We are quickly approaching the All-Star break, with less than two weeks remaining in the month of June and then not much more than a week from there until we halt the season for a few days for All-Star festivities. This year’s event is going to be held at Coors Field in Denver after the venue changed from Atlanta. Putting aside the reasons for that change and focusing just on the field, the biggest boon from this alteration to the plans is that the Home Run Derby is going to be in Colorado. Depending on how they handle the baseballs for the event, and hopefully they don’t use any humidors or anything so the ball really flies in the thin Rockie Mountain air, this has the potential to be one of the most exciting Derbies in years.
It’s not just the venue, either. The changes of giving a big monetary prize to the winner and the swap a few years back from an out-based system to a clock one has turned the excitement level of the Derby up in a big way. And then on top of that, this year’s group of participants could be thrilling. As of now, Shohei Ohtani is the only name to officially accept an invitation, but the hope is guys like Fernando Tatís Jr. and Ronald Acuña Jr. join as well. And in addition to them, we really need to see Rafael Devers get a shot as well.
Now, I know the first thing that Red Sox fans will think hearing this. “Doesn’t the Home Run Derby mess up swings?” I think there are probably some instances where that may have happened, but the concern is overblown. You see home run numbers drop after the Derby as compared to before, but that’s generally because to get into the event you need to hit a lot of homers in the first half, and if you hit that many homers then more often than not you won’t repeat it in the back half of the year. Mike Petriello wrote a good piece on the topic a few years back.
And even beyond just that general point, I think it’s worth noting that I’m especially not worried about that being the case for Devers. The big thing that people point out is that players change their swing to go for home runs in the Derby and can’t get back to their normal swing in the season. Devers has a Home Run Derby in every game he plays all year long. The man swings out of his shoes six times a game. I don’t think a couple round of a Home Run Derby will do anything except maybe help him to get some more practice cuts with what would essentially be his in-game swing anyway.
And Devers would just be a perfect fit for this competition, right alongside the other names mentioned above. For one thing, he’s hitting enough homers. Devers is tied for sixth in the majors in homers right now, trailing only the four men mentioned above along with Matt Olson. Devers hits the ball as hard as anyone in baseball, and throwing in that aforementioned thin air should only make that contact more electric. And then when you throw in a goofy personality that will alternate between him grimacing and slapping himself in the head when he misses one, and then smiling ear-to-ear when he connects, it’s the exact kind of vibe you want in this kind of event.
I know the fear of the Derby affecting a swing is still very much a thing, but it shouldn’t be. It’s mostly a myth, and especially so for a guy like Devers who lives every day like he’s in a Home Run Derby. Any potential risk (and, again, it’s small) is far, far outweighed by the joy of seeing a Red Sox player in this ramped-up event that is once again a blast to watch, and it’s especially outweighed for someone like Devers.