A Brief History: Yankees in the Home Run Derby

Comparing the Yankees to their peers: Infield
A-Rod's knee surgery goes a-okay

They don’t call them the Bronx Bombers for nothing, s0 I was somewhat surprised to see that just three Yankees have participated in the Home Run Derby a total of four times since the event started in 1985. Robinson Cano will make it four players and five appearances later tonight, when he takes his hacks at Chase Field in Arizona with seven others. It could have been Mark Teixeira, but he decided to spend the All-Star break at home with his family after not making the AL team. Oh well. Let’s go back in time and relive the four Derbies the Yankees graced with their presence…

(Photo Credit: www.oocities.org)

Tino Martinez, 1997

I was pretty young and naive in 1997, so I thought Tino’s monster 44 homer campaign was a sign of great things of come. Of course that was his career season, and on only two other occasions did he top even 30 homers (1995 and 2001). Tino’s first half in 1997 was beastly, a .302/.370/.619 batting line with 28 homers (!!!) in 85 games. The Derby was a little different back then, it had ten players (not eight) taking their swings at the brand spanking new Jacobs Field in Cleveland.

Tino hit five homers in the first round, tied with Mark McGwire for the second most behind Larry Walker (nine). Martinez went deep eight times in the second round, again the second most behind Walker’s nine. Although the Colorado outfielder and eventual NL MVP out-homered the Yankees’ first baseman 19-16 over the course of the event, Tino’s timing was better. He hit three homers in the finals to Walker’s one, and that was that. The first Yankee to compete in the Derby had won it. Tino production dropped a bit in the second half, but he still hit a crazy good .289/.372/.525 with 16 homers in 73 games down the stretch.

Jason Giambi, 2002

(Photo Credit: The Lawrence Journal-World)

The Giambino’s first year in pinstripes was insanely good; he hit .318/.430/.602 with 22 homers in 86 games heading into the break. The first round of the Derby in Miller Park wasn’t much of a problem, Giambi hit 11 homers. Only Sammy Sosa (12) had more. Back in those days, the four players that advanced to the second round faced off head-to-head, one seed vs. four, two vs. three. Giambi drew Paul Konerko as the two seed, then out-homered him seven to six in the second round. Sosa (five) beat Richie Sexson (four), so he and Giambi met in the finals even though Konerko had the second most homers in the round.

Sosa was no match in the finals. Giambi out-homered him 7-1 to win the event, and his 24 total homers were the second most all-time behind the 26 Sosa hit in 2000. Two Yankees in the Derby, two wins. Giambi’s production didn’t slip at all in the second half, he hit .309/.442/.593 with 19 homers in his final 69 games.

Jason Giambi, 2003

MLB invited Giambi to the Homerun Derby for the third straight year and why not? He was one of the game’s premier sluggers at the time. He had hit .267/.419/.547 with 26 homers in 91 first half games, so not that far off from his 2002 first half in the OBP and ISO departments. U.S. Cellular Field loves left-handed batters and Giambi took advantage, leading the way with a dozen first round homers. Garrett Anderson hit seven, and no one else topped four. Giambi drew Albert Pujols in the second round, though his eleven homers were not enough. Pujols hit 14 and advanced to the finals, losing to Anderson 9-8. Despite being bounced in the second round, Giambi’s 23 total homers were the second most in the event, three behind Pujols. His production dropped in the second half, down to .226/.401/.498 with 15 homers in 65 second half games.

(Photo Credit: The Connecticut Post)

Nick Swisher, 2010

Swisher wasn’t even supposed to participate in the event in the first place. He was a replacement for Cano, who had to withdraw due to a sore back. Swish didn’t make it out of the first round, hitting just four balls out of Angels Stadium. He was spared the embarrassment of hitting the fewest homers in the event by Chris Young (one) and Vernon Wells (two). David Ortiz eventually beat Hanley Ramirez in the finals. After hitting .298/.377/.524 with 15 homers in 84 games in the first half, Swisher dropped to .275/.336/.494 after the break, but he did hit 14 homers in 67 games.

* * *

Aside from the superhuman Giambi in 2002, everyone’s production declined in the second half, but they were hardly useless. I think it has more to do with those guys having outrageously good first halves and just coming back to Earth down the stretch. Cano is at .296/.342*/.521 with 15 homers through the team’s first 88 games, and it’s worth noting that he’s traditionally been a better hitter in the second half. That was not true last year, however. Either way, I’d love to see Cano win the thing, but I’ll take the field on this one.

* I was surprised to see his OBP that high, but then I realized that it’s inflated by a career-high nine hit-by-pitches. He got plunked eight times last year and eight times 2007. If we remove those HBP’s from his time-on-base and plate appearance totals, his OBP is just .326. I don’t want to think about what it would be if we removed the four intentional walks.

Comparing the Yankees to their peers: Infield
A-Rod's knee surgery goes a-okay
  • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

    Gotta love Tino.

    I’m hoping Cano can put on a show tonight in Phoenix!

  • Guest

    The Giambino was ridiculous in 2002. Danged rally monkey. I thought that 2002 team was primed to makes us forget 2001. Again, danged rally monkey.

    • gc

      More like danged Yankee starting pitching. Our starters got SHELLED in that series.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      I was at a garage sale recently in Nebraska where I saw a Yankee stuffed rally monkey for sale.

      I bought it for a dollar, cut its head off, and threw it away.


      • MannyGeee

        Rosewood… we need to talk.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Well played, Mauer.

