Monday, July 12, 2004

Chicks Dig the Long Ball

Sitting here in my living room, preparing to watch the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby, I thought I’d keep a running commentary to post online. The Sports Guy does stuff like this from time to time, and it looks like fun. Maybe it’ll suck, but hey, I don’t have to post it if it does.

8:05 p.m. – I’m expecting the Derby to start about now, but I’m wrong. I shouldn’t be surprised. These "big events" never start on time. Instead, Roger Clemens is introducing a performance by Clay Walker. I take this opportunity to flip through the channels.

8:07 p.m. – Yes, I’m really watching Bill O’Reilly and Newt Gingrich. Even these blowhards are preferable to country music.

8:11 p.m. – Back to the Derby, and now they’re doing introductions. Ugh, can we just get to the homers, please? It was cool to hear a nice ovation for Ken Griffey Jr., though, even though he isn’t participating in this year’s Derby due to a hamstring tear sustained this past weekend.

8:15 p.m. – Now they’re bringing out all living members of the 500 Home Run Club. Willie McCovey was literally wheeled out onto the field in a wheelchair. Why do we do this to these people? On the other hand, here’s Mark McGwire, who looks as though he should still be playing. Except for the white in his goatee, that is.

8:17 p.m. – That leads me into a rant that’s been building for some time. I’ll keep it short for now, but I may explore it again later. What’s up with great athletes I actually like retiring before it seems like they should? Barry Sanders and Mark McGwire...I would have loved to see these guys play for another few years. Barry Bonds, on the other hand, refuses to go away, no matter how much I want him to.

8:22 p.m. – Is the Derby starting to be like the Super Bowl? I’ve already seen a new Budweiser commercial and a new MasterCard commercial. Both were pretty funny. This could be an unexpected bonus.

8:26 p.m. – Here comes the first pitch. This event was supposed to start at 8:00. Yep, should have known better. Oh, they’re pretending to intentionally walk Bonds, how clever. I hope Bonds screws up his swing in this thing and never hits another home run.

Are they using softballs for this thing? Also, why can’t they just use the camera angle they normally use for baseball games?

8:32 p.m. – Okay, I don’t like Bonds (you may have noticed), but even I have to admit that he was fun to watch. He crushed some balls. He finishes with seven in the first round.

Oh, right. I just remembered, they have commercials after each batter in this thing. Get comfy, folks, we’re likely to be here until morning.

8:35 p.m. – Here comes Hank Blalock, third baseman for the Texas Rangers. I’m putting the over/under on this guy at four, and taking the under.

8:39 p.m. – Blalock finishes with three. I’m thinking that won’t carry him into the second round.

8:42 p.m. – After another spate of commercials, here comes Lance Berkman, outfielder for the Astros. He’s playing in his home park and should be comfortable, so I’m guessing he’ll do well. He’s only in this contest because Griffey had to pull out. I really wanted to see Junior do this thing again. It kills me that he’s injured again.

8:44 p.m. – I was right about Berkman.

8:46 p.m. – Well, Berkman started strong, but wore down after that. He finishes with seven, currently tied with Bonds for the lead.

8:52 p.m. – Next up is Miguel Tejada, shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. I haven’t seen him play yet this year, but I don’t think I expect much from him. I kinda wish the players were wearing their normal team uniforms for this event—I’m having a hard time seeing this guy in an Orioles jersey. I don’t know why.

8:58 p.m. – Tejada put on a show, contrary to my expectations. He put up seven, trying with Berkman and Bonds for the lead. He really smoked a couple of them, too. I’d like to see him hit again, so I hope he makes the second round.

9:01 p.m. – Jim Thome is the next batter. He’s leading the National League in home runs, but I’m not a fan. I don’t particularly dislike him, the way I do Bonds, but I don’t like him either. Hopefully he’ll be eliminated in this round and I won’t have to see him anymore.

9:04 p.m. – Thome hits four, so I think he’s done. Now the vapid Sam Ryan is on the screen, and there’ll be a commercial break after that, so I think it’s a good time for a trip to the bathroom.

9:08 p.m. – Now we’ve got David Ortiz. I see by his hat that he plays for Boston. Are these really the best home run hitters the American League has to offer?

