Outside of the 1988 edition getting rained out and the 2020 edition being canceled altogether, there’s been a Home Run Derby as part of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game festivities every year since 1985. Counting this year, there will have been 37 Home Run Derbies contested and Atlanta Braves players have won a grand total of zero (0).
While no team has really been dominant in this event (Yankees players have won four editions and there’s a six-way tie for second place with three wins), it’s still a bit wild to see this be somewhat of an elusive moment of prestige for a franchise that’s been as prominent since the 1990s as the Braves have been.
I’m also very certain that there aren’t any Braves fans who are losing sleep over this. After all, nobody flies a pennant for one of your players winning the Home Run Derby, right? with that being said, I’d love to see a Braves player finally break through at some point and win one of these things. Shoot, I was ecstatic when Ronald Acuña Jr. simply made it to the second round of the 2019 Derby — even advancing had been a rare feat for Braves players in the Home Run Derby.
With that being said, we've come up with a foolproof plan to make sure that a Braves player can finally win a Home Run Derby: We're going to make sure that all of the competitors play for the Braves and that they're all hypothetically in their prime for this event. Yeah, it might be a fantasy exercise but it's fun because if you're reading this, you probably really like the Braves and it's equally likely that you enjoy seeing baseballs fly far above fences in stadiums.
For this exclusively Braves-centric Home Run Derby, we're going to go with the format that's currently in place, which means we've got to pick eight players who could make this competition as entertaining and exciting as possible. It would be easy to just take the top eight home run leaders for the Braves and leave the bracket there but that would be boring. Instead, we're going to take some other factors into consideration (such as single-season performance and previous participation in Home Run Derbies — be it the modern-day version or the series from 1960) in order to make this group as interesting as possible.
Let's get into the bracket and start off with the 1 vs. 8 matchup. The top seed should be very obvious and the eight seed should make this a very spicy matchup.
(1) Henry Aaron vs. (8) Ronald Acuña Jr.
Oh baby. I can honestly say that this would be the most exciting mismatch out there. This would be an electric matchup and one incredibly steep task for Ronald Acuña Jr. to pull off the upset here. The accolades for Henry Aaron are endless but one thing that gets a bit overlooked when it comes to The Hammer's incredible resumé when it comes to slamming dingers is the fact that Aaron was a monster in the 1960 edition of the Home Run Derby as he defeated three Hall of Famers (Eddie Mathews, Al Kaline and Duke Snider) on his way to picking up six wins in the '60 series. There's no question that prime Hank would adapt to the new format.
Meanwhile, Aaron would be matched up with the current active team leader in career home runs for the Braves. Acuña is currently shooting for a spot in the 40/40 Club, he's already got a 40-homer season under his belt and he is the most recent Braves player to actually win a round in the Derby. Acuña's raw power means that he could probably match Aaron in terms of tape-measure shots but I think it's pretty clear that Aaron would eventually win this matchup.
(2) Chipper Jones vs. (7) Fred McGriff
We've got two '90s-centric matchups in this bracket and this one would likely be the loudest. There's not much that needs to be said about Chipper Jones’ bonafides when it comes to smacking the long ball and Chipper also had plenty of experience in the actual Home Run Derby as he participated in three editions. While Fred McGriff doesn't exactly compare in terms of power numbers as a Braves player, he does have one thing over Chipper when it comes to the Derby: McGriff has eight career home runs in the Derby, including five as a Braves representative in 1994, which was good for second place overall that year. I'd say those would be prime conditions for an upset, right? Let's make things interesting, here!
(3) Andruw Jones vs. (6) Javy López
Our next '90s-centric matchup would be an intriguing one but at the same time, I figure it would be straight-forward. While Javy López was definitely prone to having season-long outbursts of power and he didn't completely embarrass himself in his lone appearance in the Home Run Derby, I believe that Andruw would easily take this matchup. Both hitters hit five homers in their respective Derby appearances but Andruw hit his five in Comerica Park, while Javy left Coors Field with just five. Between this and the fact that Andruw is the single-season home run leader in Braves history (with 51 taters back in 2005), it seems like it would be tough to imagine Javy López out-homering Andruw in this one.
(4) Eddie Mathews vs. (5) Dale Murphy
Two generational Braves talents facing off against each other — Eddie Mathews started his time with the Braves all the way back when the team was still in Boston. Meanwhile, Dale Murphy was the undisputed face of the franchise during a dormant era in the club's early days in Atlanta. Murphy is also one of the four reasons why Henry Aaron doesn't have a monopoly on the top 10 single-season home run leaderboard. Still, Eddie Mathews slugged his way into the Hall of Fame and did the vast majority of his damage while as a member of the Braves.
One advantage Murphy might have here is that his experience with the Home Run Derby went better than Mathews’ did. Murphy hit four homers during the 1985 edition in the old Metrodome, which put him in a five-way tie for second place that season. Meanwhile, Mathews made one appearance in the 1960 series and hit three homers in the one Derby he appeared in — incidentally, a loss to Hank Aaron. This feels like a tough one to judge (fitting for the 4-5 matchup), since you don't want to really judge a legend like Mathews based on one Home Run Derby in 1960 and Murphy's resumé is still extremely impressive. With that being said, I think Mathews would pick up a victory in this matchup.
From that point forward, that would leave us with the following two matchups:
(1) Aaron vs. (4) Mathews
We saw this matchup happen in 1960 and I think it'd go about as well as it did back then for Mathews — meaning that Henry Aaron would hammer his way into the Final Round. Eddie's a legend and he'd put on a show for sure, but this is Aaron's domain.
(7) McGriff vs. (3) Andruw
I feel like the upset from the previous round helped open the door for Andruw Jones to have a bit of a smooth path to the Finals. Again, Fred McGriff is no joke when it comes to smacking dingers but if we are comparing primes when it comes to power, Andruw Jones may have McGriff beat here. With that being said, this would be the stage in the competition where consistency matters and maybe McGriff's consistency would give him the edge in this one. For this to be a 7-3 matchup, it's a very tricky matchup! Let's keep things interesting and say that Andruw just about edges McGriff to win this one.
So here we are: The single-season leader in home runs for the Braves taking on Mr. 755, himself. How do you think this matchup would go down?
(1) Aaron vs. (3) Andruw
Let's be honest, this would likely be another chance for Henry Aaron to add another jewel to his crown when it comes to hitting dingers. Aaron would have the consistency and the sheer power in order to eventually putt out a convincing victory over Andruw Jones in this contest. Aaron was the Home Run Derby King in the '60s, he wrote his name in the history books in the '70s and in this imaginary realm where time doesn't exist and everybody is in their prime, the Hammer would still likely come out on top when it came to this special Braves-only Home Run Derby.
So, what do y'all think? I know that I may have taken the easy and obvious way out with declaring Henry Aaron the winner of this hypothetical scenario but I think you could make an argument for different names to be added into this thing. Joe Adcock and Bob Horner could've qualified solely due to the fact that they're the only two Braves players in history who have hit four home runs in a single game — a feat that is rarer than a perfect game, mind you. Andres Galarraga would've made this event just as fun in my mind as anybody else. Babe Ruth certainly wasn't in his prime by the time he joined the Braves but having his name in there would've been fun. Of course Freddie Freeman would've been a perfect choice for this as well and likely would've replaced Acuña if he was still playing for the Braves.
If you've got any suggestions or ideas, feel free to talk it up in the comments or yell at me for being way off base. We're talking about an imaginary scenario, which is always the most fun thing to yell about on the internet — especially when it involves our favorite baseball team.