My Suggestions – Baseball is more than home run derby
The applause was pretty universal for the new home run derby at the Major League Baseball All-Star break. I went out to watch it at a local establishment and was surprised and saddened with how few people paid any attention to it. I believe that will change next year because it was so much fun. Word will get around, and it could turn into must watch TV. Baseball has an opportunity here to attract more people to the game, so they must be ready for it and take advantage. There are a few changes I would like to see MLB add to it, and it would put a better spotlight on the skills of baseball, as well as on its best players. That illumination is important for people that do not have the major league baseball channel or follow baseball much. Even as a big baseball follower, I would love to see other aspects of the game showcased and the amazing skills of some of the MLB players I rarely see.
Of course, any change to the past format had to be an improvement. Watching batters take 65 pitches to get one swing at the pitch they liked, as was the case in past years, was not any one’s idea of must watch TV. The match-ups were close this year, tension mounted as the clock wound down and the action was non-stop. Hey, the MLB is on to something. They should seize the momentum of the new home run derby rules and add other exciting things the game provides.
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Home Run Derby Adjustments
First, let’s up the competition to sixteen players to find the real home run Derby champ. It looked to be exciting for the players too, to the point where I believe most of the top power hitters will want to enroll next year. So, it should not be hard to get more involved. A sixteen player format will take a while, of course, but there are ways around that. They could adjust the time some, down to three and half minutes with no timeouts. They could also break it down to two separate sessions of eight players each. Eight American league players in the first set and eight national leaguers in the second session. The two winners of each session meet at the end.
I also suggest they drop the extra time for far home runs, as a home run is a home run. But, hitters receive extra time for home runs hit to center field and the opposite field. Those feats are more impressive I believe than the farthest ones.
Baseball Skills Competition
Next, it’s time to add a skills competition as with the NBA All-Star game. Baseball can come up with some fun contests for the best fielders in the game. Using the stopwatch for timing things is natural in baseball, so it would be easy to come up with fun games. I would love to see some of the top shortstops like Andrelton Simmons, Troy Tulowitzki and JJ Hardy compete against each other on ground balls. It would be fun to see Manny Machado go up against Nolan Arenado and other third basemen to see who had the quickest release and strongest arm on various plays. They could even bring in some former greats like Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken to rate the best plays on difficult ground balls like they do with the NBA slam dunk contest. Who is the Michael Jordan of baseball on the defensive side of things? Sounds like fun to me. I realize that is extra work for players on their break. But, I believe the benefits of showcasing their amazing talents would be worth it to major league baseball. Also, it would help players’ careers, notoriety and endorsement possibilities.
Of course, they could add in the top double play combinations in baseball and see who comes up with the fastest turns on double plays. Wow, I would love to see some of the top guys turn it like I never dreamed of when I played major league baseball.
Finding out which catchers have the fastest “pop times” would be cool on throws to second base. The best defensive outfielders could have throwing competitions and catching ones, too. Setting up the old garbage can at home to see who could throw the most into it would be fun to see.
A base running competition is the easy one, here. The eight fastest players in the game match up with timing them from home to first, home to second and home to home. Oh, the fun baseball has available to show people, especially to kids and the fringe fans.
With hitting, along with the home run derby, it’s time to show people there is more to the game than hitting home runs. A bat control contest with some of the best contact men in the game would show that. They could set up targets in the field to see who could hit them, like they do with the shootouts in the NHL all-star game. Let’s see who the Patrick Kane of the MLB is. They could even have an around the world hitting game like in basketball. A coaching competition to find who the most accurate fungo hitting coach in the game is, is another possibility.
I am sure people much smarter than me can come up with some fun and fair baseball skills competitions for all these things and more. I believe it’s time that people, especially kids, see the finer skills of the game shown off besides just the home run derby. Baseball is such a beautiful game. There is more to the game than seeing how far players can hit the ball.