  • http://twitter.com/Carlosologist_7 Carlosologist

    Cano finally gets to swing at whatever to his heart’s content.

    • Esteban

      And his dad, a former major league pitcher, is throwing to him.

    • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi


      • http://twitter.com/Carlosologist_7 Carlosologist

        I really thought last season was a step in the right direction, Congressman. But the first half has just brought back the use of this: http://www.nomaas.org/images/strike_zone2.gif

        • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Too narrow.

        • CP

          Players that have swung at a higher percentage of pitches out of the zone than Cano this year:

          Vladimir Guerrero
          Alex Gonzalez
          Adam Jones
          Chris Johnson
          Erick Aybar
          A.J. Pierzynski
          Yuniesky Betancourt
          Mark Trumbo
          Jeff Francoeur
          Miguel Olivo


  • DERP

    Here are the odds as of about noon:

    * Jose Bautista 13/5
    * Prince Fielder 7/2
    * David Ortiz 9/2
    * Matt Holliday 9/2
    * Adrian Gonzalez 11/2
    * Matt Kemp 15/2
    * Robinson Cano 17/2
    * Rickie Weeks 14/1

  • jdp

    Why should I care about this?
    When I was nine I’d watch that old Home Run Derby show on my black and white tv.
    But now I’d rather have our players resting, and I’d rather watch a good movie or read a good book tonight instead of watching this over-hyped contest in which I suspect they use “special” baseballs.

    • Brian S.

      Any good reading recommendations?

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        2010 Home Run Derby: The Derby That Saved Baseball by Gordon Edes and the fine folks at ESPNBoston.com

    • Betty Lizard

      Well, there will be kids watching tonight, too, and dreaming. It sucks to get old . . . .
      But I’m OLD and I’ll be watching.

      I can’t wait to see Robinson. 10 outs per round? This was made for him. I hope he wins!

      And if we’re lucky, he might even get a few games’ worth of hacks out of his system.

  • Alfredo

    Prince Fielder has said that he is opened to the DH role, and he is willing to hear offers from teams that see him as a DH. (Yankees)

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Prince Fielder has said that he is open to the DH role, getting paid assloads of money and he is willing to hear offers from teams that see him as a DH are willing to pay him assloads of money (Yankees).


      • Brian S.

        How much to the nearest cent is an assload?

        • http://riveraveblues.com Rich

          How much is a half-ass load?

      • Alfredo

        yes i guess you are right. i would love for him to be a yankee.

        Line up:

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


          I laughed.

      • Sean C.

        THIS. Just because the Yankees can sign Fielder to a huge contract to hit the piss out of the ball at Yankee Stadium (and everywhere else), it most certainly does not mean that they should or will. There are a couple people on the team that need the DH spot to stay fresh.

    • CMP

      I don’t think the Yankees are gonna want to lock down the DH position for the next 6-7 years with a $20 million per year guy especially for a someone like Fielder who’s decline could be dramatic due to his obesity.

      I’d rather see them keep some financial flexibility for the 2012 offseason when Cole Hamels and Matt Kemp are likely to be free agents and the Yankees will have about $30 million coming off the books.

      • Alfredo

        Yes i also agree we might be better off just keeping that money and keeping that DH role open.

    • Kevin G.

      Sign him just to piss everyone off.

      But seriously,how many times are we going to hear his name connected with the Yankees even if they have no intention of acquiring him?

  • MannyGeee

    I am actually kind of excited to see this. I can give a shit about the ASG as a whole, but the Futures Game and Derby are the only things that keep me interested…

    meanwhile… the format is gimmicky at best and absolutely shitty. AL vs NL with the two fat guys playing captains? aren’t we spending too much time trying to forget that Ortiz was accused of doping and entirely too much time making Prince Fielder ‘likable’??

    It SHOULD have been the two guys leading their leagues as captains. You HAVE to pick a pitcher, and you have to pick a rookie. and the 4th guy has to be Asian. In the case where an Asian is not available to your league, you can take a Bahamian or someone from another island of your choosing…

    Seriously, you wouldn’t watch that?

  • Rob

    that would be funny if cano pulled a posada and took himself out of the hr derby (and all star game) in response to ron washington batting him 8th. i bet buster olney’s head would explode

    • CS Yankee

      LaRussa batted McGwire eight and told him it was “double cleanup”.

      The one and only reason LaRussa would be considered for the HoF, for me at least.

  • jdp

    And each side needs to have a “celebrity.”
    Vin Scully and John Sterling as announcers.
    Then maybe I’d watch.

    • CS Yankee

      Vin Scully = Godzilla
      Sterling = Bambi

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      And each side needs to have a “celebrity.”

      NL: Rihanna
      AL: Marey Carey

      • Crime Dog

        Mariah on the AL side because of the obvious Jeter-ties

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          How many Yankees did Mariah sleep with vs. how many Yankees did Mary sleep with?

          Do you think Melky really kept her to himself and didn’t share?

          • Crime Dog

            Melky shared with Cano because they were so close.

            Old memes never get old /yogi’d

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    I hope Cano hits a line drive that ricochets off the screen protecting the pitcher and hits Ortiz square in the nuts and then hits A Gonzalez in the left hand.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      You’re assuming Ortiz actually still has nuts.

  • MikeD

    The media-created concept that taking enhanced batting practice the day before the All-Star game actually fucks up professional MLB hitters’ swings for the remainder of the season is easily one of the most stupid ideas going.