Earlier today, ESPN MLB analysts John Kruk and Nomar Garciaparra discussed the 2013 Chevrolet Home Run Derby and 84th MLB All-Star Game with members of the media. For the third consecutive season, Kruk and Garciaparra will team with Chris Berman to provide commentary for the Home Run Derby. Additionally, ESPN MLB Insiders Buster Olney and Pedro Gomez will serve as reporters.
ESPN’s exclusive telecast of the Home Run Derby begins on Monday, July 15, at 8 p.m. ET from Citi Field in New York. This will mark the 21st consecutive year ESPN has aired the Home Run Derby, which is also available on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes and on computers, smartphones, tablets, Xbox and Apple TV via WatchESPN.
Here is the replay of today’s conference call.
Q. The Home Run Derby has been around and televised for two decades. Why do you think that is and do you think it has broad appeal for fans?
JOHN KRUK: I think it’s the power. People love to see how far guys can hit baseballs. No one comes out to watch people bunt a ball; who cares about that? A lot of people can bunt, but try to hit one 500 feet like these guys and especially without a cage. You’re out there all by yourself with 40,000 or 50,000 people staring at you.
I don’t think I would like to do it. I think people tune in because they want to see how far guys can hit a baseball.
NOMAR GARCIAPARRA: I think people are fascinated with home runs and they want to see that. Also, I think people were going to tune in because usually at the All‑Star break, there was no other major sport going on at that time. Baseball was taking a break.
So when you had that Home Run Derby, people were tuned in because for the longest time it was the only sport you could watch. You got to see these All‑Stars, these big, big men hitting the ball a long, long way. Also, I think people like to see [participants’] peers along the sidelines and to marvel at how far these guys are hitting the baseball.
Q. Nomar, you participated in a couple of these when you played for the Red Sox in ’99, one here, and then a couple years before that. Recently we had issues with guys like Adrian Gonzalez saying it messed up their swing or it affected their swing in the second half of the season and yet you see a lot of guys that it doesn’t affect. I’m curious about your experience with that and whether or not you had to make a conscious effort to not have it affect your swing?
GARCIAPARRA: I think when it comes to affecting your swing, it’s on the mental side. If you believe it’s going to affect your swing, it’s going to affect your swing. That’s one of the things. Prince Fielder is one of those guys like, “it doesn’t affect my swing. I’m going to go out there. This is the way I swing all the time. This is the way I hit all the time in batting practice and when I’m at the Home Run Derby,” so I think it’s from a mental aspect of it. I think when you’re in that zone and feeling pretty good and you like your swing, whatever it may be. When you’re in the batting cage doing that, it’s not about hitting the ball out of the ballpark, it’s maybe going the other way, whatever it is, hitting those line drives.
Now all of a sudden you get into this ‑‑ like Kruk said, you’re here, you’re on an island, you’re by yourself and the cage is out of the way. It’s not the same as batting practice. In batting practice, there is a rhythm to it. The pitcher is throwing the ball constantly. Even there, you can hit a lot of home runs, but you’re not watching them. You hit them and keep going.
Whereas here in the Home Run Derby, it’s hit it, sit down, wait and watch it. Here comes another one, hit it, sit, wait and watch it. It’s not like batting practice at all. So it is different, and like I said, I think when you’re feeling good you want to keep that rhythm. You don’t want to lose that and go into a Home Run Derby and totally change your style of swinging to hit it out of the park all the time. I think it’s more individual. I can’t say yes it does or no it doesn’t.
For me, I enjoyed it. I tried to take that batting practice approach. It didn’t work. I didn’t hit too many, like I did prior to hitting batting practice before the contest actually started, but I didn’t feel like the second half I was like, “Oh, gosh, I had a bad second half,” or whatever it was because of the All‑Star Game or the Home Run Derby. I never blamed that.
Q. As you gentlemen sit in the studio night after night watching games, do you see any indication that the Astros are on a trend that might take them upward at some point in time or are they still at least three or four years away from being respectable based on what you see night in and night out.
KRUK: It’s going to be a while. That question is going to be hard to answer until after the trade deadline. If they start trading Bud Norris and others who you keep hearing they’re shopping, it’s going to set them back.
They’re building now through prospects, through the Draft and hopefully through trades if they can get prospects. You know, if you’re an Astros fan and you’re thinking with one or two players next year we’re going to be good, you’re mistaken and looking at this with rose‑colored glasses on. It’s going to be a while. They’re not very good right now, and right now this is like trial and error. They’re trying to evaluate what they’re going to have for next year before the All‑Star break this year, and they knew that coming in.
