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.
2014 was a year which fell short of expectations for the Nationals. We made the playoffs, but once again could not make it out of the first round.
As we ring in 2015, for my first post of the year I decided to rank all 30 teams of Major League Baseball by how much I like them. Steve just did this yesterday, and he was saying he’d like to see what I thought. I’m excited to see what this year brings! Feel free to comment on your preferences or if you feel, in your opinion, I got something wrong.
1) Washington Nationals – Does this really need explanation?
2) Cincinnati Reds – Without a DC team, I loved the Reds with so much of my family from Cincinnati. I still love the Reds, but only when they don’t play the Nats. If anyone has tickets to the All-Star Game this year, let me know.
3) Chicago Cubs – It’s been a lot of years since they’ve won the World Series. If the Nats aren’t in it, I would guess a lot of baseball fans would like to see them take one.
4) Chicago White Sox – First Adam Dunn and now the beloved Adam LaRoche. They also signed David Ross, the veteran catcher, who I met a long time ago when he was a member of the Reds. I wouldn’t mind seeing them win.
5) Kansas City Royals – Captured America this year during their magical postseason run. Sadly, they ran into a certain roadblock by the name of Bumgarner.
6) Cleveland Indians – Poor Cleveland. It seems like they have pieces to do well, it just needs to come together.
7) Seattle Mariners – I’ve been to Safeco, and the Nats have good memories from this year of their visit to Seattle.
8) San Diego Padres – All of a sudden the Padres mean business. They got Derek Norris, who I’ve watched progress since his days with Potomac, and a bunch of other big name players recently in free agency. I wouldn’t mind seeing them do well.
9) Houston Astros – Their mascot, Orbit, is about the only reason they’re this high on the list. He’s probably the best mascot in all of MLB. Click here, here, here, here, here, here, and here to see why.
10) Miami Marlins – Stanton drops bombs. I’m still trying to catch one of his BP homers when the Marlins come to Nationals Park.
11) Colorado Rockies – Coors Field is so nice, I’ve seen a game there, and my dad lived in Colorado for a while. They also participated in a stand-off with the Nats this season, which I loved.
12) Tampa Bay Rays – One of my favorite movies ever is The Rookie, and Jim Morris was on the Rays.
13) Oakland Athletics – Moneyball showed such an interesting view of baseball, and poor Oakland never seems to succeed anymore. Before the Royals grabbed my attention, I was hoping the A’s would find themselves in the World Series.
14) Detroit Tigers – I played on the Tigers and it gave me some of my best youth baseball memories.
15) St. Louis Cardinals – They win a lot. A lot of people really don’t like them. I, however, are one of few neutral fans who don’t mind them. I love watching the battery of Wainwright and Molina. There’s a reason they’re not higher up on this list, but those are the reasons they aren’t lower either.
16) Texas Rangers –Jim Morris made his debut for the Rays on the road at the Ranger’s stadium. I’ve also seen their stadium from driving around it, and it was a sight to see.
17) Minnesota Twins – Anymore, the Twins are sorta just, there. Not great, not awful, just there.
18) Toronto Blue Jays – You don’t hear a ton about the Blue Jays but watch out this year, they could make a run for the AL East.
19) Los Angeles Angels – Mike Trout is a stud. Also, I rooted for Anaheim when they were in the World Series a lot of years ago.
20) Los Angeles Dodgers – I don’t particularly dislike the Dodgers, but I don’t really like them either; I’m indifferent.
21) Arizona Diamondbacks – Whenever I went to Reds games when I was younger, it seemed like I always saw the Diamondbacks play. There was only so much of Craig Counsell’s swing I could take.
22) New York Mets – I also played on the Mets in Little League, but being in the NL East, I don’t like them as much.
23) New York Yankees – Along with the Cardinals, I don’t hate the Yankees. But Derek Jeter was one of the major reasons I tolerated them, and now that he’s gone, they’ve fallen lower on this list.
24) Milwaukee Brewers – I still remember sitting in the hotel room in Virginia Beach and watching Josh Willingham hit his second grand slam of the game for the Nats in Milwaukee.
25) Baltimore Orioles – Peter Angelos, why do you make things so difficult? They also ruin the National Anthem.
26) Philadelphia Phillies – Lingering dislike from when the Phillies fans would pack Nats Park.
27) San Francisco Giants – I’m just not a huge Giants fan. Used to love them with Barry Bonds, but then he used steroids.
28) Pittsburgh Pirates – I don’t have a ton against the Pirates, except that they play in Pittsburgh. And that right there is the major problem.
29) Boston Red Sox – Boston and Pittsburgh, my two least favorite sports cities in America. I’ve visited Boston (not Fenway), and the city itself has so much history. But we’re talking sports and baseball here, and man do I not like those two cities’ teams.
30) Atlanta Braves – If you thought anyone else would be last, then you obviously don’t know me very well.
The 2013 Nationals feasted upon the bottom feeders of the league. They went 14-5 against the Miami Marlins, 12-7 against the New York Mets, 5-2 against the San Diego Padres, and 4-3 against the Chicago Cubs. Yes, a win is a win, but come playoff time it is important that the Nationals are battle tested and ready for the strong teams they must face.
Last season they went an abysmal 6-13 against the Atlanta Braves, 0-6 against the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals, and even 1-3 against the Baltimore Orioles. For the Nats to be successful this year, they must prove their mettle against the top tier teams in the league. In inter-league play they face teams such as the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics, as well as the regular NL East power house Atlanta Braves.
How the Nationals fare this year against winning teams will show if they are a well oiled machine and ready for a deep playoff run. They have the veteran team to do it; it’s just a question of going out on the field and getting the job done.
Worst Case Scenario:
The Nationals struggle in prime games plain and simple. When push comes to shove, they bow out under the spotlight. They rely on harvesting wins against low-level opponents while struggling mightily against teams they need to beat. Even though their record shows a strong team, they cannot compete in big situations, causing them to have yet another disappointing season. A win is indeed a win, but a win against a strong team does more to improve the club’s performance than winning laughers against last place teams.
Best Case Scenario:
Even the best teams in the league are no match for the 2014 Washington Nationals. They roll through the season demolishing teams no matter the opposition’s record, and head into the playoffs with unparalleled momentum. Pitchers pitch deep into ball games, hitters lead many statistical categories, and the season goes right along with many’s expectations. Wins against quality teams are not a problem, as they win game after game no matter who they are facing. The 2014 Nats are what was expected out of the 2013 Nationals.
It is important that the Nationals perform well against above .500 teams. While wins against sub-.500 teams do count, they do not benefit the club as much as the experience gained through beating good teams. For the Nationals to be successful in this upcoming season, it will be important that they prove they can keep up with the best of them, and not back down in the face of a challenge. If they do that, then this could be a magical season.
Countdown to #Natitude: 3 days