It has been a wild summer for sports.
From the Toronto Raptors taking the NBA Championship to the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team prevailing in the World Cup once more, there has been no shortage of entertainment for the casual sports fan.
But nothing was more entertaining than Monday’s Homerun Derby in Cleveland. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., son of legendary Hall-of-Fame outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, may not have won the Derby, but he certainly stole the show.
Guerrero, a rookie for the Toronto Blue Jays, hit a whopping 69 homers in the first two rounds to advance past Matt Chapman and Joc Pederson. His semifinal against Pederson resulted in two ‘swing-offs’, where each player gets three swings. Guerrero ultimately defeated Pederson of the Dodgers by a score of 40-39, far and away the most long balls hit in a single round.
While Guerrero was exhausting himself in the first two rounds, Pete Alonso of the New York Mets just barely squeaked by Carlos Santana and Ronald Acuna Jr. to advance to the finals.
A well-rested Alonso was able to defeat Guerrero Jr. in the finals with 23 homeruns. The conclusion almost immediately brought forth an onslaught of comparisons to the 2008 Derby, in which Josh Hamilton lost to Justin Morneau in the finals despite starting the night with 28 homeruns in the first round.
The only noticeable difference between the two is the format. In the past, each player would have 10 outs to work with and the top four would advance to the second round. The two highest totals from the first two rounds would then advance to the finals, where each contestant started from scratch.
The Derby is now dictated by matchups. The contestants are seeded based on how many homeruns they have and go head-to-head against a specific player each round. Some may see this as unfair since Joc Pederson was eliminated in the semis with the second-most homeruns, but it certainly makes for a more entertaining event.
In the end, Alonso is your 2019 Homerun Derby Champion and will donate his winnings to support wounded veterans.
But Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s performance is what will stand the test of time. Just like Morneau in ’08, Alonso’s victory will likely be overshadowed as the years go by.
The MLB’s finest also gathered in Cleveland on Tuesday to compete in the 2019 All-Star Game, which traditionally marks the halfway point of the regular season. Thankfully, the All-Star Game no longer determines which league will have home field advantage during the World Series.
The season will resume this weekend as teams look to solidify their postseason spots. As of right now, there is only one close division in baseball, and it cannot get much closer. Every team in the National League Central is within 4.5 games of the first place Chicago Cubs, who lead the Milwaukee Brewers by just half a game. It will likely come down to those two in the end, but the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are still very much alive.
Every other division leader is ahead by at least 5.5 games. Despite strong competition in the American League West, the Astros currently enjoy a 7.5-game lead over the Oakland Athletics and a nine-game lead over the Rangers. Every team in the A.L. West still holds playoff aspirations except for the Seattle Mariners.
The A.L. East likely has the most fire-power. The New York Yankees have overcome a number of injuries to hold the league’s best record and a 6.5-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. 2019 has been somewhat of a disappointment for fans in Boston after 108 wins and a title last year, but the Red Sox will remain in the fight for a wildcard at the very least.
Other division leaders include the Minnesota Twins in the A.L. Central (5.5-game lead over the Cleveland Indians), the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East (six-game lead over the Washington Nationals and 6.5-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies) and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. West (13.5-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks).
Elsewhere in the world of sports, it seems as if every NBA player of note has changed allegiances. There are too many free agents with new teams to go through them all, but the most notable are Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets and Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Congratulations are in order for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, who won their second straight World Cup with a 2-0 victory over The Netherlands in France on Sunday. All told, they picked up victories over Thailand (13-0), Chile (3-0), Sweden (2-0), Spain (2-1), France (2-1) and England (2-1) before defeating the Dutch in the finals.