Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred was still beaming Tuesday after a revamped Home Run Derby a night earlier finally ended years of a long, boring procession to find the top slugger at the All-Star Game.
It was a crowd-pleasing event again, and not just because hometown favorite Todd Frazier thrilled the Great American Ball Park crowd, the vast majority of them Cincinnati Reds fans, by toppling Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson in the final, 15-14.
The new rules featured timed rounds of 4 minutes, trimmed by a minute to beat approaching thunderstorms, and bonus time for multiple homers that traveled 425 feet. The eight participants, including Texas Rangers designated hitter Prince Fielder, swatted 159 home runs, more than twice the 78 homers last year hit under the old format.
Frazier’s win might rate as the best Derby since Josh Hamilton hit 28 first-round homers in 2008 at Yankee Stadium.
“The clock made a big difference in the event,” Manfred said. “It’s not just that it moves it along. It’s that being on the clock causes the players to swing at everything. We had a dramatic increase in the number of home runs that were hit in a dramatically short event, and that is a great combination for the Home Run Derby.”
Fielder, who said that he used a bat belonging to Rangers teammate Ryan Rua during the derby, agreed with Manfred’s clock observation, saying it created more intensity. Despite being eliminated by Frazier in the first round, Fielder said that he enjoyed himself.
After beating Fielder 14-13 in bonus time, Frazier beat Josh Donaldson 10-9 in the second round by hitting homers on his final two swings. Frazier said that the change in format gave hitters a chance to recover from a long stretch without a homer and to rally late, as he did in all three rounds.
Frazier was a finalist in 2014, but hit only one homer before reaching 10 outs under the old format.
“You swing at everything, really, once you’re down, and no matter how much time you got,” he said. “When you get the opportunity, you just have to hit it out, no matter where the ball’s pitched. Felt like a little kid out there sometimes in the back yard swinging at everything. It was pretty cool.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760