Folks, we've got controversy brewing in the 2022 MLB Home Run Derby and it goes deep - we're talking legacies, fudged counts, bad announcing, the whole shebang.
Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber was taken out by Cardinals legend Albert Pujols in the first round on Monday night, throwing baseball fans and bettors alike for a loop. Pujols is extremely old, Schwarber has been a monster this season, and basically no one expected this result.
But... was it a fair outcome? Or did Pujols get some help?
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Philly sports blog Crossing Broad is calling foul on baseball's dinger display, alleging Schwarber should've been tied after he and Pujols both made it through their bonus overtime minute:
There have been a ton of accusations in the aftermath, but they center around three issues:
1. Pujols was granted free time that he didn't deserve
2. Pujols was awarded a free home run during regulation
3. Schwarber was robbed of a home run during the bonus minute
1. The Bonus Seconds
This one is the easiest to debunk, so let's start here: no, Pujols wasn't erroneously granted extra time. Every player received 30 extra seconds after the initial three minutes, regardless of home run distance. Batters who hit two 440+ foot homers during regulation were then granted 30 *additional* seconds, but Pujols only had 30 extra seconds after his three minutes were up. He hit three home runs in those 30 seconds.
2. The Free Homer
This one is right on the borderline. I went back and watched ESPN's broadcast and tried to timestamp each home run based on what ESPN showed us. You can't go by play-by-play announcer Karl Ravech's assessment of what was going on, because he began Pujols' round by uttering these words:
"Like so many others, his first ball leaves the yard. So does his second."
Neither were home runs.
So we're muting the broadcast and doing our own research.
In the first three minutes, Pujols hit 10 home runs (time stamps are the moment the ball was struck):
2:36 - HR1
1:59 - HR2
1:54 - HR3
1:50 - HR4
1:40 - HR5
1:20 - HR6
1:14 - HR7
0:51 - HR8
0:40 - HR9
0:15 - HR10
In his 30 extra seconds, Pujols either hit two home runs... or three:
0:30 - HR11
0:12 - HR12
0:07 - HR13 ?
I've got a question mark on No. 13 because ESPN's camera work did not show us this blast. We have no idea where it went. The camera stays fixed on Pujols. The way he looks at the ball, it seems like it might've been doable. But we simply don't know.
I've seen some people frustrated because Ravech ended Pujols' extra time with the phrase, "Albert will end up with a dozen home runs." But this is your problem: you're listening to Ravech. Remember, we're not listening to Ravech anymore. Society has progressed past the need for listening to Ravech. We're doing our own research.
When we come back for Schwarber's turn, Pujols' counter has 13 home runs.
The most likely scenario here? The folks at ESPN were likely slow to add HR13 to the counter. They weren't exactly consistent about the timing there when guys were mashing taters in quick succession.
Then Pujols hit seven big ones in a minute, to finish with 20.
Ruling: we don't know! We just don't know. Thanks, ESPN.
3. The Schwarber Robbery
At this point, you're probably questioning the robbery complaints. The first two proved to be zeroes or question marks.
But the third, and biggest, controversy is real: Kyle Schwarber was robbed. (I think.)
He hit a disappointing 13 home runs over three minutes and his 60 extra seconds, and in the first 20 seconds of the overtime minute he was HR-less. Boo!
But he caught fire and torched seven home runs in 38 seconds, which should've been enough to force another overtime vs. Pujols... except Schwarber was only credited with six homers.
I went back and watched ESPN's broadcast, and I'm seeing seven home runs:
0:38 - HR14
0:33 - HR15
0:25 - HR16
0:16 - HR17 ?
0:12 - HR18
0:04 - HR19
0:01 - HR20
When I look at MLB's Statcast tracker, which was supposed to keep track of each home run hit Monday night, I'm not finding HR15. It appears on the broadcast to sneak just over the right field fence, with fans all huddling to catch a ball while security and outfielders watch it go over their head. Statcast is only showing three home runs in that area, all of which landed within Schwarber's first 13 dingers. The ball that Statcast shows as HR15, the one that snuck inside the right field pole, should be HR16.
Interestingly, ESPN's home run counter included the HR15 that I noted up there. But it seems to have not counted HR17, which I've given a question mark because we never see where it lands. Using some context clues - a child in the outfield jumping to potentially catch it, and a general lack of interest from those in the crowd - leads us to believe this one might actually not be a home run? Ravech calls it a home run, but again: that means nothing.
I'm not quite sure how something like this happens. There are two blasts here that appear to be one thing but might in fact be something else. Unless visual tricks and/or optical illusions are at play and I'm missing the part where a ball in question lands in the field before bouncing into the crowd... it appears Schwarber was robbed!
Now, it's not a huge deal. It's the Home Run Derby. Neither of these guys won the overall event. And honestly it never should've been this close.
People bet real money on this event, and they expect an accurate outcome. Whether or not Pujols' HR13 actually existed, and whether or not Schwarber's HR15 was accurately counted, people who are placing their own dollars down deserve a better product.
Clean it up!