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July 15, 2008

Media must take blame for no Arod

arodmedia.jpgAP Photo/Mary Altaffer

With the Home Run Derby being in Yankee Stadium, baseball tried desperately to bring in superpower Alex Rodriguez to please the local fans. A-Rod declined, even after being asked again once Big Papi David Ortiz could not make it.

One does not need to look hard to figure out the reasons for Alex not participating in the Home Run Derby. He had everything to win with the Derby taking place in his stadium in the last year of it's existence. That said the only option for him was to win as anything less than that would mean A-Rod being cut up in the papers the next day. Especially with all the Madonna / Divorce news circulating with Alex.

This is where the 24 hour media circus ruins sports. Alex already knows that he's going to be followed around considering he plays for the Yankees, makes 250+ million, etc. But what a travesty it is that this player is so alienated that he does not feel comfortable playing in the Home Run Derby.

Worse yet, his game has not been suffering at all. Alex started off poorly to 2008 after an ungodly 2007 season. But after returning from the DL, Alex is back to his high end ways at the plate, with the average well over .300 and the slugging continuing.

Of course at the end of the day, A-Rod will get the blame for not performing. This is the media's fault though, as A-Rod is painted as a villain instead of the savior of 21st century baseball: an all-world talent clean as can be. This should be the poster boy for Baseball coming out of the Steroid generation, where players couldn't dream of putting up Alex's stats unless they were juiced. The guy puts up a .314 average 54 home runs 156 RBI 24 steals, yet we hear more about his marital life.

Morneau wins Home Run Derby but

hamiltonshot.jpgPhoto by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Justin Morneau took home the Home Run Derby title with 5 home runs in the final round, but he was overshadowed by the ridiculous Round 1 that Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers produced.

Hamilton put up a Home Run Derby record of 28 home runs in Round 1. There was a time where he had 13 straight home runs. 71 year old Claybon Counsil, who was tossing balls to Hamilton, needed a break in the middle. All for a guy who is fortunate to even be alive right now let alone the big leagues.

Josh Hamilton's past has been well documented. #1 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays, but becomes a bust and is out of baseball and on the streets doing heroin and cocaine. He came back last year and performed well, but has been an absolute power machine in 2008 with the Rangers. This is a guy who is hitting .310 this year with 21 home runs and 95 RBI.

Amazingly enough, when Hamilton was out of baseball in 2006 he had dreamed he was in the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium. Hard to fathom. These were not little shots by Hamilton, but 500 foot blasts to the upper deck. It is safe to say Yankee Stadium has not seen anything like this, and it is a treat for the fans who are seeing the stadium at the end of the year.

But after the 28 home runs in Round 1, it was clear Hamilton had taken his aggression down in Round 2, and old pal Claybon Counsil was tiring as well. Hamilton only notched 4 home runs in Round 2 and just 3 home runs in the Final Round.

This opened up a path for the second contestant in the Finals, Justin Morneau. Morneau blasted 8 home runs and 9 home runs in the first two rounds to reach the Finals, as the Yankee Stadium crowd yawned in the meantime. After Hamilton's 28 home runs, the other batters were left in silence from a crowd that has seen it all already. Then Morneau got to the Final's and hit 5 home runs, which seemed like it would not be enough.

But Hamilton was never able to capture that 28 home run magic he found in Round 1. It is amazing to think he did not win the Home Run Contest, but even so most will remember his exploits when thinking of the 2008 Home Run Derby.