Triumph of the sawbuck

A sawbuck is slang for a ten-dollar bill, aka…a Hamilton.
Okay, yeah, that was a horrible pun; the point is, Josh Hamilton was amazing
last night! At one point, he had thirteen straight home runs without an out.
His 28 home runs in the first round broke the record set by Bobby Abreu, who
had 24 in 2005. I missed most of the first round, doing homework, but I saw
almost all of Hamilton’s performance. My father called me downstairs early on
after mistakenly thinking that Hamilton had done the impossible–drive a fair
ball clear out of Yankee Stadium. (Mickey Mantle once hit one off of the iconic
frieze, the closest anyone has ever come to hitting one all the way out.) The
ball that had fooled my father’s eyes? Only the third longest that
Hamilton hit, estimated at 502 feet. The announcers made a joke about Milton
Bradley actually doing something nice when he came out to towel off Hamilton’s
tired pitcher, who, by the way, adds yet another interesting scene to The
Josh Hamilton Story
. Apparently, back when Josh played American Legion
ball, he promised his coach that if he ever reached the big leagues and was in
the Home Run Derby, he’d bring the coach along as his pitcher. True to his
word, in the long tradition of obscure or otherwise odd Home Run Derby pitchers
(David Wright put on a great first-round show in Pittsburgh in 2006 with Mets
catcher Paul Lo Duca throwing to him), 71-year-old high school coach Claybon
(Clay) Counsil was behind the screen for Hamilton’s at-bats, throwing 54 pitches
in the first round alone. (A second mention of the Star-Ledger in as
many days: this morning’s paper mistakenly identified him as “Clay Council”.
BOOOOOO!!!) By the way, does anyone know what was in the case that Edinson
Volquez set on home plate after Hamilton’s twelfth home run? It added a bit of
intrigue to it all, Volquez of course the other primary in the deal that sent
Hamilton from Cincy to Texas. Hamilton was the last of the eight contestants to
go in the first round, and with the rule change that makes all home runs from
the first round carry over to the second, he had already out-homered everyone
else before he’d even come up for the second round, securing a spot in the
finals; they allowed him to take a few swings anyway, and he hit four home runs
and made four outs in a shortened second round. The “Call Your Shot” contest
was a bust, as even with two left-handed hitters in the finalist taking aim at
Yankee Stadium’s short right-field fence, neither could win a car for the
contest winner, Hamilton’s shot hitting in fair territory in right and then
landing on the foul side of the pole on one bounce, Morneau’s landing in left
field. Oh, that’s right: lost in all of this kerfuffle was the fact that Justin
Morneau won the 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby, with five final-round bombs to
Hamilton’s three. (Wright’s first-round heroics in 2006 likewise didn’t
translate into a win, but that was no big surprise as Ryan Howard had already
taken the stage with a late charge in the second round–five or six gold-ball
home runs, I think–to surge into the finals on the brink of elimination. Howard
also punctuated his amazing run by hitting his Derby-winning home run right at
one of those “Hit it here, win $1,000,000” MasterCard® signs, making one lucky
fan a millionaire. As if all of those gold-ball home runs weren’t enough
charity.) Tonight, the 79th Annual All-Star Game, live from New York
City! And remember…”This One Counts!”


Correction: It was actually the first round in which Howard
made his late charge, with four of his eight home runs coming with the gold
balls. Furthermore, while the MasterCard® signs last night said “Win
$1,000,000”, in 2006 the prize was 500 flights–a slightly lesser prize,
considering that not even first-class tickets should cost $2,000. Of course,
the gold balls were more valuable then–$21,000, for the sponsor at the time,
Century 21, as opposed to the $17,000 that they were this year. He had six of
those, all totaled. Not to mention, while the fact that the donation goes to
the local Boys and Girls Club instead of to a single lucky fan makes it more
charitable, the $50,000 that Justin Morneau earned for charity with his win
last night pales in comparison to the quarter-million that Howard got for his
paired fan. I made a big comment about how charitable Howard was at the Derby
in my ’06 journal–blog-like in nature but not a true blog in that it exists
only on my hard drive.


Addendum: Listening to XM 175 on my afternoon commute, they
brought up a good point about closer salaries skyrocketing and how there’s
going to be that type of situation this year with K-Rod, who hasn’t yet
re-upped with the Angels, and I got to thinking, is this one of the best “walk
year” salary campaigns ever? After 95 games, the Angels are 57-38 and K-Rod has
38 saves. Prorated to a 162-game campaign, that’s somewhere around 97 wins for
the Angels and 65 saves for their closer. I did say in an early entry that I
thought the single-season save record would fall, and I even did say it would
be a West Coast team whose closer would set it…but, like most of my
predictions, something was a little bit off. In this case, the league of
the team was off. The NL West was touted as the “most competitive division in
baseball”, and it seemed to be a division rich in pitching and, well, not so
much so in hitting, so it seemed natural that there’d be a lot of low-scoring
games. What I didn’t take into account would be the quintet’s near-inability to
win outside of their division. While it would be ludicrous to believe that
K-Rod really is on pace for 65 saves, 60 sounds like a reasonable enough
number–and that would still best the old record by three. So while I’m changing
the name of the new record holder, I stand by my former statement: Enjoy the
record while it lasts, Mr. Thigpen.


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