespedes could hit bombs. A back-to-back winner in 2013 and 2014, Cespedes won both events as a member of the Oakland Athletics, winning his first in his eventual home of Citi Field in Queens, New York.
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4. David Ortiz
Big Papi took home the trophy in 2010, his fourth of five total Derby appearances.
He’s sixth all-time on the total Derby home runs list with 77, and is one of the game’s most engaging and magnetic personalities of all time. Who wouldn’t want to see one of the most clutch players in baseball history tear it up with the other names on this list?
Also, in my humble opinion, I’ve never seen a more potent 3-4 in a lineup than he and Manny Ramirez. I know, not such a bold opinion, I just wanted to throw it out there knowing far too well that anything just “thrown out there” is in danger of being hit 500 feet by No. 34.
5. Giancarlo Stanton
If you were to craft a home run hitting machine from clay, the result would look something like Giancarlo Stanton.
A three-time participant and one-time winner in 2016 when he hit 61 total homers, Stanton is the ninth-fastest player in MLB history to reach 100 home runs. He has 325 homers in his career, and if he hadn’t spent a good deal of time injured in his career, there is no doubt he’d have many more.
If he can stay on the field for the next seven or eight years, there’s no doubt he will reach the historic 500 home run plateau. As for the Derby itself, it seems insulting to not have a player like Stanton in this event.
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6. Josh Hamilton
Yes, he is one of my favorite players of all time, a great redemption story, and one of the most natural athletes the game has ever seen.
No, he didn’t even win the Home Run Derby he made his name in in 2008 (grrrr Justin Morneau). But, I am putting him on the list anyway.
In 2008, he had set the single-round record at 28 home runs (which has since been surpassed, more on that in a moment), in the old Yankee Stadium, which was the highest-rated Derby on television to date. It was a wild night that really put him on the map.
7. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
One of MLB’s current rising superstars and son of former Home Run Derby champion and Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, Vlad Jr. (the second Jr. on this list) makes it next.
Due to rule changes since 2008, the aforementioned record of 28 Home Runs in a single round now sits at 40 courtesy of the Blue Jays superstar. He finished that Derby with a record 91 total home runs. A record that still stands by 30 dingers.
The rule change of four minutes per round rather than ten “outs” (pitches swung at that didn’t result in a home run) and time added when homers go a certain distance definitely helped Guerrero break the record, but it’s hard to think it isn’t super-duper impressive.
Like Hamilton, Guerrero didn’t win the Derby in question, but was ultimately the star who came across brightest.
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8. Joc Pederson
Yup, you read that write. Current Chicago Cubs star and former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson is the all-time leader in Home Run Derby homers with 99, in two appearances. Yes, just two.
He hasn’t won the event which takes place the night before the All-Star Game, but he surely has had his presence felt. There is plenty of time for him to finally win one and raise that WWE belt over his head in celebration.
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But Allen, where are some of the greatest sluggers of all time? Where are Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or the home run king Barry Bonds?
Well, while they all did win a Home Run Derby, I don’t think the narrative of this event would be as fun if they were included. We’d get into the weeds of their legacies and legitimacy, and we all just want to have fun.
After all, that’s what the Home Run Derby is all about: having a whole lotta fun!
Follow Allen Austin on Twitter @Allen_Austin_
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