A crowd of 40,558 withstood a one-hour rain delay prior to last night's Gillette Home Run Derby at Target Field, but little "spectacular materialized" until A's LF Yoenis Cespedes "found his groove late to secure his second consecutive Derby crown," according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Due to the new bracket format, the hitters were "limited to seven outs per round, down from 10 in previous years." Marlins RF Giancarlo Stanton "got a bye into Round 3" -- another format change -- but "proceeded to post a big fat zero," allowing Reds 3B Todd Frazier to move to the finals with a 1-0 victory. In the AL semifinal, Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista, after "getting a bye, couldn't keep his first-round momentum and fell 7-4 to Cespedes." Cespedes said, "The change in format definitely affected some players. And I think it was difficult for people like Bautista and Stanton because they had to wait so much in between" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/15). ESPN’s Barry Larkin said he liked the new format of the Derby, but said, "The one thing that I didn't like that went down today is the fact that guys that did win Round One had a bye, just had so much time." Bautista and Stanton "came out kind of flat" for their semifinals appearance. ESPN’s Aaron Boone said, “The seven-out thing was a good move to move it to that because the 10 outs can get a little tedious when you are not hitting them. Obviously, it lessens the chance for guys to go on these epic runs we have seen over the years. You are kind of up against it all of a sudden. You get to five outs, that can happen in like 30-seconds and of all of a sudden now you are pressing a little more than you otherwise would” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN2, 7/14).
STANTON THE MAIN HIGHLIGHT: In Miami, Manny Navarro noted Stanton "put on an epic display of power" last night, as his "mammoth blasts drew the biggest reactions from the crowd." Stanton said of the layoff between the first round and the semifinals, "It made a bigger difference than I thought it would. I kind of have to find something to do in that time, stay warm" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/15). The AP's Dave Campbell noted the Derby was "drawn out further by a new format," but the six home runs Stanton hit "were beauties." One landed in the "third deck above left field, about a half-dozen rows shy of the very top of the ballpark." Another ball "reached the second deck about the center field batter's eye, a place never touched by a ball during an actual game here" (AP, 7/15). In DC, Adam Kilgore notes the "graveyard dimensions" of Target Field made the event a "chore, a drag, calisthenics to be endured." It was an event "made to hate-watch, until it was redeemed" by Stanton. Kilgore: "Did you see the ball Stanton almost hit out of the ever-loving stadium? Or the way the reigning NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen, lost his mind when it happened?" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/15).
NOT AN EVENT FOR REAL FANS? SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch writes the more fans "care about Major League Baseball ... the more you hate the Home Run Derby." The event is the "lowest common denominator in baseball, and there's nothing a hardcore fan of anything -- baseball, music, food -- dislikes more than lowest common denominator fans." Leitch: "The Home Run Derby isn't for us. It's for them. And there are a lot more of them than there are of us" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 7/15).
ACTION DURING THE ACTION: The event again featured on-field tweeting and posting on Facebook from Derby participants and other All-Star players during the event, continuing an aggressive All-Star Game social media rollout now in its fourth year. The in-event player social media, in addition to components seen over the last several years, included a Twitter Mirror photo station set up at Target Field. The Home Run Derby also saw the introduction of the MLB.com Statcast, an online enhancement that combined a video stream of the event with MLBAM's ball-tracking technologies. Target Field is one of three MLB ballparks, along with Citi Field and Miller Park, where the tracking system is being deployed this season. Meanwhile, the Derby also was the first with a new presenting sponsorship from Gillette and the traditional gold balls at the end of player rounds were replaced with renamed “FlexBalls,” also the name of Gillette’s razors (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).