The Mets slugger successfully defended his 2019 crown -- there was no event in 2020 due to the pandemic -- by topping Trey Mancini of the Orioles in the final round, joining Ken Griffey Jr. (1998-99) and Yoenis Céspedes (2013-14) as the only back-to-back Derby champs in history.
“I think I’m the best power hitter on the planet,” Alonso said. “Being able to showcase that and really put on a fun display for fans, it’s truly a dream come true for me. When I was younger, my parents actually let me stay up past my bedtime to watch this.”
Alonso looked toward the back of the interview room, where his family was seated.
“Hi guys,” Alonso said. “Thank you.”
Alonso’s 17 home runs before the break tied him for 14th in the National League, leaving him as the No. 5 seed in the Derby’s eight-man field. Shohei Ohtani -- Alonso’s potential second-round opponent -- might have been getting all the hype, but Alonso refused to let his seeding deter him from the goal of defending his title.
“There was no point where I thought I was going to lose. Ever,” Alonso said. “When the seedings came out, teammates came up to me and said, ‘That’s disrespectful. You’re defending your title; what guy that’s defending their title is a fifth seed? Nobody. Aren’t you pissed about that?’ I said, ‘No. I’m going to win anyway. It doesn’t matter.’”
Alonso’s strategy was simple: Win.
Two years ago, Alonso belted 57 home runs total, joining Aaron Judge as the only rookies ever to win the Derby. Monday, it felt like the Mets slugger might challenge that number in the first round.
Alonso hit 25 during his three-minute round, peppering the left-field seats with tape-measure blasts, two of them breaking the 500-foot mark (512, 514). He launched 10 more home runs in his 60 seconds of bonus time, giving him an eye-popping 35 for Round 1.
Salvador Perez countered with 28, but it was no match for Alonso, who averaged 447 feet and an exit velocity of 108.4 mph in his first round. Nine of his homers exceeded 475 feet, the longest traveling 514. In all, Alonso’s 35 blasts totaled 15,689 feet, with 33 of the 35 landing in left field or left-center.
“As soon as I saw 35 up there, I’m like, ‘That’s untouchable,’” Alonso said. “That was the goal from every round. I knew if I faced Ohtani, I would have to do the same thing. My approach was I have to be the standard; I have to be the bar. I wanted to make the standard incredibly untouchable.”
Entering the 2021 contest, the longest Derby home run recorded by Statcast was 513 feet, by Judge at Marlins Park in 2017. Prior to Statcast (which has been measuring Derby home runs since 2016), the longest Derby blast is believed to be an estimated 524-foot shot by Sammy Sosa at Miller Park in 2002.
To get a sense of the Coors Field effect, consider this: There were 15 homers of more than 500 feet on Monday, as measured by Statcast. From 2016-19, there were a total of four homers that cracked 500 feet, all by Judge in 2017.
Alonso’s second-round opponent was Juan Soto, setting up an all-NL East semifinal after the Nationals slugger ousted Ohtani in an epic first round. Soto -- who hit the longest homer of the night at 520 feet -- won a three-swing playoff with three home runs after the pair were still tied following their first one-minute swing-off.
Soto, the No. 8 seed, hit 11 homers during his three minutes of regulation time, adding four more in his bonus time for a total of 15.
Alonso barely broke a sweat, swatting 14 home runs in the first 1:57 before calling his timeout. He waved to the crowd and put his hand to his ear, imploring the fans to make some noise. The crowd responded, and after he stepped back into the box, it took just 15 seconds for Alonso to hit the two home runs necessary to advance to the final, leaving 48 unneeded seconds on the clock.
“My timing was great and my effort level was outstanding,” Alonso said. “I was able to stay consistent and really, really, kind of dominate.”
Alonso matched up in the finals against Mancini, who had beaten the Rockies’ Trevor Story in the other semifinal, much to the disappointment of the Coors Field crowd.
Mancini, the No. 6 seed, had squeaked by Matt Olson in the first round, edging the Oakland first baseman, 24-23. He advanced to the final with another narrow win, beating Story, 13-12, to earn his chance at the trophy.
Trying to join Cal Ripken Jr. and Miguel Tejada as the only Baltimore players to win the Derby, Mancini -- whose inspirational comeback from colon cancer made him a sentimental favorite among fans and players alike -- hit 17 homers in his two-minute round, then added five more in his one minute of bonus time.
“Everybody knows the story by now, but the last year and a half was something that you have nightmares about,” Mancini said. “To be here a year later and make it to the final was incredible. I knew that they'd changed the rules to the finals, and I wasn't quite sure what it was, because I didn't really pay too much attention to it earlier on in the day. I was just kind of focused on the early rounds and everything. We had a great time out there.”
Mancini’s total of 22 was identical to the one Vladimir Guerrero Jr. posted against Alonso in the final two years ago, giving the Mets star a familiar task.
Alonso’s timing looked off early in the final, but he found a groove and hit six straight homers. He called his timeout with 36 seconds left and 12 homers on the board, though he also knew he would have an additional minute of bonus time to work with.
Five more homers before the end of regulation gave Alonso 17, the same number Mancini hit in his first 2:00 of the final.
Alonso didn’t even need half that time to claim his crown, belting six home runs in 29 seconds to win the title. He didn’t rule out the idea of going for the three-peat next summer at Dodger Stadium, but his consecutive victories have cemented Alonso’s place in Derby history.
“I feel like my Home Run Derby legacy, I’m one of the best people to do it,” Alonso said. “To be able to do it back-to-back, this is really special for me. Really, really cool.”