Rios a story worth telling

    Major League Baseball’s annual “Home Run Derby” isn’t worth much, but it deserved better than this.
    Last night’s pre-all-star game event—a pure popcorn evening if there ever was one—was marred by television host ESPN not knowing what to say about the guy with the highest home run total after two rounds who wound up in second place.
    That man, for those unaware, was Alex Rios, rightfielder of the Toronto Blue Jays, who was named to his second-consecutive all-star game.
    Now ESPN could be excused, to some extent, in that Rios was a late addition to the “Derby,” although the broadcasters had no shortage of things to say about Albert Pujols, who was named to the event at the same time as Rios.
    In their defence, they seemed to have equally little to say about Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies, who filled in as a last-minute replacement for the injured Miguel Cabrera, although they tried make up for that with an interview—sure enough, during Rios’ second round.
    And, without a doubt, Rios has the least career home runs of the competitors (his 45 notably behind sophomore Milwaukee Brewer Prince Fielder’s 59).
    The bottom line is that ESPN, the same guys who weren’t allowed to broadcast live from AT&T Park in San Francisco after leaking the all-star rosters, also didn’t do their homework on Rios.
    During the “Derby” introductions, the broadcasters threw interesting facts about the players below their names—for example, that Justin Morneau wears his number 33 as a tribute to Patrick Roy (he might tell you it’s to honour the great Larry Walker but, sure, let’s stick with Pat Roy).
    Rios came up and ESPN noted the Jays had drafted him first in 1999. Not interesting, not insightful, not even hard to research.
    Fast-forward to the second round, when Rios hit 12 home runs, including a run of five in a row—unthinkable stuff and the highlight of the night.
    But when Rios was up for the final one-on-one showdown, all ESPN could do is cut to an interview with rival and eventual “Derby” winner Vladimir Guerrero—in Spanish.
    The absolute shame of all this is that Alex Rios himself making it to the Home Run Derby is a great story. This is a player who, in his rookie year in 2004, hit just one home run.
    In 2005 he hit 10, but none in April or July—his power hitting came in spurts, with three home runs hit in five games that August.
    He gained some consistency, hitting 17 in 2006, and at the all-star break this year already has matched last year’s total.
    Anyone who has followed the career of Alex Rios, even casually, was waiting for his rangy, 6’5” frame to finally gain his home run stroke. Being invited to the Home Run Derby would seem a sign that he’s made it. Almost winning the whole thing should solidify it.
    It’s a great story, but one ESPN didn’t tell, nor one they felt compelled to, quite probably because Rios plays in the “foreign market” of Toronto. Never mind that the Jays play in the AL East—the division the media focuses on far more than any other.
    This is a player who, at the all-star break, was hitting .294, had 17 home runs, 22 doubles, three triples, and 53 RBIs.
    It’s a disgrace that ESPN took the easy way out and didn’t tell a story worth hearing.

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