Bo Porter painted a good picture of, you know, ‘we’re not rebuilding, we’re going to be competitive,’ and that’s all fine and dandy trying to sell the guys in his locker room, but looking at the other teams in the division and other teams in the league, they’re not competitive, and they’re not going to be for a few years, I think.
GARCIAPARRA: And I think in order to get out of it, you have to build within. If you think you’re going to think, well, we’re going to trade for a better team, it’s not going to happen unless you feel like you have the pockets to do it, and you want to go out there, and that doesn’t always work. The key is building within; it is building those guys in the minor leagues. One of my biggest questions for the ownership would be what is your philosophy? Is there a style of baseball you are trying to achieve? Have they established that in order to build these guys? But I agree with Kruk, it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be a few years to get them in that position.
Q. Chris Davis has had a tremendous first half. Would you rank him as one of the favorites to win the contest?
KRUK: Yeah, without question. I think for two reasons. One, he can hit to all fields, which sometimes doesn’t factor into the Home Run Derby. The fact that, when you watch his home runs, he doesn’t swing hard, so as the later rounds come on, if he keeps advancing, to me he’s going to be fresher than anyone else in this thing. I think to me he’s the leader in the clubhouse right now to win it, even though Prince won last year.
GARCIAPARRA: I think I would have to give it between him and Prince. Prince having the experience and knowing what the Home Run Derby is like, I think, helps him an awful lot and he knows what it takes. If you talk to a lot of the Home Run Derby participants who have made it to the later rounds, it a matter of how well they really pace themselves to get through the entire round.
Krukkie makes an excellent point that he doesn’t have to swing so hard, but he’s also super strong. It’s key to be able to last that long, that’s a key for Chris Davis.
I’m excited to have him in there because I think it’s great and I think that’s what people want to see, and I’m glad he was willing to participate.
I think he’s a favorite because of the year he’s having and things are going so well, and I think he’s going to put on a good show here at the All‑Star Game.
Q. This is with regard to Bryce Harper. John, he missed about a month of time. How important would you say he is to the Nationals lineup? Is it fair to say he provides a huge spark?
KRUK: Without question, because he can do so many things. He can hit the ball out of the ballpark, he hits for average, he can run, steal bases, go first to third, and when he was out and the Nationals offense struggled, they were looking for their identity. Since he’s back, their identity is back and they’re still struggling but I think they’re going to come out of it.
I think they’re going to reel off some wins because it looks like Strasburg is pitching better, Gio is pitching better, but I think of all the guys in the lineup, last year Werth missed time and they kept pace and Zimmerman missed time and they kept pace. Adam LaRoche has to get hot, too, and start swinging it, but Bryce Harper is a guy that if they’re not hitting that well, he can score runs with his legs by running the bases the way he does.
Q. In your time in baseball have you seen a guy come into the league with more hype and expectations on him?
KRUK: No, no, and I think ‑‑ I don’t know if we ever will, because he was being followed as a young teenager. People were waiting for this baseball superman to arrive on the big league level, and in some standards you look and think he can’t be that good, but he is. And he has the ability to be better, once he gets around and starts learning things and he gets a little older, he’s going to learn a lot more about pacing himself, about when to run into a wall, when to avoid one to save injury and preserve himself from injury.
He’s just going to get better, and he’s already really, really good, but he’s just going to get better.
Q. On the same situation with Bryce Harper, is he someone who was actually born to be in something like the Home Run Derby? If you watch him during batting practice, he pretty much does Home Run Derby on a daily basis.
GARCIAPARRA: Listen, I think, you know, along the lines of the question before, talking about the hype that he had coming into the major leagues, one of the stories you heard and they talked about was when he was, gosh, in high school the Home Run Derby he had at Tropicana Field and how hard and far he was hitting the ball there, and with his swing, I think it’s perfect.
I think David Wright made a good choice in asking him to be part of the Home Run Derby. I think people want to see it, get excited, such as we do watching him play. He’s definitely exciting out there on the field. We know he has the power. We’ve heard the stories of how far he can hit the ball not just during the game, but outside during batting practice and here is an opportunity to see that. I think it was a great choice. Like I said before, Prince Fielder says, “This is what I do in batting practice.” This is what Bryce Harper does at batting practice, hits the ball out of the ballpark and tries to do it. He has as good of a chance as anybody to win this.
