Word came down around a day ago that there has been a little bit of tweaking involving the annual Home Run Derby competition which takes place the night before the All-Star Game.
Let’s have a quick rundown of the things staying the same:
- There are still eight players competing for the title.
- As is the norm, there are still four participants from each league.
- Scoring will remain the same, by all accounts, and there will still ultimately be an individual champion crowned.
The two main changes involved are split at the bookends of the competition. First, this year the two leagues will be in a “total home run count” head-to-head battle for charity. