Red Sox: David Ortiz remains only Home Run Derby winner in franchise history

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 13: David Ortiz
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 13: David Ortiz /

Only once in the history of the Home Run Derby has the event been won by a member of the Boston Red Sox. That was David Ortiz back in 2010.

Eight of the top sluggers in Major League Baseball will gather Monday night for the annual Home Run Derby. Not the top eight sluggers, of course. J.D. Martinez, the major league leader in home runs at the break, would be noticeably absent in that case. Martinez, along with his Boston Red Sox teammate Mookie Betts, is among the stars who passed on participating in the event this year.

That’s nothing new for this franchise. A Red Sox player hasn’t participated in the derby since Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz highlighted the event in 2011. Gonzalez blasted 31 homers, falling one short of Robinson Cano in the final round. Ortiz totaled nine home runs in the first two rounds prior to elimination, which tied for third that year.

The previous year saw Big Papi win. Ortiz’ Home Run Derby trophy in 2010 marks the only time in franchise history a Red Sox player has won the event.

The 2010 Derby

Ortiz battled former and future teammate Hanley Ramirez in the finals that year. Ramirez, then with the Marlins, represented the National League at the time. Hanley and Papi mashed their way to a stalemate through the first two rounds. Ramirez had the edge in Round 1, 9-8. Ortiz caught up in Round 2 by outslugging Ramirez 13-12.

That put them each at 21 entering the finals. No other participant that year had more than 13 through two rounds. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Corey Hart hit 13 in Round 1 but tired himself out with that effort and came up empty in the next round.

While they entered the round in the tie, the finals weren’t all that dramatic. Ortiz ran away with the win by smashing 11 home runs in the final round. Ramirez fell well short with five.

The 32 total home runs Ortiz accumulated that year are tied for seventh most in derby history. That accomplishment is even more impressive when you factor in rule changes to the event over the years.

The evolution of the Derby

When Ortiz won, hitters were allowed 10 outs. Any swing that didn’t result in a home run was an out. Tweaks have been made to the format over the last few years. The current rules use a single-elimination bracket. Instead of the top four totals advancing, moving on to the next round depends in part on who you are matched up against. Batters are allowed four minutes in each round instead of 10 outs.

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As long as they pace themselves wisely, there is an opportunity to get in a lot more swings than in the past. That explains why the top three on the list of most single-derby home runs have come in the last three years. Giancarlo Stanton holds the record with 61 in 2016. His Herculean effort was impressive but was it nearly twice the show Ortiz put on in 2010?

Ortiz participated in the Derby five times during his career – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, and 2011. He totaled 77 home runs over that span, ranking fourth on the list of all-time Derby home runs.

No Red Sox slugger to pass the torch to

With Ortiz enjoying the comforts of retirement, the Red Sox no longer have a willing participant to represent the club. Martinez would be the obvious choice but he’s not interested. Betts would fit in well with this year’s crop of youngsters. The eight participants this year average 26.39 years in age, the youngest crop in the history of the Derby. Mookie passed on the chance to join in too.

That’s just as well as far as the Red Sox are concerned. There’s a long history of Derby participants slumping in the second half. Whether it be tiring themselves out or messing with their swing during the event, the Derby takes a toll. That’s why last year’s winner, Aaron Judge, declined to defend his title. The New York Yankees slugger toiled through a brutal second half last season.

Next: Bogaerts slamming his way toward history

Was the Derby to blame? Will the same fate await this year’s participants? Who knows, but why risk it? The Red Sox have their sights set on a greater prize. Let someone else win the Derby. Boston’s top hitters will gladly settle for winning the World Series instead.