It's the one night of the year that I am especially grateful for whoever it was that invented the TV remote, and then added the MUTE button to said remote. Missing out on the sweet and repeated crack of the bat when a slugger sends a ball into the bleachers is more than compensated by not having to listen to ESPN's Chris Berman and his call of each successful clout.
Born in 1985 at the All-Star Game at Minneapolis' Metrodome, the Home Run Derby is set for its 27th installment Monday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Originally a straightforward concept that determined a winner by simply adding up the number of home runs a player hit throughout the event, the rules have become a bit more complicated over the years.
Dave Parker, then with the Cincinnati Reds, won the initial contest in 1985 with six home runs. That number was doubled by Cal Ripken Jr. in 1991 at what was then called the Sky Dome in Toronto. Albert Pujols swatted 26 in 2003 at US Cellular Field, but finished second to Garret Anderson due to the former Anaheim Angels outfielder nipping Phat Albert 9-8 in the final round. Bobby Abreu cracked a record 41 at Comerica Park to win the event in 2005, and Josh Hamilton put on perhaps the most memorable performance in 2008 at Yankee Stadium when he popped 35 only to finish second to Justin Morneau who bested Hamilton 5-3 in the final round and cranked 22 on the night.
The defending champion is Robinson Cano who nipped Adrian Gonzalez at Chase Field in Phoenix last summer in one of the closest overall competitions. The Yankees vs. Red Sox showdown saw Cano hit 32 total and defeat Gonzalez 12-11 in the last round. Gonzalez finished the evening with 31 long balls.
Cano will captain the American League this year and will have the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista, Detroit's Prince Fielder and the Angels' Mark Trumbo on his squad. Bautista is the overall favorite in the event at +350.
The NL crew is captained by Matt Kemp who has been on the DL much of the first half of the season due to hamstring issues. The Dodgers outfielder just finished a rehab stint in the minors and is joined on his side by St. Louis' Carlos Beltran, Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez and Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen.
Cano will be trying to become just the second player to win the event more than once. Ken Griffey Jr. won it three times (1994, 1998-99). Only three players have won the Home Run Derby and gone on to hit a homer in the All-Star Game. Ripken was the first to accomplish the feat in '91, and earned MVP honors in the Midsummer Classic. Frank Thomas (1995) and Garret Anderson (2003) also did it, with Anderson also taking home the MVP hardware.
Below are all eight participants this year with their odds to win it. My pick is Mark Trumbo.
Jose Bautista (+350)
Carlos Beltran (+650)
Robinson Cano (+450)
Prince Fielder (+500)
Carlos Gonzalez (+650)
Matt Kemp (+650)
Andrew McCutchen (+850)
Mark Trumbo (+500)