Miguel Tejada, the Orioles' lone All-Star this year, has been selected to replace Jason Giambi in tonight's Home Run Derby after Giambi pulled out due to lingering effects of his intestinal illness. Tejada will join the Birds' Rafael Palmeiro, the Rangers' Hank Blalock and the Red Sox's David Ortiz as the American League slugging representatives. They will join a formidable National League contingent of Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa, and Lance Berkman (Berkman was named as a late replacement for Ken Griffey Jr.).
Tejada is not a predictable choice to fill out a homer-hitting team—he has never finished among the top five in the league in round-trippers, and his fifteen taters this year are tied for 15th in the AL—so I guess that other All-Star mashers like Manny Ramírez, Alex Rodríguez, and Vladimir Guerrero turned down invitations to join the contest. Tejada should be able to hold his own because he has more than enough bat speed to hit the ball out of the park, but he has a natural line-drive swing that does not usually impart a lot of lift to the ball. I would give Palmeiro a decent chance in this exhibition because his swing naturally results in a lot of fly balls (0.80 G/F career), but Bonds has to be the favorite.
Stars that never faded
My favorite All-Star memory is Cal Ripken, in the midst of his 1991 MVP season, winning the Derby with a phenomenal 12 homers in 22 swings, then crushing a three-run tater in the All-Star Game to claim the event's MVP award.
Cal's last All-Star appearance, in the 2001 game, was also heart-warming. A-Rod graciously allowed Cal to take his old spot at shortstop for an inning, then Cal earned another All-Star MVP by smacking a four-bagger off Chan Ho Park.
I also recall the 1993 classic at Camden Yards, when Griffey reached the B&O Warehouse on the fly during the Derby. Late in that year's game, partisan Baltimore fans heckled AL manager Cito Gaston for not inserting Mike Mussina, and Mussina fueled their anger by conspicuously getting up in the bullpen to purportedly do some between-starts throwing. Gaston was persona non grata in Baltimore for several years after that incident.
Update (July 13): Against all expectations, Tejada claimed the Derby title with a standard-setting performance. He notched the most homers ever in a single round, with 15, and ended with the record for the most homers overall, with 27, and he could have added to that total had he been allowed to continue after outdistancing the Astros' Lance Berkman with five outs remaining in the last round. Tejada even finished with the longest homer of this year's competition, a 497-foot torpedo that cleared the left-field stands and landed on Crawford Street beyond. Not bad for a 5' 10", 210-lb. shortstop who was contending with some of the giants of our time.