Adam\’s Stream of Consciousness

If you blog it, they will come

Is the Dinger Done?

Posted by Adam on July 11, 2006

Skills competitions are a common occurrence during all-star weekends for each of the major four sports in the U.S. (and yes, I am still including the NHL among them). Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older and gimmicks don’t easily lure me in, but Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby just doesn’t get me excited anymore. The sad part is, I don’t think I’m alone in my feelings. Case in point: If you watched any part of the event last night you know that Bobby Abreu won last year’s derby, but who won it the year before him? Albert Pujols leads the National League in homers. How many did he hit last night? Don’t be surprised if these answers don’t come easy to you, and that’s the problem with the event.*

In this era of steroid allegations and increased drug testing in baseball, all power hitters are viewed with increased scrutiny, yet for one night on the eve of the All-Star Game we forget about reality. Now I’m not accusing any of the players who participated in last night’s event as drug users (I am a firm believer in innocent until proven guilty), but I can’t help but find it at least a bit troubling that so much emphasis is put on an event that deals with a subject so delicate to the host league.

The NBA’s Three Point Shootout is the premier sports skills challenge. The format is simple and straight forward (make as many shots as you can from five different locations in one minute’s time); the league’s top shooters tend to stay that way for multiple years, thus insuring familiar faces in the shootout; and finally the winners tend to come back the following year to defend their title (Larry Bird won back-to-back, Craig Hodges three-peated). The Home Run Derby seems to change its rules every year (what constitutes an ‘out’? do home runs carry over between rounds?); there is no set time limit on the event (this year’s edition lasted well over two hours); and only all-stars can compete, so you cannot guarantee champions will be back to defend (as was the case this year, since Bobby Abreu was not elected an all-star). It is time to tweak the formula.

In an effort to save the Home Run Derby, I have decided to come up with a new set of rules that will make it fun and exciting for next year.

  1. The defending champ gets an automatic spot in the competition. In addition to the champ, invite the top 3 home run hitters from his league, and the top four from the opposing league, regardless of whether or not they were voted all-stars.
  2. Abolish the ‘outs’ system. Instead each hitter gets 15 swings to hit as many homers as he can.
  3. Limit the number of pitchers a player can take. After taking 5 pitchers, any pitches not swung at count as swings.
  4. Lose the semi-final round. The three players with the most homers after round one move on to the championship round.
  5. The slate is wiped clean and the championship round rules are the same as the opening round.
  6. To enliven things, bonus ‘homers’ are earned for the longest shot, and the most consecutive shots.
  7. If the championship round ends in a tie, whoever hit more in the opening round is declared the winner. If it is still a tie, we go to a hit off. Whoever hits a home run in the least number of pitches wins. Ties in the opening round are awarded to the player who hit the longest home run.

This should cut the time of the competition to an hour, and thus provide time to add additional events to the evening. Why not invite the league leaders in stolen bases to have a fastest man competition? The leaders in outfield assists can have a throwing accuracy competition. Those with the highest batting average can compete in hitting to specific spots on the field. Perhaps a fastest pitch contest? With so many unique statistical categories and skills involved in baseball, the competition possibilities are numerous. The Home Run Derby can still be the crown jewel of the evening, but its time to liven up the night.

*Miguel Tejada won the Home Run Derby in 2004, and Albert Pujols had 0 home runs in this year’s contest – because he didn’t compete.

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