Eight Ways to Improve the Home Run Derby
My masochism manifests itself in a variety of ways.
And tonight I’m watching Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby, hoping this will be the year ESPN stops trying to convince us it’s exciting.
I spent much of today sifting through the trivial facts filed away in this massive brain but still couldn’t unearth a sporting event less intriguing than watching a bunch of home run hitters hit home runs off of pitchers who are doing their best to help those hitters hit homers.
Pro poker’s not more boring. At least there’s strategy involved.
And neither is golf. I stop short of calling it exciting but at least there’s the suspense that comes with uncertainty, and the knowledge that each course is trying to conquer the golfer, not co-operate with him.
It’s not even curling. I still don’t understand it even after having the sport explained to me by colleagues every winter, but I’d still rather watch it than a home run derby.
I just watched MLB home run king Jose Bautista flame out in the first round of this year’s derby after hitting just four home runs. It’s as if he too realizes what a boring non-even this is and wanted to extricate himself from it as quickly as possible.
Can’t blame him.
I’d rather watch Bautista act than watch him in a home run derby, and that’s saying a lot.
A whole lot.
Understand that even though I cheer loudest for triples and stolen bases, I still dig the long ball.
But in its proper context.
Home runs excite us in games because they’re unexpected. Batters step to the plate trying to make solid contact and pitchers toe the rubber trying their best not to let it happen. The batter-pitcher confrontation is at once a test of strength and of wits.
Most times the pitcher wins, and he’s supposed to. In a sport where a 70 percent failure rate makes a hitter a Hall of Famer, the moments in which everything goes right and he can blast a ball into the bleachers are magical.
And they’re special when a power hitter like Bautista produces them because after 85 home runs over the last season and a half, he steps to the plate knowing pitchers will do everything but bounce the ball to the plate cricket style if it’ll keep him from taking them deep.
But a home run derby offers none of that uncertainty.
It just offers baseballs flying over fences, which, by themselves, aren’t that exciting, no matter how many times Chris Berman yells “Baaaack, backbackbackbackbackbackback, GONE!”
I’ve seen porno flicks with less predictable endings.
And the next person to tell me they watched the Home Run Derby for entertainment (as opposed to work, or to trash it on a blog) will be the first.
So is the Home Run Derby condemned to an eternity of contests more boring than a pre-Homer Simpson space launch?
Not at all.
With helps from some of the sharpest minds in sport I’ve come up with eight simple ways to make the Home Run Derby sexy.
1. Hitting blindfolded.
Cedric Ceballos did it, so why can’t David Ortiz?
2. Batting cross-handed.
Left hand on top of right for right-handed batters, right on top of left for the southpaws. Hank Aaron — the greatest home run hitter this side of *Barry Bonds* — learned to hit this way, so no excuses.
3. Upside down
Grab the bat by the barrel and hit with the handle. That can’t be too different from playing stickball, can it?
4. Softball Pitching
If you can catch up with this high heat, you deserve every home run you hit.
5. Inside-the-park Home Run Derby
Just as an excuse to get Rajai Davis involved.
6. Home Runs Per Minute
Set a pitching machine to let fly every four seconds, and see if anybody can survive for 60.
7. Wiffle Ball
Because teeing off on 65 m.p.h. fastballs over the fat part of the plate is way too easy. It takes a real hitter to time a wiffle ball and whack it in a straight line.
8. SB 1070
Because the much-anticipated Latino boycott of the 2011 All Star Game in Arizona didn’t materialize. Each player gets to hit two home runs, and if they total less than 1,070 feet, police will stop that player on his way back to the dugout and ask him to produce proof of citizenship, then force him to spend the night in jail if he doesn’t have it.