I admit, I have outgrown Home Run Derby. I probably had outgrown it before the first All-Star Game version of it blasted off in 1985. That's how old I am.
The All-Star Game brings out the kid in me. The HR Derby cannot. It's possible that if they were doing HR Derby in 1977, I'd look at it more fondly than I do, but they didn't and I can't help the way I feel. This activity is a one-trick pony, pretty annoying and probably not for anyone who isn't a major leaguer or over the age of 12.
OK, let's just get it out of the way: it's terrible.
I don't like the gimmick, I don't like ESPN, I don't like Berman, I don't like the stupid "special uniforms" they make the players wear, I don't like the jocularity plastered all over the thing. It's one of those activities that's fun to do, but excruciating to view.
Sadly, it's probably never going away and one of the reasons I know this is because Topps makes cards of it. There have been HR Derby references in every Topps update set since at least 2005. I dug out a few cards -- most of them awful -- and decided to post the worst in my collection.
But just to be charitable -- because I'm doing this for the kids, you know -- I found a few HR Derby cards I didn't mind. We'll call those "the best," although we all know that "the best" would be to never acknowledge the HR Derby in a card set EVER.
All right, let's get on with the most appropriately awful:
6. Troy Glaus, 2006 Topps U&H
For whatever reason, the color yellow was stripped across many of the All-Star cards in 2005 and 2006 Topps. This automatically turns me off. Also, although the completist in me appreciates this, back then Topps featured a card of ever HR Derby participant with their HR total on the card. So, Troy Glaus, loser with one home run, you get your failure noted for all-time! AND, Topps numbered the cards in order from most to least. So, again, I appreciate this as a collector, but Troy Glaus probably wasn't thrilled with it at all.
5. Todd Frazier, 2014 Topps Update; Pedro Alvarez, 2013 Topps Update
My biggest argument for getting rid of HR Derby cards is the fact that players stopped wearing caps for this thing a few years ago. I don't want players without caps on my cards. My blog is filled with posts about this. If I wanted to collect cards of Dads Playing Softball In The Backyard, then, yes, fill up the set with these things. Otherwise: you're a major leaguer, they gave you a fancy exclusive cap when you became a major leaguer, wear it.
4. Ryan Howard, 2007 Topps Updates and Highlights
There is much about HR Derby that doesn't represent a regular major league game -- different jerseys, people wearing caps backward. In such disorienting times, it's best that there is something in the photo that tips you off that this is a baseball event. ... um, like a bat. There is no bat in this picture so Howard looks like he's drunkenly walking through a stadium filled with people and he has just spotted a pink elephant.
3. Bobby Abreu, 2005 Topps Updates and Highlights
Not a terrible card. Most of these are night cards, you know. Except for the yellow strip and the goofy uniform, no real problems.
The issue is that another card in the set is this:
In the newspaper business, we get hell for running the same story twice.
2. Michael Cuddyer, 2013 Topps Updates and Highlights
Whoever dressed up Cuddyer as a New York Met here did an excellent job of foreshadowing. But, of course, at this time, Cuddyer was a Colorado Rockie, which you can barely see from this photo. I'm happy that he's wearing a cap, I just wish it was a Rockies cap instead of whatever that thing is. As usual, this is about MLB trying to sell more merchandise. I don't need to be reminded of that on my cards.
1. Prince Fielder, 2013 Topps Update
Prince Fielder is one of the greats at HR Derby, a two-time winner. I'd really rather not have a close-up of his gut.
OK, now here are some "good" HR Derby cards. I'll be going through these a lot quicker because, come on, it's the HR Derby.
5. Albert Pujols, 2007 Topps Updates and Highlights
Albert Pujols looks like he was born to hit home runs. He looks like he was born to hit home runs in this photo. Good thing he's in Home Run Derby. Although these really are not home runs at all, they're all fake, kiddies, they don't count. Also, Chris Berman? He's actually a puppy-eating cyborg.
4. Ryan Howard, 2009 Topps Updates & Highlights
All HR Derby shots should be uppercut swings like this. I'm just going to pretend that Howard's uppercut swing knocked off his cap.
3. Chase Utley, 2008 Topps Updates and Highlights
I love this card a little more than I should. It's an Awesome Night Card and I do love horizontal swinging action. And, look, kids! Evidence that Chase Utley can hit!
2. David Ortiz, 2010 Topps Updates and Highlights
Red is for Red Sox. That is this card here. The only thing that would make it better is if Ortiz flipped his bat.
1. Robinson Cano, 2011 Topps Update
Cano properly reflects the mood of this event because he looks like a little kid accepting this trophy.
It's been raining in Cincinnati today and there was talk about canceling the HR Derby, and that tells you how important it is, because they'll never make it up. I suppose the HR Derby is all right for what it is, a three-to-four-hour noisy, confectionery-candied event that is forgotten the instant it's over. It's kind of like watching people at an amusement park even though you can't participate.
In other words: what's the point?
Yes, I know, the kids.