By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Much like the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest, we’ve already seen the best that the MLB Home Run Derby has to offer. The event is both tired and, at three hours long, tiring. As a result, it’s in desperate need of some juice.
No, not that kind.
(Although, the Steroid Era was indeed the best that the Derby had to offer.)
In lieu of pumping its competitors full of PEDs (if they already aren’t … sigh), the following are three suggestions about how MLB and ESPN can shake things up with the 27-year-old Derby to put some swagger back in its step.
After all, Bryce Harper’s hair-do can’t do it all on its own.
It might seem like Chris Berman went to grade school with Abner Doubleday, but somehow the guy is still only 58 years old. And what that means is “Boomer” still has at least another decade of broadcasting – if not two – left in him.
Don’t subject us to that, ESPN.
There was a time when Berman was fairly entertaining – it was called the 1980s – but nowadays it’s time for him to back, back, back off. For much of America, the moment his voice is first heard barking about the Home Run Derby is the moment to reach for the mute button.
Berman surely wouldn’t like it, but it’s high time to give someone else a shot at leading the TV broadcast of the Derby. Some friends have suggested replacing the overstated Berman with the understated Dan Shulman, who has handled the Derby’s radio duties for ESPN.
That would work for me – and my ears.
Earlier this month, SI.com’s Tom Verducci wrote, “Everybody knows the All-Star Home Run Derby is stale. Players take too many pitches. The pace is maddeningly slow. You can hit the most home runs – by a lot – and still lose (see Josh Hamilton, 2008). Too many of the sluggers people want to see don’t even participate. The leagues are evenly represented, as if leagues matter in a home run contest. “
As a remedy to these woes, Verducci offered his suggestion to fix the Derby: Brackets.
“Yep, fire up those copy machines, folks,” Verducci gushed. “To have an honest-to-goodness competition that gets people talking a week in advance and gives them a vested interest in the outcome (i.e., they’ll actually tune in), you need mano-a-mano competition among the biggest sluggers and biggest names in the game.”
Verducci said the re-jiggered Derby would work by having 16 participants, with the nine leading home run hitters getting guaranteed entry. The host team would then get one entry and the defending champ would also get a spot, leaving five wild card entrants who would be selected by a Home Run Derby Committee.
The players would be seeded and work just like the NCAA brackets, with each player getting 10 swings to try to survive and advance head-to-head in each round.
Sounds like fun. And I wouldn’t mind seeing a summertime Cinderella or two.
The Ping is the Thing
A year ago after snoozing my way through the 2012 Home Run Derby, I suggested that MLB jazz up the event by showing us something that we’ve never seen before, but that all baseball fans surely have wondered about.
And now, I’m going to suggest it again: Aluminum bats.
What if MLB broke out the Eastons for the Derby? If you tell me that you wouldn’t want to see just how far Prince Fielder, Bryce Harper and Yoenis Cespedes could blast baseballs with a metal club in their hands, well, you’re just not telling me the truth.
Why not try it? As long as everyone in the bleachers paid attention to the balls flying their way, what harm could there possibly be?
Thanks to PEDs, we already know what sluggers can do with super-sized biceps. With aluminum bats, we could see super-sized smiles instead with Big Leaguers getting to be Little Leaguers again. I’d tune in to watch that.
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.