By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Much like Chris Berman’s shtick – and necktie collection – the Home Run Derby is played out.
But I have an idea that could bring it back to life. The derby, that is. Not Berman’s act. Even Dick Vitale thinks that’s a lost cause. Although what I really should say is that my idea could ping the derby back to relevancy.
But we’ll get to that.
First, let’s begin with how last night when I flipped on my TV to watch the Home Run Derby, I was hoping that I had misremembered just how dull the event has become. But, alas, my memory was just fine. The derby, which was born in the same year as Lindsay Lohan (1986), is indeed looking almost as haggard.
And similar to a Lohan flick, it also put me to sleep. Literally. Before Toronto slugger Jose Bautista – the derby’s second batter – had even wrapped up his first round on Monday, I had already found myself yawning.
And by the time eventual winner Prince Fielder finished his opening assault upon the Kaufmann Stadium fountains, I had dozed off on my couch. About 40 minutes later, I woke up only to find the derby’s dullness making me wish that I had a snooze button to press.
Unfortunately, these days, in terms of excitement level, the Home Run Derby hovers somewhere between NFL preseason games and the NBA Slam Dunk contest. And that’s a shame. Because, while I really couldn’t care less about NFL exhibitions or dunk contests that don’t include MJ and Dominique circa 1988, the fact is that I still want to love the Home Run Derby.
I really do.
Baseball, after all, is my favorite sport, and I still find home runs – meaningful ones, at least – to be the coolest feats that an athlete can accomplish.
Back in the day, aka the Steroid Era, homers were the most awe-inspiring sports feats imaginable, too. But now in this age of PED-testing, they just aren’t the same. And I’m thankful for that when it comes to the actual game of baseball. Baseball is better when it doesn’t rely so heavily on the long ball.
But the Home Run Derby, of course, is different. Its only reason for being is the long ball. And let’s be honest, the thing was way more entertaining when its competitors looked like, well, The Thing.
Fielder, Bautista and the Angels’ Mark Trumbo indeed hit some legit bombs last night, but it was still kind of depressing having to hear Berman emote forced amazement about 430-foot shots when we’ve already seen their predecessors blast balls 100 feet further.
Just like with baseball’s record books, steroids pretty much ruined the derby. Or they at least messed the event up a lot. Because after witnessing what could be accomplished in the competition with PEDs coursing through sluggers’ veins, everything now pales in comparison more than Sammy Sosa’s pigmentation.
And, really, after watching Josh Hamilton go hog wild, au naturale (I’m going to assume … and hope) a few years ago, we’ve seen all that the derby has to offer.
So, how about we use it to see something that we haven’t seen before? Something that I guarantee everyone who has ever stepped on to a baseball diamond has wondered at some point.
Across the country, from t-ball through college ball, baseball players everywhere use aluminum bats. It isn’t the crack of the bat that we’re familiar with at youth and amateur fields nationwide, it’s the ping of the thing.
However, once players become pros, they shuck aluminum in favor of wood, with metal bats never to be seen on a field again.
But what if we brought out the aluminum bats for Major League Baseball’s home run derby? You know that you’ve wondered just how far Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and the like could blast baseballs with a metal club in their hands. I certainly know that I have.
So, let’s stop wondering and instead just find out. I mean, why not? Honestly, what would the harm be? You know, just as long as everyone in the bleachers paid attention to stay out of harm’s way.
We’ve already seen what home-run hitters can do when jacked up on PEDs. I say let’s find out if clean players can recreate that awe-inspiring power with aluminum bats. I think it sounds like can’t-miss TV. I think it would make Big Leaguers giddy like Little Leaguers. And I don’t think I can imagine many things more fun than that.
So, c’mon, Major League Baseball, what do you say?
Ping me back.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.