There was no Bautista. Vernon Wells sucked. Nick Swisher was in it. David Ortiz won it.
All of those are valid reasons why the derby stunk last night. Our friend the Blue Jay Hunter wrote a nice piece about the derby and touched on some of those.
But I have two main problems with the home run derby that were either only briefly touched on, or else not at all discussed. What you’re about to read might seem like a hard rant against one of baseball’s most popular annual events, but I think a lot of people share my opinion on this. I’ll even go so far as to offer some potential solutions. Some might seem far fetched or unreasonable, but hey – it’s my blog so suck it up. Please let me know your thoughts, and maybe we can expand this discussion further.
Anyways, here goes:
Reason #1 the HR Derby Sucks…..Announcers
Twitter erupted last night about how badly the home run derby announce team performed, and I whole-heartedly agree. Chris Berman’s “back back back back back back” bit has clearly had its day. Joe Morgan’s fascination on David Ortiz’s shoes was just plain weird. Bobby Valentine made an absolute fool of himself…twice. First, he predicted the derby would be won by “Jose Ortiz” a made up player starring in his fantasy land. Second, after Berman mentioned that today marks the 50-year anniversary of the untimely death of Mark Scott (the host of the original HR Derby TV series), Valentine poked fun of him. “How did he die of a heart attack, he never got excited!” Even Berman was stunned about the stupidity of the comment.
If that wasn’t enough, the guests that were brought into speak were dreadful. Nobody cares about how A-Rod feels when he hits a post-season HR. Will Ferrell was not funny. It was a train wreck, all night long.
Bottom line – something needs to change as people all across North America have clearly grown tired of the ESPN team. Let’s shake it up.
Solution: Why not have each players local broadcast team call their turn at bat? For instance, Buck and Pat could have called Vernon’s time at bat. The weirdos from NESN could have called Big Papi, and so on. The ESPN idiots could take over in round two and in the final, ensuring that they still get air time to annoy people. But the first round would be different. It would allow a national audience to hear local announcers and maybe hear a few stories about players that they don’t know. What did we hear last night? “Nick Swisher’s dad played in the majors.” Thanks Joe Morgan.
Reason #2 the HR Derby Sucks…..It’s Boring
Be honest. Did anybody sit through the entire thing last night? It is way too long, and way too repetitive. If it’s even too long for the players (see Corey Hart sitting for over 90 minutes after his first turn at bat) it is wwwwwaaaaayyyyy too long for the viewers. I couldn’t handle it and switched off for a while. Thought it always promises to excite, the home run derby rarely does. Only once did it enthrall me, and that is when Josh Hamilton was at Yankee Stadium two years ago. And even that fizzled out in the final.
To make matters worse, Angels Stadium is boring. Every home run ended up in the stands, or against a rock. Wow. Amazing. Give me Fenway or Wrigley, where balls can actually leave the stadium and hit cars. Give me Yankee Stadium where balls can go deep into the upper deck. Even give me the SkyDome, where balls can pepper Window’s restaurant or the 500 Level. Every hit looked the same last night.
So how can this be fixed? I have two solutions, one simple and one radical.
Simple Solution: Change the format. Corey Hart clearly deserved a better fate last night. Justin Morneau actually won the derby that Josh Hamilton absolutely dominated. How does that happen? Completely unfair. How about this: instead of having three rounds, where the drama is far too drawn out and the players get tired, cut it to two. Eight players hit. Top two make the final. Done.
Radical Solution: Add some flair to the competition. Set up a point system, where not all home runs are created equal. Yesterday, Matt Holliday’s 497 foot blast was worth one. Vernon Wells’ first home run that didn’t even technically clear the fence (a fan reached over and caught it) was worth one. Make longer bombs worth two points. Put targets all over the outfield stands. If a guy hits a target 450 away on the fly he gets 5 points. If he nails a sign in the upper deck 500 feet from home plate? 25 bonus points. Foul balls are negative, and foul tips (this is for you Swisher) count as two outs. That would make the derby much, much, much more exciting for fans and TV viewers. Probably for players too.
Will any of my solutions happen? Not a chance. Why? Money. Flying in eight local announce teams is expensive. Shortening the format loses advertising time. Having players aim for far away targets might open them up to injury by swinging too hard, causing insurance problems.
It will never happen. But wouldn’t it be nice if for once baseball listened to its fans?