There is no such thing as a Home Run Derby Curse. There is no such thing as a Home Run Derby Curse. There is no such thing as a Home Run Derby Curse.
And if there were (which there is not, knowledgeable people say), the Mets are certain that Pete Alonso is strong enough, resilient enough and good enough to overcome it. This year, he has overcome both long odds and the Mets’ woebegone first half. There is no reason to stop believing in him now.
His team has full confidence in the rookie wunderkind as he literally swings for the fences Monday in Cleveland in Major League Baseball’s showcase Home Run Derby. More important, the Mets are secure in the hope that the contest will not mess up his swing, as it supposedly has to others over the years.
“I don’t know, he has been playing Home Run Derby in the games all year. So I don’t think it’s going to mess his swing up at all,” Mickey Callaway said. “I’m not worried about it. Pete is a good hitter. He knows what he’s doing, he knows what he needs to do to have success. He knows how to shorten his swing up in certain counts.
“He knows when he’s 2-0 how to take a home run swing as well. I figure he’s probably going to go up there and take a bunch of 2-0 swings. The good thing about Pete is he is a really good hitter and, like I said, he’s going to adjust his swing when we start playing games again.”
Legend has it that Bobby Abreu was not the same after he ratcheted up his approach for the 2005 Derby. Similar things have been said of David Wright and other contestants. Thus, talk of a curse was born.
“No such thing,” said Todd Frazier, Alonso’s teammate and the winner of the 2015 Derby. “The only thing is, it’s tiring. But people make excuses. You’re a professional hitter, you’ve been doing this your whole life. I’d do it every year if I could.”
Statistics compiled by mlb.com indicate that Derby participants have not had significant slowdowns after the All-Star break, at least not more than others who have been in the All-Star Game, as Alonso will be on Tuesday.
“I just told him don’t try to hit it too far. Just make contact. He’s really strong,” said Robinson Cano, who won the 2011 Derby. “When I won, I never was trying to hit the ball far. Hopefully, he goes, he wins and it does not bother him the second half.”
Alonso said he has been receiving advice from Cano, Frazier and hitting coach Chili Davis, who was Oakland’s hitting coach in 2013, when then-A’s slugger Yoenis Cespedes won the Derby.
“The biggest thing that Todd said was, ‘Conserve your energy. If you pop a couple up, you don’t need to go out and get the next one because you have more time than you think. Get in a groove and stay in the groove. Use that timeout if you need it at the halfway point.’ ”
His team, a disappointing 40-50, can use a respite at the season’s symbolic halfway point. These have been discouraging months in just about every way. But Alonso’s emergence is one shining glimmer suggesting the future might not be so bad.
He broke up Aaron Nola’s bid for a no-hitter in the sixth inning of the Mets’ 8-3 loss Sunday. It was the 30th home run for Alonso, tying Aaron Judge (2017) for the second-most pre-All-Star break homers by a rookie (three behind Mark McGwire’s 1987 total). Dave Kingman, a veteran in 1976, is the only other Met to hit 30 before the break.
“This is a dream come true. I’m living out a fantasy right now,” Alonso said. “I’m extremely blessed and very thankful. And I want to keep showing my gratitude by working hard and busting it, inning one through nine, and giving it my all every single day here.”
What he gives to the Mets every single day is something interesting to watch. He also gives them hope, the best gift in a season that itself seems cursed.