Matt Cain

Home Run Derby like a social gathering, Matt Cain starting the All-Star Game

Chris Berman started it out with his usual enthusiasm, the Zac Brown Band added some musical entertainment, and the balls were flying out of Kauffman Stadium for the 2012 Home Run Derby.

On the Derby itself…

These guys are ridiculous.

Prince Fielder is a mammoth of a hitter. He hit the most total home runs. He hit the top four longest home runs. He’s the second player to win multiple Derbies (the other is Ken Griffey Jr.). He’s now in the top five in Derby homers all-time.

So if you didn’t figure it out by now, Prince Fielder won this year beating Jose Bautista 12-7 in the final round.

Apart from Fielder, Mark Trumbo looked like the strongest man in the competition. The Angels first baseman likes the low and outside fastball, and showed it by pulling it to left throughout the Derby. He even looked like he was reaching for it at times, but it didn’t matter. He still hit the ball a mile and finished third in this year. He’ll be back again.

Jose Bautista rebounded from a rough 2011 Derby to finish second. After beating Trumbo in a swing-off to reach the finals, Bautista was overmatched against Fielder, who was simply dominant. Despite the loss, Bautista showed off his great power, even if it isn’t as dazzling distance-wise. After all, he is the only player in Major League Baseball history to lead the league in home runs for three straight years.

Former Kansas City Royal Carlos Beltran finished fourth despite a lot of support from the crowd.

Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez were disappointing in their showings, but team captains Matt Kemp and Robinson Cano were even more disappointing.

Cano, the defending champion, got a rough welcome from the Kansas City crowd after not selecting Billy Butler for the squad. The crowd booed through his entire round, and that could have affected his swing. More likely, though, his lack of sleep the night before (the Yankee All-Stars got in at 4 a.m.) knocked him off his game.

Cano didn’t hit a single home run in his round, and Matt Kemp didn’t do much better.

The captain of the National League squad’s participation in the Derby was questionable after being on the disabled list for the better half of the season so far. His lackluster performance showed why.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly gave permission for Kemp to participate in the Home Run Derby, but he’s still not going to play in the All-Star Game. Something doesn’t make sense there.

On ESPN’s coverage of the Home Run Derby…

But first, about forty-five minutes into the broadcast, Matt Cain got some publicity with his daughter, as he sat in with John Kruk, Nomar Garciaparra, and Berman for an interview about his perfect game and starting the All-Star Game for the National League.

ESPN has done this before, but conducting interviews while someone is hitting during the Derby seems a bit disrespectful to the hitter and distracting from the interview.

Giants fans probably listened to Cain’s words rather than watching Carlos Gonzalez hit, and Rockies fans have to be disappointed that their guy did not get near as much publicity as Carlos Beltran and Jose Bautista did when they started off the Derby for the National and American Leagues.

Cain wasn’t the only one, either. Josh Hamilton was interviewed while Andrew McCutchen was taking his swings, and that left McCutchen without much promotion.

Sometimes it felt like ESPN was broadcasting a group of friends just hitting baseballs rather than a competitive Home Run Derby with their shots of observing players enjoying the competition, laid back broadcasting and constant laughter. Not to mention Adam Jones swiping a rib George Brett had brought from the barbeque. That’s fine, and it demonstrates the celebratory nature of the Home Run Derby, but at times it was a bit unprofessional and tough to watch.

During the Brett interview, there was a moment while Beltran was approaching the end of his five home run second round when Berman remarked, “Your boy is putting on a show.”

Suddenly, the panel started talking about the Derby, but only briefly. It was clearly not of interest to them at that moment.

Berman tried to bring all the discussions back to the Derby while Garciaparra and Kruk were interviewing people, but it often resulted in awkward “Wows” and “Look at this one!” with no follow-up on the hit.

When coming back from a break, Pedro Gomez had to call for Huston Street’s attention for an interview. It was a little bit awkward, and seemed like one of those moments when the athletes want  to enjoy themselves, not cater to the media. That’s fair. After all, they are on their All-Star break. They should be able to enjoy themselves.

When Bautista finished up the second round tying Mark Trumbo at thirteen homers, the crew got it right. They focused in on the Derby and explained the swing-off rules, discussed the players and added to the drama (if there is such a thing in the Derby).

The Home Run Derby is meant to be fun event, and it was this year. But the switching back and forth from the Derby to the social aspect of the event made it seem like the Derby was going on in the background rather than being the centerpiece of the broadcast. Maybe that’s the way MLB and ESPN wanted it (because it’s been like this for a few years), and it was entertaining. It just felt a little odd that at times the Derby took a back seat to interviews and discussions about Twitter, while at others, the broadcast focused on the player who was actually on display hitting.

Finally, ESPN showing the distance for each home run instantly was pretty cool, and that certainly added to the excitement. Technology added to the broadcast in that case.

On Matt Cain starting the All-Star Game…

R.A. Dickey said during an interview with Pedro Gomez, he was disappointed he was not starting, and that makes sense. He’s tied for first in the majors with twelve wins and sports an ERA of 2.40. Dickey said he was disappointed and called himself a competitor when Gomez asked how he felt about not starting, and did so with a little frustration in his voice. He may be tired of that question, he may be upset La Russa didn’t pick him, or it may be a combination of both. Probably the latter.

It’s not like Cain’s a slouch, either. He’s thrown a perfect game this year, he’s got a 2.62 ERA, nine wins and is leading the league in shutouts.

Either way, Buster Posey will get to catch his teammate to start the All-Star Game, which makes sense since Posey has never caught a knuckleballer before. Plus, the game is all about storylines, and having a battery start the game together may be a bigger one than Dickey getting the start.

It will be interesting to see how Fox approaches Cain and Posey starting together, and Cain getting the nod over Dickey. Maybe they glaze right over it, but it’s more likely the crew will make it a big discussion point in pregame and in the early innings.


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