Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber will try to bring Home Run Derby glory back to Chicago with the annual dinger fest Monday night in Washington. The Cubs sluggers are part of an eight-team field that will be swinging big and trying to entertain the crowd at Nationals Park.
For hitters hailing from Chicago, success has been elusive since Sammy Sosa’s victory in 2000. There have been many talented power hitters to come through the city over the past 15-plus years, but none of them have been able to translate that success to a competition where you hit as many homers as quickly as you can.
Baez or Schwarber will try to end that drought, and there’s even a small chance we could be treated to those two Cubs facing off in the final. That’d be a win-win scenario, even if there would likely be some clubhouse bragging rights at stake.
To celebrate what’s hopefully an exciting night of dingers, let’s look back at the history of Cubs and White Sox players participating in the Home Run Derby, which first started in 1985. Four players from Chicago have won the competition, although it’s fair to say not all winners have been created equally.
Cubs & Sox in the Home Run Derby, ranked
18. Sammy Sosa, 1999
At the All-Star break in 1999, Sosa had a .619 slugging percentage with 32 homers and 74 RBI in 85 games. Expectations were understandably high. However, he was a total dud at the Home Run Derby, finishing tied for last in Round 1 with just one homer. Sosa would become a staple of the event, but his performances were a mixed bag.
17. Sammy Sosa, 1995
The Ballpark in Arlington
Sosa’s first Home Run Derby was another disappointment with just two homers in the first round. He finished tied for last alongside Raul Mondesi and Reggie Sanders.
16. Ryne Sandberg, 1985
In MLB’s first Home Run Derby ever, which used a “two-inning” format that gave each hitter a total of 10 outs, Sandberg finished with two home runs. He wasn’t last, however, because Cal Ripken Jr. hit just one.
15. George Bell, 1991
Ripken ran away with the 1991 competition by hitting 12 homers, seven more than anyone else. Bell, Joe Carter and Danny Tartabull each hit two. Chris Sabo and Howard Johnson went homer-less. Still, this was a huge upgrade from the year before.
14. Frank Thomas, 1994
Three Rivers Stadium
A month before the 1994 players’ strike, Thomas hit four home runs to finish tied for third at the Home Run Derby. Ken Griffey Jr. finished first with seven dingers, while Fred McGriff was two behind. Mike Piazza was the only player not to hit a home run.
13. Sammy Sosa, 2004
Minute Maid Park
Sosa couldn’t get out of the first round in 2004, finishing with five home runs when he needed at least seven to advance.
12. Carlton Fisk, 1985
Fisk, 37 at the time, put up a respectable showing in the first-ever Derby with four homers, which tied him with four other players (Jim Rice, Eddie Murray, Dale Murphy, Tom Brunansky) for second place behind Dave Parker. It would be Fisk’s only appearance in a Home Run Derby.
11. Anthony Rizzo, 2015
Great American Ballpark
The new format introduced in 2015 meant players would be given a time limit instead of an outs limit, which allowed Rizzo to be eliminated in the first round despite hitting eight home runs. That’s a good showing, but it’s undeniable that the newer format makes it easier to put up big totals than before. Josh Donaldson knocked Rizzo out.
10. Kris Bryant, 2015
Great American Ballpark
Bryant beat out teammate Rizzo with nine homers, but he still lost to Albert Pujols by one. Those appearances were the first by any Cubs players in the Derby since Sosa in 2004.
9. Jermaine Dye, 2006
Dye fell one home run short of reaching the semifinals in 2006 with seven home runs off 10 outs. That’s one short of the eight hit by Ryan Howard, who would go on to win the competition.
8. Ryne Sandberg, 1990
You’d think winning the event would get you higher on the list, but Sandberg basically won by default. A competition with eight of the top power hitters in baseball led to a combined total of FIVE HOME RUNS. Sandberg hit three of them. Ken Griffey Jr., Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, Cecil Fielder and Bobby Bonilla combined to hit zero dingers.
7. Andre Dawson, 1987
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Like Sandberg, Dawson won the 1987 event, but that’s not as impressive as it seems. He hit only four home runs at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, while the other three players in the field (Mark McGwire, George Bell, Ozzie Virgil) combined for four home runs.
6. Sammy Sosa, 2001
Okay, now we get to the good stuff. Sosa squeaked past the first round in 2001 despite hitting just three home runs (compared to 14 by the leader Jason Giambi), then led the second round with eight homers to set up a final against Luis Gonzalez, who would go on to win, 6-2. Sosa would finish with 13 homers over three rounds.
5. Paul Konerko, 2002
We were so, so close to a Cubs vs. Sox final in the 2002 Home Run Derby. Konerko hit six homers in each of the first two rounds to set up a swing-off against Jason Giambi for a spot in the final against Sosa. Unfortunately Giambi beat Konerko, then beat Sosa in the final, too.
4. Sammy Sosa, 2002
As noted above, Sosa lost in the final to Giambi. Before that, the Cubs outfielder pounded 12 home runs in the first round and five in the semifinals. He couldn’t keep it up, though, with just one homer in the final for a total of 18 over three rounds.
3. Frank Thomas, 1995
The Ballpark in Arlington
The only member of the White Sox to ever win a Home Run Derby, Thomas narrowly won the 1995 event over future teammate Albert Belle, who finished with more total home runs. However, it was Thomas who out-homered in the final, 3-2.
2. Todd Frazier, 2016
Yes, the new format means it’s apples and oranges trying to compare numbers from different events, but Frazier’s 2016 effort repping the White Sox was incredible. He hit at least 13 homers in three straight rounds, including 16 to top Adam Duvall in the semifinal. Nobody was beating Giancarlo Stanton on that night – he set a record with 61 homers – but Frazier’s 42 home runs as runner-up is still the third-most in Derby history.
1. Sammy Sosa, 2000
If you’re going off raw totals, no, Sosa’s 2000 effort – 26 homers in three rounds – doesn’t stand out. But relative to some very impressive competition, it was a beatdown, and one that further solidified Sosa’s place as one of baseball’s premier sluggers.
In the first round, Sosa hit six home runs to tie for first with Griffey and Carl Everett. He ran away with it from there, topping Everett in the semifinals, 11-6, before crushing Griffey, 9-2, in the final. Sosa finished with 26 homers, while the other seven competitors combined for 36 homers. We’ll see if Baez or Schwarber can top this effort Monday night.