Fielder Takes Home Run Derby


Jul 13, 2009

Fielder Takes Home Run Derby Albert Pujols may be the king during this week’s All-Star break in
St. Louis, but on Monday night, the king couldn’t beat the Prince.

Prince Fielder, the 25-year-old slugging first baseman from the
Milwaukee Brewers, won the 2009 State Farm Home Run Derby, outlasting
Pujols, St. Louis native Ryan Howard, and five other All-Star
contestants to win with a total of 23 home runs.

Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz was the unlikely runner-up, hitting 11
home runs in the first round to tie Fielder and then five in the second
round, one homer off of Fielder’s pace. Fielder out-hit Cruz, six home
runs to five, in the finals to win the title.

As champion of the charity event, Fielder won $665,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

11:21 p.m.: Final home run totals for each contestant:

Prince Fielder: 11 first round, 6 second round, 6 finals, 23 total
Nelson Cruz:
11 first round, 5 second round, 5 finals, 21 total
Ryan Howard:
7 first round, 8 second round, 15 total
Albert Pujols:
5 first round, 6 second round, 11 total
Joe Mauer:
5, all in first round
Carlos Pena:
5, all in first round
Adrian Gonzalez:
2, all in first round
Brandon Inge:

11:01 p.m.: And that’s it. Prince Fielder hits his
sixth home run of the final round, defeating Nelson Cruz, winning the
2009 State Farm Home Run Derby, and sending teammate Ryan Braun into a fit of girlish giggling.

Congrats, Prince.

10:59 p.m.: Tie ballgame.

10:57 p.m.: Prince’s HR total: three. Prince’s HOTMBOOC total: four.

You’re looking at a talented man in more ways than one.

Six outs to go — Prince is still very much alive.

10:48 p.m.: Anyone catch a glimpse of the smug grin
on Prince’s face as Cruz hits the weak pop-up behind home plate for out
number five? If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the guy seems pretty
confident about winning this thing…

Either that, or it’s only the Home Run Derby, and the big goofball’s having fun out there no matter who wins.

10:45 p.m.: Not to rain on anyone’s parade or anything, but this just in: No one actually remembers or cares who wins this thing. Thanks, Jayson Stark.

That said, best of luck to Nelson Cruz and Prince Fielder…

10:38 p.m.: I suppose this is kind of an
afterthought at this point, but it should be said anyway: The
heat-of-the-moment bleeped-out obscenities count (HOTMBOOC) is now up
to three. Prince sure is angry for a guy with the overall lead heading
into the finals… go figure.

10:35 p.m.: He’s in.

Prince goes deep six times through his first five outs, including a
503-footer for his sixth bomb. He will advance to the finals to take on
Nelson Cruz; Pujols and Howard are done.

10:30 p.m: Five for Cruz, putting him at 16 overall, one ahead of Ryan Howard for the overall lead.

Nelson Cruz! Who’d have thought it?

10:24 p.m.: It’s only been two hours since Nelson
Cruz last swung the bat in tonight’s Derby! At times like these, I
can’t believe people who complain about the event dragging on too long…

10:18 p.m.: Howard hits eight home runs in the
second round, meaning he looks safe to advance to the finals and
compete for his second career Derby title. Pujols will need a little
bit of luck with six; Cruz and Fielder would have to melt down for the
Cardinal megastar to have a shot.

10:14 p.m.: Career Home Run Derby results for Ryan
Howard: Champion of his first Derby in 2006; hit eight home runs in the
first round, 10 in the second and five in the finals to just barely
squeak by David Wright and win the title. Didn’t fare as well in 2007,
hitting just three in the first round and finishing tied for sixth,
eliminated after round one.

The man he tied for sixth with?

Goes by the name of Prince Fielder.

10:07 p.m.: The Albert Express is picking up some steam.

Pujols recovers from a slow start and makes a late surge to finish
with six homers in round number two, giving him a slight glimmer of
hope to qualify for the finals.

9:59 p.m.: Your order for round two: Pujols, Howard, Cruz, Fielder.