Q. Do you think the snubbing of Paul Goldschmidt, Domonic Brown and Pedro Alvarez gave David Wright a big hit because in Pittsburgh they have been hitting on him all day saying he didn’t pick Alvarez and everything like that, and John does it haunt you when Randy Johnson threw that pitch behind you at the All‑Star Game?
KRUK: No, I can honestly say I never think about it and I have no desire to think about it. At 52 years old right now, there are far more important things for me to think about. I’m trying to solve all the world’s problems, I can’t be concerned with the Randy Johnson’s fastball.
GARCIAPARRA: To go back to your other question with regards to some of the guys he left off. I mean, when you put it in the hands of a player, it’s tough for them to make the choices and say well it’s the right choice because there are a lot of options out there.
You can’t argue with Carlos Gonzalez or Bryce Harper and people want to see them. The only one you might question is Michael Cuddyer, when he picks him and he had options. He had Domonic Brown, I’m sure in Philly, when they’re talking about Domonic Brown, and you mentioned Paul Goldschmidt and Pedro Alvarez. I mean, unfortunately that’s what comes with it. When you’re the captain, you have to pick. Those guys are all great options.
We saw that a lot with Cano when he was in Kansas City for not picking Butler, and he had a tough time, and his performance was out there and they were really on him in Kansas City. The unfortunate thing is you understand how the fans feel, but at the same time it was a time to also appreciate the guys who were out there and what they bring and appreciate this great game and celebrate this great game. So I thought that was unfortunate, how long it kept going, but I think David Wright has thick skin, huge shoulders and is confident and he explained why he picked the guys he did.
Q. Do you feel with Cespedes being picked, do you feel it’s right for a guy who is not an All‑Star to be in the Home Run Derby? Do you think that’s fair? Or do you have a complaint about that?
GARCIAPARRA: I don’t mind it. It doesn’t bother me if the Home Run Derby and the way the format is now with the Home Run Derby is them playing for charity or picking their team, I have no problem if that’s what it’s about, if you’re trying to go out there and win this. Guys know each other; they can talk to other players and say who is the guy who puts on a show during batting practice. Kruk and I used to talk about Ichiro Suzuki. They talk about how many balls he hits out in a row during batting practice, but we don’t see him in the Home Run Derby. People wouldn’t assume that he’d be in one, but people are talking that way. With Cespedes, I mean even though he’s not an All‑Star, I think he’s one of the guys people want to watch. I think they’re going, yeah, okay, great. I don’t think they’re going, he’s not an All‑Star. Yeah, we hear this guy is big and strong and can hit the ball a long way and here is the stage to see if he can do it.
Q. Predictably, a couple of Rays‑related questions. How does Zobrist go from a salary dump guy to a two‑time All‑Star guy?
KRUK: He got an opportunity to play in Tampa and took advantage. That’s the story with a lot of guys. There are a lot of guys that you have never heard of, who never got an opportunity who might have been superstars in baseball but they never got the chance. Ben got his chance and he took full advantage of it. The way he took advantage of it was wherever they asked him to play he played. Some guys are stubborn, they’re at first base or second base, they’re not going anywhere, Ben said you need me at second, at short, I’ll go. He made himself a valuable asset, more so than anybody else on that team other than Longoria. He got better and he deserves it.
GARCIAPARRA: I think he was in an environment where you have Maddon, and his style, and taking into account where he has a lot of moving parts and puts people in different positions, he’s a perfect guy for that.
Q. Two guys who did not make the team, your thoughts on that: Moore with 12 wins, and Longoria. High school allegiance is in play here with Evan Longoria not being on the team.
GARCIAPARRA: There are a lot of guys you can argue not being on this team. If you want to stay in the American League, Evan is one of them, but that’s their base position in the American League. [There is] depth in that position, because you have Cabrera, Machado, Evan is not there, Beltre, how about Josh Donaldson? Here is a first place team in the Oakland A’s and probably the best player on their team and he’s not on there either. The Oakland A’s only have one player on the All‑Star team, and that’s Colon, so they don’t have a position player.
You can make arguments for a lot of guys. I look at first base in the National League and the depth that’s going on there and guys unfortunately were left off there when you look at their numbers. They are deserving as well. He just got caught up in that numbers game.
