Tony Petitti. You probably haven’t heard of him. But as legendary Orioles PA announcer Rex Barney would say, “Give that fan a contract.” Well, Major League Baseball should reward their Chief Operating Officer with a nice contract, because he was the man behind the changes to this year’s Home Run Derby format.
“We got a lot of feedback from people saying not only they loved it, but their kids loved it,” Petitti said. “We looked at the components of a lot of things. We know how much people loves brackets in the NCAA… We felt strongly that we had to have a bracket, and then we focused on the timing of it…In the past years there was a lot of reasons to take pitches. That’s not necessarily the best presentation, so we took it out of the mix and made it a little more athletic, even a little faster.”
Baseball analysts agreed this was far and away the most exciting Derby of all time. On Twitter, there was even a comment to ditch the All-Star Game and have another one of these on Tuesday. What made it so special? In an ironic twist, baseball, the only major American sport played without a clock, had its premier pre-All-Star Game event saved by the implementation of timed rounds. Along with the clock, the bracketed format added to the excitement with players squaring off against each other, allowing for a buzzer-beater to happen in the sport of baseball. Whoda thunk it.
Hometown hero Todd Frazier had the crowd pumped early on in the event when he beat the clock as it went to triple zeroes, eliminating two-time Derby champion Prince Fielder. Veteran Albert Pujols knocked out youngin Kris Bryant, my pick Joc Pederson made quick work of Manny Machado, eliminating him in less than three minutes, and Josh Donaldson advanced to the semis past first-round opponent Anthony Rizzo. All of the upper seeds won, and I was 4/4 on my picks.As the second round, the semifinal round, commenced, many commented on what was unfolding. The vast majority of players from the All-Star teams were staying to watch, contrary to past years where many would leave. Some even went down, took showers, and came back onto the field to continue watching.
Advancing to the finals first was, of course, Frazier. The crowd erupted as he hit the home run that put the nail in the coffin for Josh Donaldson. With that, I was 5/5.
On the other side of the bracket, Pederson was the first lower seed to advance, as Pujols had trouble with his batting glove and could not muster the 12 home runs needed to tie. The Machine finished the round with 11, and I moved to 6/6 on my predictions. Also of note, the 130 homers hit in the first and second rounds were more than in any other derby as a whole; and there was still one more round to go.
The stage was set for what would become the most riveting, enthralling, captivating, Home Run Derby finales of all time. Joc Pederson used his four minutes efficiently, going yard time after time, and finishing his final round with a total of 14 home runs.The crowd was on its feet and Nationals star pitcher Max Scherzer was doing his part to get the crowd pumped as Frazier stepped to the plate. He had four minutes to drop at least 14 bombs, 15 if he wanted to win and avoid a swing-off round.
It was a slow start and Frazier couldn’t get much going. Then, after his timeout (which he took with 2:35 to go and 5 homers), he fed off the energy of the Cincinnati fans and stepped it up a notch. He reeled off homer after homer, and closed the gap as time was running out. He hit his 14th, and had a chance to win it as the buzzer sounded, but the ball fell just short of clearing the wall.
However, because he had hit multiple home runs of 425’+, he had 30 seconds of bonus time. It took only one swing and it was all over. The stadium was pandamonium, and Frazier went wild. The players mobbed him, and Cincy’s own had won the masterful power display. I finished 6/7 on my picks, as I had Pederson beating Frazier instead.
Be sure to watch Frazier’s entire final round below.
This sets the bar quite high for the All-Star Game itself.
So while the Reds may not be doing so well this season, the Derby and their guy Todd Frazier certainly gave the fans something to cheer about.