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Pre-Derby tunes a home run

Bauman: Derby tunes a home run

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SAN FRANCISCO -- First of all, the pre-Home Run Derby musical entertainment was Counting Crows. This was, by far, the best music the Derby has had in the last seven years. There is no second place.

Let's face it, in the past, the Derby has been typically kicked off by two kinds of alleged artists: guys pretending to be cowboys and people whose material is aimed, on a good day, at a 10-year-old demographic. This sort of thing sets a very bad tone for home runs -- or sacrifice bunts, for that matter.

Baseball, one of humankind's most enlightened innovations, should not have this kind of lowest-common-denominator music at its major events. And that's why Counting Crows was exactly what the maestro ordered for this portion of the All-Star festivities. This band rocks, but it also has intelligence.

The fact that this band originated in nearby Berkeley was an obvious plus. This was not only really good music; it was also really good indigenous music. The only problem with Counting Crows' performance for those in attendance at AT&T Park was that it only consisted of two songs. And neither one of them was "Rain King." But we are willing to overlook these small issues in light of the great musical leap forward taken here by the simple act of having a band as good as Counting Crows leading off for the State Farm Home Run Derby.

And I don't say this only because Counting Crows' "Rock 'n' Roll 2007 Triple Play" tour will be coming soon to a ballpark near you. Baseball has a rich musical tradition, all the way from the national anthem to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to John Fogerty. It was about time that baseball had musical entertainment as good as the inherent value of the game itself.

In the Derby, there was increased entertainment value, not because of the sheer volume of home runs, but because of the closeness of the competition, at least through the first two rounds.

There wasn't much action in McCovey Cove over the right-field wall because the Derby was dominated by right-handed hitters, two of whom advanced to the finals -- Alex Rios of the Blue Jays, who was at least a mild surprise, and Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels, who was no surprise at all.

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In the end, this Derby became a celebration of Vladimir Guerrero, and that was fine. He was the Derby daily double. He not only won the contest, he hit home runs further than anyone else.

The Brewers' Prince Fielder and the defending Derby champion, Ryan Howard of the Phillies, looked like likely contenders going in, but they both were out by the end of the first round. And that meant that the people paddling around the Cove in kayaks were out of luck.

There wasn't an explosion of power here like Bobby Abreu's 24 home runs in a single round in 2005 at Detroit's Comerica Park. But you couldn't fairly expect something like that to occur here. AT&T Park, after all, is not exactly a hitters' paradise. The generous dimensions in right-center are not only pitcher-friendly, they are ERA-friendly.

But nobody could dispute the notion that Guerrero was a suitable winner of this event. The 2007 Home Run Derby will not be remembered as a glorious display of power. But any event that features the work of both Vlad Guerrero and Counting Crows can only be considered a success.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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