Mets’ Pete Alonso Loses Home Run Derby, Nationals’ Juan Soto Puts On Show

Juan Soto wins the Home Run Derby 2022./Getty

By Owen Russell

 

   Three-peating is hard to do. Just ask Tom Brady, LeBron James, and now Pete Alonso. The Mets’ slugger came up short Monday night during his quest to win a third straight Home Run Derby. The event featured today’s brightest baseball stars, a living legend, and an eventual champion who doesn’t know where he’ll be playing next month.

   Alonso was the odds-on favorite coming into Monday, July 18. He had won the past two years in dominant fashion. In 2019, he overcame Toronto Blue Jays’ young star Vlad Guerrero Jr. to win his first ever title. After a hiatus in 2020, Alonso entered 2021 as the clear favorite and won handily. He hit 35 home runs in the first round and didn’t look back, rolling to an eventual win over Baltimore Orioles’ Trey Mancini.

   The Home Run Derby operates as a bracket system. Eight sluggers go head to head and compete until there are only two participants left. This year the eight competitors were Kyle Schwarber (PHI), Pete Alonso (NYM), Corey Seager (TEX), Juan Soto (WAS), Jose Ramirez (CLE), Julio Rodriguez (SEA), Ronald Acuna (ATL), and Albert Pujols (STL). 

   In the first round Alonso squared off against division rival Ronald Acuna from the Atlanta Braves. Alonso beat Acuna 20-19, and afterwards told ESPN he was “in the zone.” Alonso also shared that he wasn’t just competing for himself, but for the charities his winnings would be donated to. 

   Alonso seemed poised to put on a show in his second round, but ultimately came up short against newcomer Julio Rodriguez, who set the tone. Rodriguez went first and hit a whopping 31 home runs. Alonso couldn’t match that kind of performance, hitting 23 home runs. He walked off the field bowing and gesturing to Rodriguez, later stating, “I thought I put up a great performance, but J-Rod [Rodriguez] was just better tonight.”  

   Mets fans may be disappointed that Alonso could not three-peat, but the Home Run Derby was still a special event. Julio Rodriguez put on a dazzling performance, where the 21 year old rookie blasted more than 80 home runs, including two rounds over thirty. He becomes only the fifth player ever to hit 30 home runs in a round, and the first to do it twice.

   While everyone was in awe of the young sensation, 42 year old Albert Pujols proved that age is just a number. Pujols was expected to be no more than a ceremonial entrant. In his 22nd season, he has been reduced to bit player for the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite his diminished statistics, he shocked the baseball world by eeking past top seed Kyle Schwarber in a first round swing off. Pujols hit 20 home runs in the first round but eventually lost in the semifinals to Derby Champion Juan Soto. His performance, however, was for sure a feel good moment.

   With all of the hoopla, it’s easy to forget that neither Rodriguez or Pujols actually won the derby. Juan Soto, a 23 year old phenom, pulled out the victory. Soto cruised past Jose Ramirez in round one, outlasted Pujols in round two, and took down Julio Rodriguez to win the whole thing. 

   Soto’s win comes at an interesting time for the young star after rumblings that his team, the Washington Nationals, are considering moving their franchise player. “Right now I don’t even think about it,” Soto said when asked about his future directly after winning the derby. He took the moment to celebrate, a well deserved one at that.

   After a stunning derby this year, there is still hope for Alonso to capture a third title. The Mets first baseman is only 27, and has plenty of juice left in the tank.

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