Ever imagine what it would be like to have Babe Ruth participate in the home run derby?
It’s not going to happen, as the Great Bambino died in 1948.
But what about the Mariners’ own incarnation of the Sultan of Swat, Daniel Vogelbach?
CBS Sports posted a story this past week about the ideal field for the derby at next month’s All-Star Week in Cleveland.
While the story included about a paragraph on potential participants such as Josh Bell, Luke Voit and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., it included a single sentence on Vogelbach.
“Seriously, just take a look. How can he not be in this?” the story read, accompanied by a video of Vogelbach becoming the first Mariners player to reach the upper deck in the 20-year history of T-Mobile Park/Safeco Field last month – unfortunately on a night the Statcast distance tracker wasn’t working.
Vogelbach, who has 17 home runs in 64 games this season, told MLB.com he’d love to compete.
“I don’t think I’d campaign for myself, but it’s definitely something I would do if they asked me,” he said. “It’d be fun and just another competitive thing I’d be willing to do.”
If Vogelbach won’t campaign, his teammates will.
“I think everybody would love to see that,” M’s third baseman Kyle Seager told MLB.com. “He’s got so much personality, I think that would come through in the home run derby. But the guy can absolutely hit the ball a mile, too. So it would be entertaining, it would be fun and I think he’d make a pretty good run at it.
“He certainly has that in the tank. He would not only hold his own, he could absolutely compete and maybe even win the thing.”
Vogelbach, who finished second in the 2017 Triple-A home run derby while playing for the Tacoma Rainiers, would certainly have some financial incentive to compete. This year’s derby has $2.5 million in prize money, with $1 million going to the winner.
Vogelbach, in his first full season, is being paid the major league minimum of $559,000 this year.
“That would be awesome for him,” Seager said. “He certainly deserves it. You look at BP and stuff, he has some serious thump. And it’s such a fun event, he’d be awesome at it.”
Much like Bucky Jacobsen 15 years ago, Vogelbach has become a fan favorite in part because of his, how shall we say this … unique physique. Vogelbach is listed at 6-foot and 250 pounds (Ruth, who was 6-2, reportedly weighed nearly 260 at his heaviest).
“He’s a cartoon character,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “That’s a term I’ve used. I was on MLB Network Radio (last week) and they asked me to compare him to somebody and, you know, you put No. 3 on him and, I never played with Babe Ruth, but he’s got some of the characteristics.”
Of course, Servais campaigned for Ichiro Suzuki to compete in last year’s home run derby. That didn’t happen.
“It certainly is great for exposure for players,” Servais said. “And a guy like Vogey, who is kind of having a breakout year, it’d be great if he got that opportunity. Sometimes the home run hitting contest isn’t the best thing for players. You can get a little too caught up in it and kind of lose your swing a little bit.
“But I don’t have any concerns about Vogey. If he gets the opportunity, he should definitely do it and enjoy it. Vogey does enjoy most things he does. And he should. He’s Vogey and he’s hitting bombs, so why wouldn’t he?”
A Seinfeld moment
The M’s and New York Yankees have made several trades over the years, but none more famous than the deal that brought Jay Buhner to Seattle for Ken Phelps.
That’s largely thanks to a 1996 “Seinfeld” episode in which Frank Costanza (played by Jerry Stiller), had the following conversation with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
Frank: What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?!? He had 30 home runs, and over 100 RBIs last year. He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what the hell you’re doin’!
Steinbrenner: Well, Buhner was a good prospect, no question about it. But my baseball people loved Ken Phelps’ bat. They kept saying, “Ken Phelps, Ken Phelps.”
That was one of the few times the M’s actually got the better of the Yankees in a trade.
With the news Saturday night that the Mariners have sent Edwin Encarnacion, who leads the American League with 21 home runs, to the Big Apple for minor league right-hander Juan Then (plus about half of the $15 million still owed Encarnacion), perhaps it’s time to look back at some of those deals with the Bronx Bombers:
Nov. 19, 2018: LHP James Paxton to New York for minor league LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Erik Swanson and OF Dom Thompson-Williams. The Big Maple is 3-3 with a 4.04 ERA for the Yanks. Sheffield made one appearance for the M’s but was sent down to Double-A Arkansas last week, where Thompson-Williams also plays. Swanson was 1-5 with an 8.04 ERA in seven games with the M’s before being sent back to Triple-A Tacoma.
July 13, 2012: The M’s send OF Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees for RHP D.J. Mitchell, RHP Danny Farquhar and cash. The M’s weren’t going anywhere and unloaded their 10-time All-Star, whose career was reinvigorated in the Bronx. Farquhar saved 16 games as a rookie, but Mitchell never played in the majors for the M’s.
Jan. 23, 2012: M’s acquire C Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi for RHP Michael Pineda and minor league RHP Jose Campos. Montero was rated as a top-10 prospect but never fulfilled that promise, battling weight issues and an inability to actually hit. Noesi had a 6.13 ERA in 36 appearances with the M’s. This one’s probably a wash.
Dec. 7, 1995: M’s trade 1B Tino Martinez, RHP Jim Mecir and RHP Jeff Nelson to New York for 3B Russ Davis and LHP Sterling Hitchcock. Martinez ended up being an All-Star and MVP candidate and Nelson earned three World Series rings as a key set-up man in the Yankees’ bullpen before returning to Seattle. Hitchcock struggled and was dealt a season later to San Diego while Davis never became the slugger that Buhner was.
Nov. 18, 1980: This might be one of the weirdest deals in franchise history. The M’s sent IF Larry Milbourne and a player to be named later to the Yankees for C Brad Gulden. Gulden played a combined 23 games with the M’s and Triple-A Spokane before being sent back to the Yankees in May 1981 – as the player to be named. It marked only the second time in MLB history a player was traded for himself.
Nov. 1, 1979: The M’s send OF Ruppert Jones and RHP Jim Lewis to New York for RHP Rick Anderson, RHP Jim Beattie, OF Juan Beniquez and C Jerry Narron. Jones, the first player selected by the M’s in the expansion draft, was an All-Star and fan favorite in Seattle. He spent just one injury-plagued season in the Bronx, while Lewis pitched all of two-thirds of an inning for the Yankees. Beattie, who later became the M’s general manager, ended up pitching seven solid seasons in Seattle.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.