November 27, 2022

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MLB Home Run Derby 2022: Julio Rodriguez owns night, if not trophy

By Jake Mintz
FOX Sporting activities MLB Author

LOS ANGELES — The graphic ought to reside forever in baseball background: Ken Griffey Jr. leaning forward off the edge of a white sofa coated in sizzling pink pillows, drenched in sweat, a digital camera in his arms.

Dressed in a dri-in shape polo shirt branded with the brand of his very own indelible silhouette, the most legendary baseball player of a technology experienced his left eye squeezed shut, his ideal eye pressed up versus his camera’s viewfinder, his focus entirely and totally centered on the issue currently being captured by his lens. 

It was accurate poetry, incredibly appropriate, that the single best Household Operate Derby hitter of all time experienced a front-row seat to view the national coronation of the sport’s most recent supersonic superstar: Julio Rodríguez.

What Griffey was, what Griffey did and, most importantly, what Griffey meant to a era of baseball fans will hardly ever, can by no means and must in no way be replicated. Junior is singular his coolness for good unclonable, his effects on the video game everlasting and lasting, his star unreachable. 

But Monday night at Dodger Stadium, Rodríguez forced the irresponsible comparison. Not due to the fact Griffey 1st turned his ball cap backward has a player possessed this kind of a blend of expertise and easy electrical power. 

In the celebration that Griffey built popular, in the uniform of the franchise Griffey aided help save, the 21-12 months-previous Julio Yarnel Rodríguez released himself to the world Monday, not as the sport’s distant upcoming but as its shining existing. Midway by his debut time, Rodríguez has smacked 16 homers (in spite of hitting zero in April) with a 134 OPS+, compiling 3.6 bWAR even though actively playing an fantastic defensive middle discipline.

He is the runaway beloved for American League Rookie of the Year and a huge part of a Mariners group that sped into the split on a 14-recreation successful streak. 

The reality he extremely significantly is. 

2022 Property Operate Derby: Julio Rodríguez shines vivid

2022 Home Run Derby: Julio Rodríguez shines bright

Ben Verlander discusses the stellar general performance from Mariners rookie Julio Rodríguez in the 2022 Property Operate Derby. Rodríguez put on a exhibit, belting the most home runs of the night time at only 21 several years previous.

Indeed, Juan Soto, a baseball supernova in his individual ideal, basically gained the darn factor, besting Rodríguez in the finals by a rating of 19 to 18, but the Derby is an exhibition whose winner isn’t often the enduring memory.

Pete Alonso gained the 2019 contest in Cleveland, but rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s superb show was the headline. Josh Hamilton failed to earn in 2008 at Yankee Stadium, when he strike 28 homers in the 1st spherical. Justin Morneau did, but you didn’t keep in mind that, did you?

Soto deserves his flowers. The 23-12 months-aged with a Planet Series trophy, two All-Star games and a second-position MVP complete now to his identify has experienced the most stressful 7 days of his vocation adhering to a report Saturday that he declined a $440 million contract extension from the Nationals. 

Soto’s decision and the trade rumors that have trailed in its wake were the speak of All-Star Media Day on Monday. That he rose earlier mentioned the hoopla to bring household his to start with Derby title was a outstanding accomplishment.

House Run Derby: Juan Soto wins, proves himself on largest phase

Home Run Derby: Juan Soto wins, proves himself on biggest stage

Ben Verlander reacts to Juan Soto profitable the 2022 Property Operate Derby soon after turning down a $440 million present from the Washington Nationals.

But nevertheless, the evening was all about Rodríguez. 

As the event’s very 1st hitter, the Mariners’ All-Star could have wilted in the ruthless July warmth, but instead, he blossomed. Rodríguez dispatched 32 homers deep and absent over Dodger Stadium’s symmetrical outfield wall, a total that ranked as the fourth-most homers in a single round in the event’s historical past. 

Corey Seager, the previous Dodger performing as the home crowd favourite, was no match for Rodríguez’s powerful exhibit, inspite of an extraordinary, 24-tater 1st round. 

Rodríguez’s semifinal opponent was, in real truth, the Closing Manager: Alonso, the winner of the previous two Dwelling Operate Derbies. It has been obvious for some time now that Alonso deeply and truly cares about his job as “The Derby Male.”

When Alonso was proven on the broadcast useless-lifting and deep breathing just before his semifinal showdown with Rodríguez, it only even more crystallized the Met’s dorky yet endearing appreciate for this exhibition.  

Alonso, who arrived in as the hefty preferred, was trying to find to join Griffey as the only players to earn 3 Derbies and the initial to acquire a few in a row. It’s fitting then that Griffey sat yards away as Rodríguez slayed the dragon. 

As Alonso inhaled and exhaled in the underground batting cage, J-Rod continued his excellence from round one particular by blasting 31 a lot more extensive balls, the fifth-optimum single-round complete in Derby heritage. Mixing in the occasional laser beam together with his trademark galaxy-scraping moonshots, J-Rod introduced the L.A. group — a group stuffed typically with followers who’d in no way noticed the young star in person — to its toes. 

When it turned apparent about midway as a result of Alonso’s spherical that he’d probably fall small of Rodríguez’s impressive mark, the group grew silent with pressure, rather shocked. Alonso had by no means lost a Derby right before, and it was very shocking to see the impenetrable Polar Bear falter on a stage he’d commanded with this sort of simplicity. 

As Alonso’s closing hit touched earth, the stocky initially baseman shrugged playfully to the digital camera as the youthfully exuberant Rodríguez bounded out toward him for a respectful embrace.

In the finals, Rodríguez appeared to run out of gasoline, failing to hit multiple homers about 440 feet and as a result missing out on the added-time reward. That proved to be the change, as Soto employed his extra 30 seconds to surpass J-Rod’s 18 bombs and seize the crown. 

But the night belonged to Julio. That’s how it should really and will be remembered: as the ascension of an unstoppable rocket ship with a solar-bright future. 

Most likely it really is way too early, too untimely to evaluate the 21-calendar year-aged Dominican to Griffey. Many a young star has flashed transient and shiny right before failing to reside up to the unrealistic anticipations thrust upon him. 

But you will find a thing undeniably distinctive about Rodríguez, a type of magic energy he exudes that inspires confidence, assuages question and will make the not possible seem probable. 

It was a night time of surprise, a passing of the torch and a display of transcendent superstardom. And for Julio, it really is only the beginning.

Jake Mintz is the louder 50 percent of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports activities. He’s an Orioles admirer living in New York Town, and therefore, he potential customers a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not looking at baseball, he’s just about unquestionably driving his bike. You can comply with him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.


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