Albert Pujols Needs to Participate In 2009 Home Run Derby
Upon first glance, this doesn’t seem like actual news. But today’s report of Albert Pujols refuting claims that he planned to participate in the 2009 Home Run Derby has to be disconcerting for Cardinals fans, and fans in general that plan on attending. Pujols is pretty much a shoe-in to be in the 80th annual All Star Game, to take place July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. But being part of the Derby has to be a big deal this season, considering Pujols is the premium power hitter in the game.
To be absent in a St. Louis-hosted All Star game would be the same as Ryan Howard skipping Philly’s or Josh Hamilton sitting out of Arlington’s. It’s just not right to leave that big a hole. With all due respect to Ryan Ludwick, for him to replace Pujols as the Cardinals representative would simply not suffice.
Granted, Pujols has said that it would depend on the condition of his elbow whether or not he would participate. But he made it clear that he has not confirmed anything. Assuming a reasonable level of health, I would still expect Pujols to be pressured into participating. He is who the fans pay to see when they go to regular games, and at a St. Louis-hosted All Star Game he is the #1 star, regardless of his performance.
I can understand his elbow concerns, as well as concerns that his power may decline following the Derby. The competition has been known to negatively alter hitters’ swings, especially ones that win it or at least hit a lot. Josh Hamilton captivated viewers with his record 28-homer explosion in the opening round in 2008. But Hamilton ran out of gas before the competition was even over, eventually lost and hit just 11 home runs after the All-Star break after hitting 21 before it.
But despite Hamilton’s emergence as a superstar hitter, he is not on the level of Pujols. In fact, Pujols might be on a level all his own as a hitter. In eight full major league seasons, he has never batted below .314 or hit fewer than 32 home runs. If there’s any hitter in the game that can buck the trend of dropping off post-All Star break, it’s him. If his elbow is 100% come July 13, it will be a forgone conclusion that we’ll see him in the batter’s box.
Here is a clip (courtesy of FanDome) from Pujols’ outstanding rookie season of one of his rounds in the 2003 Derby, which he lost to Garret Anderson.
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