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Nelson Cruz and the Home Run Derby

When it was announced that Nelson “Sail Around the World” Cruz was going to be in the 2009 Home Run Derby, I don’t think anyone expected much out of him. I mean look at who he was playing against. Ryan Howard, Albert Freakin’ Pujols, Prince Fielder. Not that Nelson Cruz is a slouch – he’s having a great power season. But come on, he’s not Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols. I think just about everyone EXPECTED Pujols to win the thing before it started.
Nelson came out, and showed some power in the first round. He tied Prince Fielder for most in the first round with eleven home runs. He also seemed to love the “Big Mac Land” sign in left field. First, he hit the thing, making a quite audible bang. A few later, he hit a ball right over the sign, and then the next swing after that one he hit it WAY above the sign, up into the fourth and upper deck. Quite a titanic shot. They only said it went 440 ft, but it looked a heck of a lot longer than that!
He had some that were quite impressive, and I enjoyed seeing Cruz perform. Obviously because I’m a Rangers fan I liked that, but I think I would have enjoyed that performance had I not known him ahead of time.
In round two, Nelson only had five home runs, but it was enough to give him second place after the second round, putting him in the finals against Prince Fielder. Nelson seemed a little out of gas, although when he did connect, it was good. Check out this chart of where all his hit balls went:

There’s a video montage of Cruz’s home runs via this link over at mlb.com. Stupidly, they don’t allow you to embed video remotely, or I’d do that. Anyway, the ball that hit the Big Mac sign was his second home run. The one that went over the Big Mac sign was the eighth home run (roughly 1:34 into the video clip), and then the titanic shot was right after that at time mark 1:39.
Again, I liked seeing him get as far as he did, and I don’t think there’s anything bad with him second. Was a nice showing for him on the national stage.
Now that’s the nice-y stuff. Here’s the complaints…
1) TOO FREAKIN’ LONG! – Nelson Cruz didn’t come up to bat until the show was already about twenty minutes long. They had this silly thing first where someone came out, and pointed where he wanted Albert Pujols to hit a home run – and he tried. Twice. Didn’t get it. Pujols took like a dozen balls before he swung it seemed. Wow. I don’t really have a problem with this in theory, but given the problems this event has with being peceived as too long… Waiting 20 minutes to actually start is stupid. Perhaps this could have been after it was over, or inbetween rounds 1 and 2 or something like that? Come on.
2) TIME SLOT – This is more a TiVo/DVR thing, but.. Does anyone believe it will stay within it’s time slot of two hours? Come on – this hasn’t ended in under two hours in like, ever… Even before it started, I padded it by an hour, and you know what? It didn’t even fit. My TiVo recording ran out (to record something else at 10PM) when Fielder was batting in the final round. Fortunately, I immediately flipped over to my iPod touch and the MLB At Bat app, which was showing the derby live streamed. I was able to see the end of it that way, but when the Derby doesn’t fit within a three hour allotment of time (one of which was a grant from me), that’s just STUPID. If I remember right, they finished the first round just a few minutes before the two hour mark. Good lord, that’s nuts.
3) Chris Berman: I know a lot of people dislike Chris Berman. I like him a lot – but for football. I’ve never been a fan of his baseball commentating. Even saying that, I’ve always kind of liked him in the HR derby. But not anymore. I think it’s time for a change – his shtick needs to go. I think they should put someone else in there. But NOT Joe Morgan. I could do another entry on why he needs to be replaced, too. ESPN has enough guys on their roster, they could stick someone else in there. Put John Kruk there, we could see the Randy Johnson / John Kruk footage every year. :)
4) Talking over at bats: I believe it was Joe Mauer this year, but it seems there’s always a player that is up at bat, and the announcers are busy talking to some baseball player or exec or something during that player’s Derby atbat. But they don’t talk about the guy at the plate – they’re talking about anything BUT him. While I’m not a Twins or Joe Mauer fan, if I was one, I’d be pissed they weren’t talking about my guy, and talking about anything else. That kind of stuff should be between rounds, not DURING them. Shut up! What would be nice would be using the alternate language feed TV stations almost never use to let me hear what’s going on in the stadium, but shut off the announcers.
I’m undecided about ESPN’s home run tracker thing. The “put a trail on the ball” as it flies out of the park. I kind of thought that the NHL tried that some years ago with “Superpuck“, and it went away when the real fans started a revolt over the idea. I expect the same thing will happen here. If they try bringing it in on their regular coverage, I might have to have a stronger reaction.
On the positive side, I am so glad they stopped having some sideline reporter accost the player when they come out of the box. They always asked them stupid questions like “What did it feel like when you hit home run #4?” I mean come on – who cares? That was auto skip stuff on the TiVo. At least it’s gone – last night they just sent a kid with Gatorade and a towel, which is what it should be.
Overall, I think the derby is fine. I know a lot of people rag on it, but I think it’s just minor tweaks and it can be OK. Does anyone remember the last home run derby that wasn’t led by Chris Berman?
And for a laugh, check out this link, which is a drinking game based on the 2009 Home Run Derby. Made me chuckle for sure.

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