Home Run Derby haters are champing at the bit

It’s going to happen, of that you can be sure. The moment that Dodgers rookie sensation Cody Bellinger goes into a home run drought in the second half, those lying in wait for this exact thing will come out of the woodwork and blame it on his participation in the immensely popular Home Run Derby.

First and foremost, I apologize for the excessive use of idioms and clichés to begin this article, but each seems rather appropriate. The simple fact is that Bellinger, or even eventual 2017 Home Run Derby winner Aaron Judge or the any of the six other participants for that matter, would have had (or probably will have) a difficult time maintaining their respective torrid first-half home run pace when play resumes on Friday anyway. While it is always fun to project potential and in most cases record-setting numbers (i.e. – “on pace for”), the reality is that they rarely come to fruition.

But as they say, “Haters gonna hate,” this in spite of the fact that ESPN is reporting that viewership of this year’s popular exhibition within an exhibition (the All-Star Game itself) was up by 38 percent.

To their credit (if you can call it that), HRD hater’s claim that the annual testosterone-filled event damages the respective swings of it’s annual participants is not entirely without merit. For the Dodgers alone, it seemed that the post-Home-Run-Derby swings of Hee-Seop Choi, Matt Kemp and more recently Joc Pederson and reigning 2016 NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager were never quite the same after their HRD appearances. The obvious argument against this is that their perceived fall from grace probably would have happened even if they had not participated in the derby. Then again, how would or will we ever know this, right?

Likely 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger congratulates likely 2017 AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge after being eliminated by the Yankee phenom in the second round of Monday night’s spectacular Home Run Derby at Marlins Park in Miami. (Photo credit – Jon SooHoo)

Controversial Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig – who was shut out in his one and only HRD appearance in 2014 and who went on to hit only four of his 16 total 2014 home runs after the break – hit 11 total home runs in each of 2015 and 2016 but is already at 16 home runs at the midway point this season. And though a very small sample size, this suggests that even if the Home Run Derby does damage a hitter’s swing, it can be fixed.

“I think that there’s arguments both ways and I think that some guys participate and their second half goes south and some guys participate and it doesn’t affect them,” Dodgers manager Dave Robert said, more than two weeks before the July 10 contest. “Every player is different and it is the player’s decision [to participate]. For some people it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and some people will choose to forego it, but whatever [Bellinger’s] decision, if it does happen, I’ll support it.”

We will never really know if Bellinger’s participation in the 2017 Home Run Derby damaged his beautiful Shawn-Green-like left-handed swing, but I’m thinking no.
(Photo credit – Jon SooHoo)

So there you have it, clear as mud. If Cody Bellinger goes on to hit fewer than 25 post Home Run Derby jacks, the haters are going to say “See? I told you so.” But if he goes on to meet or exceed those “on pace for” numbers, the Home Run Derby lovers – of which I am one – will smile and simply say “It is what it is.”

…because “Haters gonna hate.”


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2 Responses to “Home Run Derby haters are champing at the bit”

  1. oldbrooklynfan says:

    A few years ago the HRD was beginning to bore me, I don’t know if it was because the Dodgers didn’t do too well in them or whatever it was but I think since they changed the rules I now like it.
    I was very satisfied in Bellinger’s performance, more so than I usually am, about one of our guys.
    Congratulations to Aaron Judge.

  2. Respect the Rivalry says:

    Has anybody else noticed that Cody is already in a slump? His slash line for the last 13 games prior to the HRD: .190/.346/.310/.656. He is 8 for 42 with 2 doubles and 1 HR. He has 16 strike outs and 10 walks.
    If similar numbers persist after the All Star Break there will be many posts about how the HRD messed up his swing. But that doesn’t explain the lasts 2 weeks.
    Cody is in the major leagues now, facing major league pitchers. Major league pitchers will always find the hole in a batter’s swing. One pitcher finds it and they all see it and exploit it. Instant slump!
    Now Cody has to plug that hole, which I’m sure he and Turner Ward are already working on. They will succeed. Another pitcher will find another hole and the whole cycle starts again. That’s the life of a major league batter.
    A commentator at a recent game noted that Cody was being pitched low and inside. During Cody’s first turn in the HRD Cody apparently told Clay to pitch them low and inside. Could he have been using the HRD to work on his problem?

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