One of the aspects we love about the T-Mobile Home Run Derby is how much the players themselves love it. You see them gathered in foul territory -- some toting their tots, others capturing their vantage point with their cameras, all of them basking at awe at what their All-Star
One of the aspects we love about the T-Mobile Home Run Derby is how much the players themselves love it. You see them gathered in foul territory -- some toting their tots, others capturing their vantage point with their cameras, all of them basking at awe at what their All-Star peers are accomplishing in that breathtaking batting-practice battle.
So, while all of us have our own ideas as to who we'd like to see compete on July 10 at Marlins Park, we thought we'd get some input from the players. We asked them to not just name the active guy (or guys) they'd most want to see do the Derby, but also to pick one player from the past they wish they could have seen on that stage.
Unsurprisingly, Aaron Judge, the Yankees' 6-foot-7, 280-pound rookie-turned-MVP-candidate, got a bunch of votes, and, as of this writing, we're still awaiting word on whether he'll agree to participate. But don't think Judge's stunning success in 2017 has made people forget about 2016 Derby champ Giancarlo Stanton, who, along with the Twins' Miguel Sano, is already on board to take part.
These were the responses:
Active players receiving votes
Aaron Judge, 11
Giancarlo Stanton, 10
Joey Gallo, 3
Cody Bellinger, 2
Bryce Harper, 2
Ichiro Suzuki, 2
Khris Davis, 1
Todd Frazier, 1
Marcell Ozuna, 1
Miguel Sano, 1
Scott Schebler, 1
Michael Trout, 1
Mike Zunino, 1
A lot to unpack here, but first, let's get right to the heart of the matter: The players want to see Judge vs. Stanton just as much as we do.
"That would be impressive in the final," Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. said.
"Just the sheer power that those guys have," Cardinals third baseman Jedd Gyorko said. "They have the ability to hit the ball where the rest of us haven't seen."
Judge and Stanton put on what their peers consider to be must-see BP. Stanton's 5.15 miles worth of homers in last year's event confirmed our long-held suspicions that he was built for this particular platform.
"You've seen it before, and I want to see it again," Bellinger said, "because it's incredible."
Judge, who this year has taken out a TV and cranked out the highest average fly ball and line drive exit velocity (101.3 mph), presents potentially stiff competition, if he agrees to partake.
"The guy is a beast, man," Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. "He's a huge human being."
Stanton and Judge were easy choices. The surprise of this particular poll is that Ichiro got as many votes as Bellinger and Harper. Even at 43, Ichiro's BP reputation precedes him. Just last year, then-Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds said he was convinced Ichiro could win the Derby.
"I've seen it, playing against him and going out to BP early," Angels second baseman Danny Espinosa said. "I think that'd probably be fun, because I think he does it with such ease."
Added Pirates starter Trevor Williams: "You think Home Run Derby guys today are built like Judge and Bellinger and Stanton, you know? I think it'd be awesome if Ichiro got in there and dominated."
Some might be surprised to see Gallo get more votes than Bellinger, only because his 20-homer sophomore season hasn't gotten as much public attention as Bellinger's assault on the National League rookie record. But, as anybody who saw Gallo's windshield-smashing BP before the 2014 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game can attest, Gallo's pop is pronounced.
"Just look at him," Rangers teammate Mike Napoli said. "He's a monster."
Oh, that's something that must be noted about this poll: We didn't preclude players from voting for their teammates. This was tactical, because, while any of us can simply sort the homer rankings and come up with a Derby wish list from that, the players are more attuned to which guys put on standout BP sessions.
"Zunino has more power than you think," Kyle Seager said of his Mariners teammate who hasn't hit more than 22 homers in a single season.
What does it say about the sheer mass of power providers that Trout only got one vote?
"I know he's hurt," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said, "but I want to see Trout do it. He has to do it in his career. He's the best player in baseball. There needs to be a showdown between him and Bryce."
Those are two of the great players of their time. But what about some greats from the past?
Retired players receiving votes
Barry Bonds, 5
Mark McGwire, 4
Babe Ruth, 4
Ken Griffey Jr., 3
Mickey Mantle, 2
Hank Aaron, 2
Adam Dunn, 1
Andres Galarraga, 1
Juan Gonzalez, 1
Josh Hamilton, 1
John Jaha, 1
David Ortiz, 1
Sammy Sosa, 1
Ted Williams, 1
OK, before we go any further, let's just address what had to be the most unexpected selection on the board -- John Jaha?!
That was Jones pulling a beauty out of the woodwork. A "big, burly" dude, as Jones referred to him, Jaha hit 141 career homers and was a 1999 All-Star. Alas, Jaha's lone Derby appearance (at Fenway Park that year) wasn't as memorable, as he hit just one in the first round.
While we didn't expect to hear Jaha's name in this poll, we did expect the likes of Ruth, Bonds, McGwire, Aaron, Mantle and Griffey to get some love.
No matter what controversy has surrounded Bonds in his career, his status as the game's all-time home-run leader carries considerable weight with the players. And for one guy, "weight" is the operative word there.
"Not skinny Barry Bonds [with the Pirates]," Nationals shortstop Trea Turner said when casting his vote. "The big Barry Bonds [with the Giants]."
In selecting Ruth and Mantle, Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett (whose four-homer game earlier this month weren't enough to earn him any votes), said he'd like to put some numbers to notable names from long-ago eras.
"Back in the day, they didn't have the Statcast™, and all that," Gennett said. "It would be cool to see an accurate look at their power."
Griffey, who has a record three Derby victories (1994, '98 and '99) got votes as much for his panache as his power.
"I would love to see that smooth swing live, in person," Souza said. "I would put him up against anybody today."
Added A's third baseman Ryon Healy: "He probably could still win it right now with that sweet swing. You don't really lose that."
It probably shouldn't be a surprise that a generation of players who came of age during the summer of '98, when McGwire and Sosa were staging an in-season Derby, or when Bonds was breaking records, would lean toward those guys. It just goes to show the power of nostalgia. Although sometimes, that comes out in other ways, such as with Trevor Williams' pick of Galarraga.
"He was always my go-to player in All-Star Baseball 2000 for Nintendo ," Williams said.
For now, we've got some active players putting up video-game numbers, and it adds a lot of anticipation to the upcoming announcement of the Derby field.
So, what do you say, Judge? The people -- your peers -- have spoken.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.