The Home Run Derby is just around the corner, or the weekend actually, and it is once again time to celebrate baseball’s best home run hitters…or at least the best of those who want to participate.
For the players, it seems that the Derby is more of a one time thing that only young players want to experience. The Bobby Abreu power outage after his Derby victory has deterred players from participating in this mid-year event.
From a fan’s perspective the Derby is really fun when you are watching it in person, but kind of boring to watch on TV.
So if players are hesitant to participate and fans may be getting bored of this event, what is baseball to do?
If I had my way, I’d take after the NHL and create a skills competition, headlined by the Home Run Derby. This superskills competition could demonstrate the many aspects of the game of baseball that are rarely highlighted.
This skill competition could have five events, each one highlighting a different baseball skill.
For the outfielders, a throwing contest could take place. Outfielders would line up at different parts of the ballpark and throw home. Accuracy and lowest arc with fewest hops determines who moves on. Players can start from short outfield, to mid to deep, and finally to the wall. At each spot they could have three throws to get the ball into a target. This event will showcase the best outfield arms in baseball, and would be very entertaining.
For the fast lead-off hitters, a speed contest will take place. Runners will have to go from home to second, home to third and all the way around the bases. The fastest combined times wins. This will give fans a true appreciation for just how fast a Michael Bourn or a Jose Reyes really are.
For the pitchers, an accuracy competition could take place. Targets will be set up on each of the corners of the plate, as well as high and low. Pitchers will be rewarded for demonstrating accuracy with all pitches. Fastballs can earn one point, and breaking balls and change-ups two points. Players will compete against each other with the players with the most points moving on.
To demonstrate just how good the hitters are at directing the ball, a competition where hitters have to hit the ball to specific targets in the field will take place. Players will have to be able to hit grounders, line drives and fly balls to each part of the stadium. Points will be awarded for hitting close to a target. The closer to the target the more points are awarded.
And to end the superskills competition the standard home run derby will take place, though with fewer players. The fewer players will speed up the derby and make it even more exciting.
If baseball did something along the lines of the above proposal, popularity of the game will increase. The NHL already understands the benefits of a skills competition and baseball could expect the same rewards.
It may take some convincing, however, for the players to accept such a proposal. Players may be hesitant due to the threat of injury, but these events should not be too taxing on the athletes.
The Home Run Derby is good the way it is, but could be much better of more baseball skills were highlighted for the fans to enjoy.