Amid Skepticism, Home Run Derby — and Aaron Judge — Live Up to Hype

This was supposed to be a real Clash of the Titans. Reigning Home Run Derby champion Giancarlo Stanton defending his title against the rising legend of Aaron Judge. Forget David vs. Goliath — this was Goliath vs. Goliath.

And though we didn’t get the much-hyped match-up between baseball’s two biggest sluggers, the Home Run Derby was a spectacle as impressive as it was ridiculous.

The Home Run Derby is frankly a bit silly. Professional ballplayers take turns trying to hit baseballs as far as they can. The jokes about the Derby being glorified batting practice hold water because, in essence, that’s what it is: long-range batting practice.

But the nature of a spectacle is that the mere description of the event lacks the impact and sheer awe of witnessing the event itself. What sounds silly beforehand suddenly becomes jaw-dropping. And last night, we were all Dellin Betances.

Aaron Judge himself is a spectacle. He’s built more like an offensive lineman than a baseball player. He’s a whiz with the glove. He has a quick swing that crackles with raw, effortless power. And he puts baseballs in places no one ever thought they could go.

Justin Bour energized the crowd with a 22-homer performance, hitting more dingers than anyone else hit in the first round. The pressure was on Judge to live up to his hype. And he more than satisfied the hype; he added to his own rapidly-growing legend as the Next Big Thing in Baseball by eclipsing Bour’s mark with 23 eye-popping dingers.

Homers to center? No problem. Homers to right field? Please. Left field? Come on — that’s Judge’s power alley. Forget hitting the Marlins garish home run statue — Judge cleared it with a 513-foot blast. He banged multiple homers off the windows in left field, making viewers wonder if Judge was going to break another stadium. Even his pop-ups cleared the fences.

After Judge dispatched Bour in the first round — and after Gary Sanchez upset defending champ Giancarlo Stanton — the next two rounds didn’t matter. We all knew how the night would end. How could we not? There’s seemingly no stopping Aaron Judge right now.

The very nature of a spectacle is that it belies description. So instead of trying to describe what Judge did last night, how he is now known to a nationwide audience and not just the baseball-crazy, and how he has become the face of the Three True Outcomes Revolution, I’ll let you see for yourself.

Case dismissed.

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