Jul 14, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT
MINNEAPOLIS — Hello from Target Field, where the Home Run Derby is about to begin. The weather conditions aren’t ideal; it has been raining on and all since mid-afternoon. But the skies are clear for the moment and they’re ready to get this annual event going.
There are some changes from past years. For the first time, the Derby is being held in a bracket format, AL vs. NL. And for the first time, the player from each league who launches the most home runs in the first round gets an automatic bye into the third round.
There are plenty of big names to keep an eye on tonight, including Adam Jones, Troy Tulowitzki, Yasiel Puig and last year’s champ, Yoenis Cespedes. But my predicted winner is a guy Nationals fans have seen hit far too many homers over the years: Giancarlo Stanton.
Enjoy the derby and the conversation here…
2014 MLB HOME RUN DERBY
Where: Target Field
Gametime: 8 p.m. EDT
Radio: 92.7 FM, 94.3 FM, 980 AM
Weather: Chance of rain, 63 degrees, Wind 23 mph LF to RF
Todd Frazier, Reds
Justin Morneau, Rockies
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics
Josh Donaldson, Athletics
Brian Dozier, Twins
Adam Jones, Orioles
9:00 p.m. — Well, we’re finally about to get underway, the rain having delayed the start of this thing. Let me tell you: There are rain delays, and then there are Home Run Derby rain delays. Sheesh. But at long last, here we go, with Todd Frazier first up.
9:07 p.m. — One of the other changes this season: Guys only get 7 outs, not 10. So the pressure’s on. Frazier felt it, too, hitting only two homers to get this started. It’s never easy being the first guy up, especially for a first-timer. We’ll see, but I would think he’s not going to advance with only two homers. The Twins’ Brian Dozier is next.
9:12 p.m. — On second thought, maybe two homers will be enough to advance. Dozier just matched Frazier, sending only two balls over the left-field fence. If nothing else, this new format is speeding things up and putting some serious pressure on the competitors.
9:21 p.m. — Troy Tulowitzki, the NL captain, went third and he started to find a groove, launching four home runs (three of them into the upper deck here. That puts him into first place for now, with seven competitors still to go.
9:29 p.m. — Jose Bautista, ladies and gentlemen, knows how to hit home runs. The Blue Jays slugger just put on a show, launching 10 of them before making his seven outs, nearly every single one a tape-measure shot well into the upper deck. After a sluggish start to this event, the crowd has finally gotten into it.
9:37 p.m. — Well, that was a letdown. Yasiel Puig stepped to the plate, everybody prepared for some fireworks. And then he was shut out. No bat flips tonight. A travesty.
9:45 p.m. — Four homers for the Orioles’ Adam Jones. Which, the way this thing is going, might actually be enough to get him into the second round.
9:55 p.m. — Thank you, Giancarlo Stanton, for doing everything in your power to save this event. What a show he just put on, blasting homers over the batter’s eye in center field and about five rows from the top of the left-field third deck. That was remarkable. Six total homers, but his total distance was easily the best of anybody so far tonight.
10:01 p.m. — Three homers for Josh Donaldson of the A’s. That might still be enough to advance.
10:10 p.m. — The crowd here really wanted former Twin Justin Morneau to do something special, but alas he hit only two homers, forcing him into a Swing-Off with Frazier for the final spot on the NL side of the bracket.
10:17 p.m. — Yoenis Cespedes was the breakout star of last year’s Derby, but he was just another competitor tonight. In keeping with the theme, he hit only three homers, setting up a Swing-Off with teammate Donaldson for the final berth in the AL bracker.
10:25 p.m. — Your Swing-Off winners: Frazier and Cespedes. So the second round is set. It’ll be Tulowitzki vs. Frazier, with the winner facing Stanton on the NL side of the bracket. And it’ll be Jones vs. Cespedes, with the winner facing Bautista on the AL side.
10:35 p.m. — Nice second round for Frazier. He launched six homers, including one oppo-boppo to right-center. So Tulowitzki will have to top that to face Stanton in the finals of the NL bracket.
10:38 p.m. — Only two homers for Tulo. So your NL final is set: Stanton vs. Frazier.
10:58 p.m. — Now THAT’S the Yoenis Cespedes we remember. Nine home runs from the big guy, including some absolute bombs. Adam Jones had no chance to top that. So it’s Bautista vs. Cespedes in the AL final.
11:11 p.m. — Wow, upset of the night! Todd Frazier beats Giancarlo Stanton, 1-0, to advance to the championship round. Maybe it’s just me, but I really prefer my 1-0 ballgames in Minnesota involve Jack Morris and John Smoltz than these two guys. Sheesh.
11:30 p.m. — We have reached the final round at long last, and it’s a surprise showdown between Todd Frazier and Yoenis Cespedes, seeking to repeat as champion. Cespedes launched nine homers in the AL final, easily besting Bautista’s four. Stanton and Bautista, the two first-round leaders, got cold sitting around for nearly two hours. Go figure.
11:49 p.m. — It’s over! It’s all over! Yoenis Cespedes defends his title. He beats Todd Frazier, 9-1. The derby wrapped up in a tidy 2 hours and 49 minutes. Plus that hour-long rain delay before it started. Good times.
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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