So far this 2019 season, the Twins have feted Joe Mauer off into his retirement and seen Nelson Cruz provide a powerful presence in the middle of the order. Ten years ago, however, both of those players were at much more youthful career stages, and happened to intersect at the Home Run Derby…
In 2009, the Derby & All Star Game festivities were held at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, with the newly-elected President Barack Obama tossing out the ceremonial first pitch (regardless of his political leanings, we can probably all agree to boo his choice of White Sox jacket ☺).
Joe Mauer, a spry 26, was a bit of a surprise selection for the Derby—not really being known as a big power guy—but also in the midst of his best-ever statistical season (.365 BA, 1.031 OPS, 28 HR, 171 OPS+) and one that would net him AL MVP by its end. Cruz, then 28 years of age and getting over 307 AB’s for the first time in a season, would go on to slug 33 dingers for the ‘09 Texas Rangers. He’d even steal 20 bases in the process!
In the first round of the Derby, Cruz quickly advanced while Mauer struggled. Joe put five big flies on the board—hey, more than Brandon Inge (0) and Adrian Gonzalez (2)—but lost a “swing off” to Albert Pujols and Carlos Pena.
With Mauer taking a seat the rest of the night, Cruz edged out Ryan Howard to vault into the finals against Prince Fielder. #Boomstick launched five moonshots into the Cardinal Red seats, but Fielder ultimately eclipsed him to take home the silver prize.
In some ways, the ’09 season represented a turning point for both players in terms of power hitting. Outside of the friendly Metrodome confines, Mauer would never hit more than 11 home runs in a Target Field season. Meanwhile, Cruz was just beginning a streak of 10 campaigns with 20+ homers (four more this year will run that to 11).
Sadly—and somewhat ironically, considering they just broke the record for most team home runs pre-All Star Break—there are no Twins in the HR Derby this Monday night. Cruz needs some old-man quiescence and the rest of the #BombaSquad is seemingly nicked up in one way or another. I guess that means the team will have to do its damage next weekend in the same ballpark :)