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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Pete Alonso’s home run derby reign is over

The reign of terror is over.

There was no three-peat or three-peat in the home run derby. Mets first baseman Pete Alonso chased down his third straight win in the event and came up short. The Mariners’ incident proved too big for a roadblock to Julio Rodriguez, after beating Alonso in the semi-finals and Juan Soto knocked him out in the final round. 23-year-old Soto became the second youngest person to win the Home Run Derby.

The Home Run Derby is, at its core, a fun and lighthearted event. This is usually 99 percent for fans, one percent for actual participants.

Don’t tell that to Alonso, who takes the home run derby as seriously as anyone has ever done. Alonso described himself as “in the zone” during the ESPN broadcast, keeping his interviews very short and constantly mentioning that he was competing for something “bigger than himself”, adding that his victory will go to the foundation that he and his wife had established.

Before things even started, Alonso was lifting weights. Between his rounds, the Mets’ fat brother spent his time in the Dodger Stadium batting cage instead of rubbing elbows with his fellow All-Stars and swapping smiles. Everyone else was there for joy; Alonso came to Los Angeles on business.

Those minutes of meditation, the time spent imagining a third straight victory, the physical benefit of relaxing in an air-conditioned stadium instead of sunbathing. None of this paid off for the two-time defending champion, who has a real gift for this sort of thing, but didn’t get the mojo that won him the novelty trophy in 2019 and 2021.

Coming into the night as the odds-on favorite, Alonso was seen as the guy who just doesn’t lose in the home run derby. The baseball world may have underestimated Rodriguez, who posted the first back-to-back 30-homer rounds in Derby history before running out of gas in the final round.

Alonso went through NL East rival Ronald Acua Jr. to top the Braves’ stud from 20 to 19 in the first round. After finishing second that round, Alonso knew just how big of a flies he needed to get ahead. The same was the case in the second round, but Rodriguez’s innate power led to 32 instead of 20. That iceberg proved too big for the polar bear.

Instead of a night related to the Mets slugger, it was about the future and the past of the game. Rodriguez is going to be one of the best players in the universe, full stop. He’s Already An All-Star As A Rookie – A Clear Respect For First player in league history To post 15 homers, 50 RBIs and 20 stolen bases through his first 90 career games – and the 21-year-old is now home run derby champion.

But Albert Pujols also made his way into the limelight. Twice Rodriguez’s age, the first-ball Hall of Famer made a major upset in the first round. Facing the number one seed in Kyle Schwarber (who earned the seed for having the most homers of anyone on the field), Pujols knocked out the Phillies’ lefty in a head-to-head fight.

Only added to the NL All-Star roster as a lifetime achievement honor, and placed in the home run derby to increase viewership and nostalgia, Pujols stuck around longer than anyone anticipated. That’s a surprise for a man currently playing his 22nd MLB season.

Alonso will undoubtedly get some ribbing from his Mets teammates when he returns to them after the All-Star break. But with the Mets in the best shape of Alonso’s career, the importance of his actual baseball schedule should allow for a speedy grieving process.

As a Mariner eliminated Alonso, it also prevented the Mets’ toehead hitter from matching the greatest Mariner of all time. Alonso’s loss means Ken Griffey Jr. is still the only player to have won the Derby three times.

If anyone knows this, and is shaken by it, it’s Pete Alonso. He may still seek revenge next year, as the event moves to Seattle, giving him a chance to turn the tables on Rodriguez and Griffy in the city who worship him.

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World Nation News Desk
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