So it’s Tuesday. It’s supposed to snow heavily later on. The day is dragging. And to top it off, there isn’t much happening in the world of baseball right now (unless you are currently watching Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon pull on Tampa Bay Rays jerseys).
Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t made any crazy trades for a few days. We still don’t know who will play third, or close, or be the fifth starter. Speculation abounds.
But instead of writing yet another “Projected Lineup” p0st that I’m sure people are tired of reading about, I’m going to switch it up a bit.
I’m going to talk All-Star games.
On Sunday both the NHL and NFL held their annual All-Star games. Both are essentially unwatchable – extremely loose and watered down versions of the games that fans love. Hitting is reduced to a bare minimum, and intensity is virtually non-existent. I don’t know why these games still exist.
But if there is one thing that the NHL does do well it’s the concept of “All-Star Weekend”, especially the Saturday evening skills competition. It’s something different, allowing fans to interact with players, and enabling players to show off parts of their game that might not be possible during the season. Seriously, how often does a player like Zdeno Chara get a chance to skate 35 feet to a still puck and blast a slapshot?
Now, the MLB All-Star game is (in my opinion) the best of the four major sports, and not just because home field advantage in the World Series rides on the outcome. By its nature, baseball is a sport that can always be intense and competitive – even in an exhibition format. There is no violence, no hitting, no fighting. Sure the competitive nature and meaning of the game has been reduced over the years due to free agency and interleague play, but these guys still want to win (though they won’t go as far as Pete Rose went in 1970 when he bowled over Ray Fosse).
Even though it is the best game, I think it can learn a lesson from the NHL and NBA weekends. That lesson is this: MLB should institute a skills competition.
I know it has the Home Run Derby, but come on – that event has lost its lustre and is too long and monotonous for its own good. All you need to know about how long-winded and inconsequential the HR Derby is, is that Josh Hamilton put on the single greatest performance in its history…..and lost. Plus the derby is only for home run hitters. Hockey has something for the passers, the accuracy shooters, the skaters, they heavy shooters, the goalies, etc…
So here is what I would do to the MLB All-Star festivities to spice it up for the fans and to make it more fun for the players: One night, five events, everybody participates.
Event 1 – HR Derby
I’m not backpedalling here. Yes the current HR Derby is boring, but only in its current form. Instead of having it last three rounds – where let’s face it, the players are equally as tired as the fans by the end – it’s a “one shot and you’re done” deal. Three players per league, 10 outs, most homers wins. Simple as that.
Event 2 – Target Hitting
This could be one for the Ichiro’s of the league. Five targets on the field (one against the outfield fence, one over the fence in HR territory, a circle in RF, a circle in deep LF, and an upright target in the infield). 10 pitches. Targets are worth a different amount of points depending on difficulty, with bonus points awarded for hitting all five. Three players per league, most points wins.
Event 3 – Accuracy Throwing
Three players per league – one OF (preferably RF), one IF (preferably 3B) and one P. Eacb plays their position and tries to hit targets that simulate throwing a runner out third from the outfield, throwing a runner out at first from third, and hitting the strike zone. Points are awarded based on hitting the more difficult targets. Hardest thrower would be great (think Aroldis Chapman trying to break 106 mph) but would obviously be an injury risk.
Event 4 – Fastest Runner
Two events: one timing players from home to first (think speedsters like Crawford vs. Ichiro), and one timing players from first to third (smooth baserunners who take the turn well).
Event 5 – Relay
Similar to the NHL relay that combined one-timers, passing, accuracy shooting, and puck control. This could be split into four parts, with AL and NL competing head on.
1. Bunting – AL sends a player to bat with the goal of reaching base via bunt. The NL’s goal is to throw the player out at first. Winner gets one point.
2. Base Stealing – AL elects a different player to stand on first and attempt to steal second off an NL selected P/C/2B combo. Again, one point on the line.
3. Sac Fly – AL elects a third player to stand on second and attempt to tag up on a fly ball to an NL selected RF/3B combo.
4. Wild Pitch Control – Finally, a fourth AL player stand on third and attempts to score on a wild pitch. This would test an NL catcher’s ability to retrieve the ball and throw a strike to the pitcher covering home.
Would an event like this ever be introduced? Absolutely not, not with insurance premiums and contract clauses in the way.
But would fans love it? Yes.
Would players love it? I would think so.
Would it add a lot of flair and excitement to the All-Star festivities? 100% yes.
And after watching the NHL All-Star weekend, more flair and excitement are always a good thing.