KRUK: I think if you gave a lie detector test to Joe Maddon he would be happy that Longoria and Moore didn’t make the All‑Star team, because they need the rest, and if they’re going to catch the teams ahead of them in a very good division they’re going to need those guys healthy. And not that you worry about Evan pulling a muscle in an All‑Star Game, but he has been injured for the past few years, and it’s going to do a lot for Moore.
If you put a question to everyone in that organization, Friedman to Maddon, I think they would say, you know what? We’re happy they’re on vacation right now.
Q. Prince Fielder and Chris Davis, the favorite, how important is Fielder having that experience of being on the stage in that environment when it comes time to do the Derby?
GARCIAPARRA: I think it’s huge. Like I mentioned before, a lot of guys have trouble understanding how to pace themselves throughout or what those later rounds take and also in between your rounds, once you hit, what you need to do, whether it’s continuing to hit underground or the kind of rest you need while the other guys are hitting.
There is a long time and a lot of rest in between and how are you staying sharp? So I think the experience for Fielder helps even with Chris Davis being a first‑timer with his ability, but also it’s a team event and he has Fielder and Cano and he has guys who have experience in this event and he can turn to those guys and they’re going to be saying, hey, listen ‑‑ and even though they’re competing against each other, they’re competing with each other so they are going to be telling him stuff, and he has that advantage as well.
KRUK: I think Chris Davis has a chance. If he gets in a groove he can pull off a Josh Hamilton‑type first round, but with Prince’s experience he could win at the end. Like when Justin Morneau won that year, Josh hit 26 homers in the first round or something. Chris Davis has the ability to do that, get on a roll in the first round, keep hitting one after another, and suddenly like Nomar said, can pace himself enough ‑‑ with the experience of Prince and Cano to pace himself to be fresh in the later rounds.
Q. I wanted to talk about Prince Fielder. What makes him so good at this contest? He has won it twice before, actually. Besides being able to hit the ball a long ways, he seems to enjoy it a lot. He seems to have fun doing it. And who would you most like to see in the contest who is not on the rosters?
GARCIAPARRA: I think it’s kinda the way Prince Fielder’s approach is to batting practice. He always tries to hit the ball a long way out of the ballpark. Every swing seems to be fierce. He doesn’t take a two‑strike approach at any swing, it seems like. And he is strong, he is super strong which allows him to have the endurance to continue hitting in a contest like this one, when it does wear you out and fatigue you, because he has such strength.
I think he truly, truly enjoys it. It’s good to see because it’s a fun event, it’s a fun time and fans like to see it. It’s great to have a guy like Prince Fielder who enjoys doing it, and his attitude and his swing have allowed him to win it twice.
KRUK: Yeah, I agree with Nomar, short, exact swing and a violent swing, but he’s used to swinging that way. This is not out of the norm for him, this contest, because he has a home run hitting contest every day in BP. The amount of swings he takes and the torque he puts on those swings, this is second nature to him where other guys are trying to figure it out, he’s already got it figured out, because he does it all the time.
As far as who I would like to see in it? The “young three” – Machado, Trout and Harper to watch the transition of the game go from the older players who are out there, Jeter and Mariano and Pujols, to the young kids taking over the game and who are superstars, that’s who I would like to see.
GARCIAPARRA: I think I would like to see guys like Domonic Brown, first‑time All‑Star to take in the entire experience as well, having a tremendous year, fortunately for that, Pedro Alvarez and to go along with Kruk, mentioning the young guys, Paul Goldschmidt out there in Arizona doing well. It would be good to have a young guy out there doing well to come in.
Q. I was wondering if you’re looking all‑time, if you could bring back great hitters in their time (Ruth, Aaron), who would you like to see in this contest and powering balls out of Citi Field?
KRUK: I would love to see Babe Ruth just to see Babe Ruth. I think that would be fun to watch him hit. I would like to watch ‑‑ just talking to the older players I got a chance to spend time years ago talking with Robin Roberts and Buck O’Neil, they mentioned the home runs of Josh Gibson, so I would like to see Josh Gibson in a contest like this to see how far he can hit it, because they swear he hit one out of old Yankee Stadium, and everybody says it’s never been done, but these guys said he did it, so I would like to see that.
GARCIAPARRA: I would love to see Babe Ruth, but also Hank Aaron and Ted Williams going at it. I think those are the couple that come to my mind along with Babe Ruth. They talk about their swings, how they hit home runs and just to see those guys go at it would have been great.