9:55 p.m.: Some historical tidbits: If Prince
Fielder wins tonight’s Derby, he’d be the first Brewer ever to take
home the hardware. If Pujols wins it, likewise, he’d be the first

Howard is a past champion — he and former teammate Bobby Abreu won
it in back-to-back seasons (2005 and ‘06). Cruz’s Rangers have only one
past Derby title to their name — and contrary to popular belief, it was
not won by Josh Hamilton. (Hamilton choked last year and only jacked
three in the finals against Justin Morneau.) Nay, the only Ranger to win a Derby is Juan Gonzalez, who won it all at Camden Yards in Baltimore in 1993.

9:53 p.m.: HE LIVES!

Pujols quickly goes deep twice in the swing-off; Pena can hit the
showers. The two hometown heroes both live on; Pujols and Howard will
join leaders Fielder and Cruz in the second round.

9:51 p.m.: Aaaaaaaand… Mauer’s a bust. So long and thanks for all the singles, Joe.

9:47 p.m.: Five swings, four outs, one homer for Pena. Perhaps the Pujols dream is still alive… pray for it, St. Louis…

9:43 p.m.: So apparently, the new tiebreak system
is a five-swing playoff. All of a sudden, Mauer has new life. (Well, in
my eyes he does. In reality, he was never dead. But that’s not

So we’ve got three guys — Pena, Mauer, Pujols, in that order — fighting for one spot. Five swings each. Most homers moves on.

OK, whatever. Sounds good to me.

9:40 p.m.: Wait a minute, they’re not using the regular-season HR total as a tiebreaker anymore? This is new.

9:34 p.m.: Let’s be honest about something. When Pujols comes out to catch the ceremonial first pitch from Barack Obama tomorrow night, who’s getting the bigger ovation: the president or the first baseman? I know what my prediction is…

9:33 p.m.: These people love Albert Pujols. Love love love him.

9:29 p.m.: Mauer finishes with five homers, meaning
his night is over. He’s tied for fourth with Carlos Pena, who also has
five — but the tiebreaker is regular-season home run total, where Pena
has the edge over the Twins’ catcher, 24 to 15. So Pena stays alive for
the moment — but with Pujols coming up as the final batter of the first
round, we’ll see how long that moment lasts.

To recap…

Locks for the second round: Cruz (11 home runs), Fielder (11), Howard (7).

Done for the night: Mauer (5), Gonzalez (2), Inge (goose egg).

Time for Phat Albert to duke it out with Pena for that final spot in round two.

9:19 p.m.: Not a bad round for Howard — seven home
runs for the big fella puts him in third place with two hitters to go.
Assuming Pujols doesn’t completely melt down and finish with six or
fewer, we can probably assume that Pena is done.

9:10 p.m.: Ryan Howard: hometown hero. Howard was born and raised
in St. Louis; he grew up as a devout Cardinals fan. Must be strange for
him to return to St. Louis and see Pujols get all the attention…

9:01 p.m.: Is it just me, or is Carlos Pena getting
a bad rap by the fans lumping him in with the rest of the pathetic AL
Derby squad? Pena is arguably the best hitter on arguably the
best-hitting team in baseball. His home run totals the last three
seasons: 46, 31, 24 in half a season. His per-162 game average is 34.

8:55 p.m.: Disappointing first round for Adrian
Gonzalez, a guy who makes a career out of hitting home runs in a tough
pitchers’ park. Only two homers for the San Diego first baseman — his
night is most likely done.

8:51 p.m.: It’s really sad that after the infamous Artie Lange appearance, I can never look at Joe Buck the
same way again. He really is an intelligent, articulate man and a great
broadcaster. None of this is his fault. But oh, God, Artie Lange!

8:47 p.m.: Heartbreaking round for Brandon Inge,
who has zero home runs going into his final out and drives his last
pitch straight down the left-field line. It looked fair and gone, but
it broke foul for out number 10.

Better luck next time to Mr. Inge.

