Morneau and Hamilton both winners in derby

July 21, 2008

by Stephen Wiblemo

Last Monday was a confusing day for me as I watched the 2008 Home Run Derby from my couch in Glencoe.

As I viewed the unfolding drama between Twins slugger Justin “Jason” Morneau, and a new national hero, Josh Hamilton, I was filled with many different feelings.

First, I had a feeling of overwhelming faith.

As I watched Hamilton, the Texas Rangers star, belt a record-setting 28 home runs in the first round, and listened to his post-derby interviews, I couldn’t help but be impressed with his modesty, and how he thanked God, his Saviour, for helping him achieve such a fantastic feat.

And no, by feat I don’t mean hitting 35 home runs. I mean the feat of overcoming a drug and alcohol addiction.

Generally, when I hear athletes giving praise to God, I think it is kind of silly.

In my opinion, God has more important things to do than influence the outcome of something as trivial as a baseball game.

But, when it comes to Hamilton’s background story, and how he is overcoming his addiction and making use of the gifts he was given, it was uplifting to hear testimony of God’s presence.

After watching Hamilton’s first-round performance, the second feeling I had was of excitement.

Even though Hamilton’s exhibition, and his words following, were truly inspirational, I was still cheering for Morneau to win the whole thing.

Shortly after the end of the first round, I sent a text message to a friend in which I basically said, Hamilton would be too tired in the final round, and Morneau would win by three home runs.

My friend’s response was that of amusement.

But, as it happened, Morneau stayed consistant and made it to the finals, defeating Hamilton 5-3, one less than my prediction.

At the end, though, Morneau showed just how classy a guy he really is.

Even though he won the competition, Morneau knew that it was Hamilton’s night and gave him plenty of due respect.

The other feelings I had that night were anger and disgust.

I was angry with the disrespect my home run champion received from sports commentators, and disgusted that they work in the same profession I do.

Men like Rick Reilly and Chris Berman can take a long walk off a short dock after how they treated Morneau.

For anybody who missed it, the craziness started in the first round with Reilly declaring that Morneau didn’t belong in the derby, followed by the racist comment that there were too many white guys and not enough Latinos.

In fairness, Morneau was the last participant accepted in the derby and he was only asked to attend after non-white guys like A-Rod and Ichiro declined invitations.

Reilly’s idiot remarks didn’t stop there.

Shortly after Morneau clinched the victory, Reilly declared that the winner didn’t matter and would be forgotten in 20 minutes.

What a bold statement, completely disregarding a large portion of this country, known as “Twins Territory.”

This doesn’t surprise me, though, as small-market teams like the Twins are constantly getting the shaft from big-time reporter men like Reilly.

Well, guess what Rick, I don’t think Twins fans will be forgetting their first home run champion since the derby started in 1985, anytime soon.

In my opinion, Morneau and Hamilton were both winners that night and should both be invited back for next year’s derby.

ESPN’s commentators, on the other hand, were all miserable and shouldn’t be allowed on television again.

Just because the fairy-tale ending they all wanted didn’t come true doesn’t mean you should snub the guy who won it.

Morneau looked embarassed as he accepted the trophy that he earned.

Maybe the rules for the derby should be changed. But, this year, Morneau won by the current rules and didn’t deserve to be skirted to the side by biased reporters.

2008 All-Star Game notes

• Tuesday night’s marathon set several new all-star game records including: longest all-star game ever (15 innings, 290 minutes), most runners left on base (28), most players in a box score (63), most pitchers in a box score (23), most strikeouts (34).

• The American League has now improved its record to 11-0-1 in the last 12 all-star games against the National League.

• The Twins representatives had a great night. Joe Mauer went 1-for-1 with a walk, Joe Nathan pitched a perfect inning with one strikeout, and Justin Morneau went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs, including the game-winning run on a Michael Young sacrifice fly. Glad to see the home run deby didn’t hurt his swing.

• J.D. Drew of the Red Sox was named the MVP. Although he deserved it, with his two-run homer in the seventh inning and 2-for-4 night at the plate, I think Morneau was a close second.

• If there was a LVP award (Least Valuable Player), it would have gone to the Marlin’s (NL) Dan Uggla. From second base, he had three errors; and in four plate appearances, he had three strikeouts and hit into a double play. Ouch.