9:11 p.m. – Ortiz hits the roof with a ball, and we’re waiting for a ruling on whether or not it counts as a home run. No, of course it’s not a home run! Come on, it landed in the field of play. In the meantime, they’re showing Sammy Sosa warming up in the hallway.

9:13 p.m. – The first audible occurrence of the F-bomb for the evening, uttered by Ortiz after an out. When you put live microphones on the field, this is what you get. I personally don’t care, but I’m sure there are people out there saying "but my kids are watching!"

9:15 p.m. – Ortiz ends with three, tied for last with Blalock. He’s probably done. Other than Tejada, the American League hitters are not doing well. Maybe it’s because they aren’t familiar with the park? I don’t know, I’m just making things up. At any rate, they’ve got one more chance in Rafael Palmeiro.

9:18 p.m. – Here comes Sammy Sosa, who is always fun to watch in these things. He can crank the ball, and he loves putting on a show for the fans. That’s a good combination. He also seems personable, which is quite a contrast to Bonds.

9:21 p.m. – Who in the hell is pitching to Sosa? It looks like he’s trying to get him out. Hey buddy, the batter is supposed to crush the ball tonight. Throw it over the plate!

9:24 p.m. – A couple of rednecks in cowboy hats just caught one of Sammy’s home runs, and the camera lingered on them a bit too long. Welcome to Texas.

9:25 p.m. – Sosa finishes with five homers, so Thome is out. Bonds, Berkman, and Tejada are definitely in the next round. The fourth player will be either Sosa or Palmeiro, depending on what Palmeiro does next.

9:31 p.m. – I think one of the kids shagging flies in the outfield just killed himself lunging after a ball hit by Palmeiro. Very sad.

9:33 p.m. – Hank Aaron is in the stands, taking pictures of the proceedings with his cell phone. How surreal is that?

9:35 p.m. – Palmeiro just hit his sixth, so he’s in and Sosa’s out. The second round will be Bonds, Berkman, Tejada, and Palmeiro. It turns out we’ll have two National and two American League representatives after all. I’m picking Bonds and Berkman to move on to the finals, though.


9:52 p.m. – Bonds is batting. I missed the beginning of his at-bat because the terribly long delay between rounds caused me to wander away from the TV. They had to open the roof of the stadium in Houston. This thing is taking far too long. Eliminate the extended intros, some of the commercials (do we need them between EVERY batter?), and the roof delay. That would make it easier to watch. It would be fun to be there in person, but the delays would be even more excruciating.

9:55 p.m. – Bonds is done with three, so he might not move on after all.

10:02 p.m. – The delay notwithstanding, I’m glad they opened the roof. Berkman is now banging the ball entirely out of the park with regularity. This is what makes the Derby so much fun to watch. I still would have preferred to see Griffey, but Berkman is doing quite well in his place.

10:12 p.m. – Tejada just hit his fourth, so Bonds is done (Berkman hit 10). Unfortunately, Tejada’s at-bat is being virtually neglected by commentators Chris Berman and Joe Morgan, who are talking to Reggie Jackson.

10:21 p.m. – Tejada just hit his 15th, which is a single-round record for the Derby. The fans outside the stadium are in a dogpile, trying to get the ball. That home run is his last, but he’s in the Finals. On one hand, I’d say he doesn’t have enough left to win it, but he seemed to get stronger as he went. If he’s up against Berkman, that could be a great round. Again, it comes down to what Palmeiro does.

10:25 p.m. – Bonds, out of the competition, has changed out of his uniform and into street clothes. I can’t say why, but he looks like a woman. An ugly woman, yes, but a woman nonetheless.

10:33 p.m. – Palmeiro bores the crowd to death and only, a few. I’m not even sure how many, but it wasn’t enough to move on. It’ll be Berkman and Tejada in the finals.


10:41 p.m. – Berkman finishes with four home runs. I think Tejada’s got this one in the bag.

10:51 p.m. – Tejada just hit his fifth, and the Derby is over. He wins. A little anticlimactic after the showcase of the first two rounds, but it was a good show anyway.

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