What are the chances a Cub wins the All-Star Home Run Derby for the first time in 15 years Monday night in Cincinnati (7 p.m., ESPN)?
With two Cubs in the field for the first time in the 30-year-old event, they represent 25 percent of the field. And by at least one odds-maker’s estimation, Cub rookie Kris Bryant has the second-best chance to win, right behind favorite Todd Frazier of the Reds.
Both Bryant and teammate Anthony Rizzo say they’re just looking forward to having fun. But both practiced this weekend with Rizzo’s designated pitcher, Cubs coach Franklin Font, throwing to both. And Bryant’s dad, Mike, flew into Chicago to join the All-Star pair on Rizzo’s plane for Sunday’s trip to Cincinnati, where Mike will pitch for Bryant.
“They’re both in my hitting group [for batting practice],” teammate Dexter Fowler said when asked to rate the pair’s chances. “It depends on Font. If Font throws it where Rizzo wants it.”
Fowler’s locker neighbor David Ross overheard and quickly interrupted: “That’s a `no’! Rizzo stinks!”
Ross then headed out of the clubhouse laughing.
No Cub has won the event since 2000, when Sammy Sosa became the third. Ryne Sandberg won at Wrigley in 1990. And Andre Dawson won representing the Cubs during his 1987 MVP year, in Oakland.
“If there’s such a thing as a tie, and they could both win, I’d take it,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
No chance – although they could face in the finals the way the restructured event works this year, as an eight-man, single-elimination bracket with timed head-to-head matchups.
Rizzo, seeded sixth, faces Toronto’s Josh Donaldson in the first round. Bryant, seeded eighth, gets top-seeded Albert Pujols of the Angels.
If they advance, Rizzo would face the Prince Fielder-Todd Frazier winner; Bryant, the Joc Pederson-Manny Machado winner.
Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta, fresh off his own first career home run Sunday afternoon, got into full-metal-analyst character when breaking down his teammates’ chances.
“I think Rizzo might have a slight advantage there,” Arrieta said. “Short porch in right. Ball flies pretty well. He’s talking about going to the opposite field for a few, and he’s more than capable of doing that.
“But then you can’t ever count Kris out because of how much power he’s got. So we’ll see how good his dad is at throwing BP.”
Mike said he threw at least 400 pitches the last couple days working on his BP form.
“I’m ready,” he said.