8:39 p.m.: Heat-of-the-moment bleeped-out
obscenities count: 1. Nice going, Prince. Way to set a good example for
all the players’ kids sitting 10 yards away.

8:37 p.m.: Prince just launched one to the third-to-last row of the entire stadium — in dead center field. That’s got to be almost 500 feet from home plate.

8:33 p.m.: According to the park factors
data for this season, St. Louis is actually not a hitters’ park at all.
The “HR” figure of 0.871 means that home runs are 13 percent below
average in Busch Stadium this season — there’s plenty of noise in just
three months of stats, but that’s still quite low.

You wouldn’t know it from watching Cruz or Prince Fielder. Prince has eight bombs with three outs to go.

8:31 p.m.: Prince Fielder is demolishing the ball. This could be a long first round.

8:25 p.m.: Unlike a regular baseball game, the home
run derby gives me a chance to use the phrase “eight-out rally.” I
could get used to this.

Solid first round all around for Nelson Cruz, but he really starts
heating up with two outs to go, pulverizing a couple of balls late and
sending one into the third deck and one out of Busch Stadium entirely.
Nelson, I apologize. I’ll never badmouth you again.

Eleven big flies for Mr. Cruz. Not too shabby.

8:18 p.m.: I’ve got nothing against Ozzie Smith.
Great player, deserving Hall of Famer. But it’s a little hard to
believe that Ozzie, who had fewer home runs in his career than Albert
did in the first half of this year, is throwing out the first pitch at
the Home Run Derby. Are they going for ironic value, or what? What’s wrong, St. Louis — couldn’t get Stan Musial?

8:05 p.m.: Some opening thoughts as Chris Berman introduces tonight’s star-studded cast of characters:

-Anyone else think Nelson Cruz is a contender for the title of Least
Famous Person Ever To Compete In A Home Run Derby? The sad thing is,
his main competition for that title is Brandon Inge, another contestant
in tonight’s Derby. Maybe I should give these guys the benefit of the
doubt — these guys could be somebody someday. But c’mon… Inge is 32,
Cruz is 29. Running out of time, guys.

-Boomer points out that Prince Fielder is the youngest player ever
to hit 50 homers. Another Fielder factoid: He’s the only 50-homer guy
whose father has also hit 50. There’s a record that will stand forever.

-God, these people love Albert Pujols. They love him more than life itself. It’s a little surreal.

-Joe Mauer’s 2009 has been an incredible story. He’s already got 15
home runs this season, a career high for him — and he was hurt until
May! That’s a little ridiculous if you think about it.

-On second thought, I take back my assertion that Cruz is the least famous Derby participant. Anyone else remember Hee-Sop Choi?
No? That’s my point. (In case anyone’s wondering, Choi got knocked out
of the 2005 Derby in the first round, hitting five home runs in
Detroit’s bandbox. Bobby Abreu went nuts that year and jacked 24 in the first round. You can look it up.)

2:25 p.m.: Who will make history this year? Every
year, a different star makes his mark on baseball’s annual Home Run
Derby, blasting epic numbers of big flies and putting his peers to
shame. It’s only an exhibition, but it produces memorable performances

Last year, it was Rangers phenom Josh Hamilton, who
put on a show unrivaled in the Derby’s history, hitting 28 balls out of
Yankee Stadium in the first round alone. It’ll be hard to top that.

But eight All-Stars are here to give it their best shot. Hamilton’s teammate, first-time All-Star Nelson Cruz, is here; joining him from the AL squad are the Rays’ Carlos Pena, the Twins’ Joe Mauer and the Tigers’ Brandon Inge.

On the NL side, Cardinals megastar Albert Pujols is
here to represent the hometown team. Pujols leads the majors in home
runs and is here making his eighth career All-Star appearance and third
in the Derby. Pujols will be joined by the Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez, the Brewers’ Prince Fielder and the Phillies’ Ryan Howard.

Of tonight’s contestants, only Howard is a former champion. He won it all in 2006, defeating fellow finalist David Wright. Pujols has finished second once before, losing in the final round to Garret Anderson in 2003.

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