The Home Run Derby and All-Star Game are traditions like no other in Major League Baseball.
Year after year we tune in to the Derby to watch guys hit balls 500 feet. The following night, we watch the best players from both leagues go at it. Same thing, different year.
Sure, the new Home Run Derby format makes it far more intriguing. And I, along with chicks, dig the long ball. But Major League Baseball should be doing more during the All-Star break than simply showcasing its power hitters. The league is selling itself short by failing to also show off its premier defenders, pitchers, speedsters, and players with skillsets that don’t have anything to do with swinging for the fences.
MLB needs a skills competition during the All-Star break.
For one, the NFL, NBA, and NHL all have skills competitions as an All-Star event. It’s the funnest part of all the festivities. That’s not up for debate.
Oftentimes you hear about MLB struggling to market its stars. It’s a vague argument, however it has some validity. There’s a reason much of the younger demographic tunes in to the NBA and NFL religiously while only considering themselves “casual baseball fans”. Actually, there are plenty of reasons that we won’t delve into right now. But perhaps the most obvious reason of them all is the NBA and NFL’s stars are always on display.
You can only get so far trotting Giancarlo Stanton out to hit bombs every year. There are other player types and aspects of the game worth being broadcasted on a big stage. And I don’t want to hear the injuries argument. Injuries can happen just as easily during the Home Run Derby, All-Star Game, Dunk Contest, or playing Guitar Hero. If a player is worried they’ll get hurt, they won’t participate. It’s as simple as that.
Here are some ideas for baseball skills competitions:
1. Defensive showdowns
I want guys like Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, and Josh Donaldson showing off their range at third base. I want Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes throwing missiles from the outfield. I want Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Kiermaier, and Kevin Pillar flashing the leather out in center.
Web gems are, in my opinion, the most exciting part of baseball. Stellar defense doesn’t get showcased enough.
2. Speed drills
Have the sport’s fastest players hit the ball off a tee and time their speeds around the bases. Is Billy Hamilton really the speediest player in the game? Have him prove it.
3. Catchers vs. speedsters
Another drill speedsters can participate in, but also involve the game’s best defensive catchers.
Catchers can be judged on their pop times, accurate throws to whichever base the runner is attempting to steal, etc. That way, we can all marvel even more than we already do at Yadier Molina and Sal Perez.
4. Pitching accuracy
An easy one. Set up a target. Give point values for each spot on the target like a game of darts. Have a minimum velocity set at around 80 mph. Even Jered Weaver can participate!
5. Spray hitting
The enormous power hitters get the big stage, but it’s about time the league’s top contact hitters get some pub. Have players hit targets with batted balls.
Jose Altuve might win every single year. Still, it’d be interesting to watch.
6. Pitcher home run derby
Madison Bumgarner, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Noah Syndergaard. Those are just a few names who would be captivating in a pitcher Home Run Derby. The idea of such an event has been a popular subject the last couple years thanks to those guys, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t happen.
Hell, throw Bartolo Colon in the mix too.
I’m sure there are better ways to execute some of those, but that’s a basic outline of what the competition could consist of.
It’s about time Major League Baseball comes to its senses and implements its own skills contest. It can’t be wishful thinking anymore. It has to be a reality. If they’re going to shove StatCast in our faces, at least attach it to some fun events.
It comes down to that one word: Fun.
We all know the sport needs it.