ESPN will broadcast the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium at 8pm tonight. It will be the first and last Home Run Derby in the Stadium's history as the Derby only dates back to 1985 and Yankee Stadium last hosted the All-Star Game in 1977.
The balls for the Derby tend to be a bit juiced, so it's quite possible that there will be balls hit to previously unreached portions of the park tonight. If you follow the link above, you'll find a video that shows where the furthest-hit balls in this decade's Derbies would have landed in Yankee Stadium. A several of them would have landed safely in the left field bleachers, a section that's only been reached once during a game, and one would have hit off the wall behind those bleachers.
Unfortunately, none of the seven hitters responsible for the blasts in that video will be participating tonight. In fact, if you look at the top home run totals over the 2004 to 2007 seasons, Lance Berkman is the only member of the top 10 who will be taking his hacks tonight, and the next participant on the list is Justin Morneau all the way down at 27th.
Then again, very few of the men on that list are even on an All-Star roster this year. David Ortiz tops the list, but is injured and can't play. Alex Rodriguez is second, but won't participate in the Derby out of fear of messing up his swing. Albert Pujols is third, but won't be participating either. Nor will Manny Ramirez, who is tied for eighth with the injured Alfonso Soriano, who joins Ortiz on the All-Star DL. Next comes Berkman, then Aramis Ramirez (another non-participant) at 12th, but there's not one 2008 All-Star between Ramirez and Morneau at 27th. Still, Morneau is tied with Chipper Jones, and Matt Holliday (30) and Miguel Tejada (32) are hot on his heals, and none of them are participating, either. Chase Utley (38) is the only other member of the top 50 who is.
So instead of Ortiz, Pujols, Rodriguez, Manny, Soriano, Aramis, Chipper, Holliday, or 2004 Derby champ Tejada, we get rookie Evan Longoria, sophomores Ryan Braun and Josh Hamilton, Marlins' second baseman Dan Uggla, and Indians' center fielder Grady Sizmore. Sizemore is leading the AL in homers thus far and Hamilton is third, but the next Derby participant on that list is 14th-place Longoria. The NL is better represented with third-place Utley, fourth-placers Braun and Uggla, and fifth-place Berkman. Still, the field feels decidedly weak.
Part of that is due to the fact that there are no Yankees participating, nor any Red Sox for that matter (rivalry be damned, I'd love to see Ortiz take his hacks tonight). Jason Giambi said he would participate if the fans voted him into the final spot on the AL roster, but he lost that vote to Longoria and, given the rest of the break off, has declined to show up as a non-All-Star for the Derby. Derek Jeter would only have further weakened the field. That left it to Rodriguez, but I find his refusal admirable. It shows that he's putting his regular season performance, and thus his team, ahead of the meaningless individual attention brought on by the Derby. It also indicates that he was unwilling to enter the Derby as a pinstriped token, half-ass the first round, and let the kids battle it out. If he was going to participate, he was going to try to win. Still, having him watch from the sidelines will undermine the excitement of the actual event.
So, I can't say I'm particularly excited to watch tonight's Derby, and that's not just because someone else is sitting in my usual bleacher seats and could go home with a ball. It's more because there's no one in this Derby I'm particularly excited to see swing for the fences with the possible exception of Braun, who will be somewhat handicapped by being right-handed (he and Longoria are the only righties in the competition). My guess is it will come down to Utley and Berkman, with Berkman winning the thing, which he nearly did in 2004 when the event was held in his home ballpark. He hit righty then in order to take aim at Houston's Crawford Boxes. I assume he'll hit from the left side tonight and aim for that short porch, which was designed for this sort of thing more than 85 years ago.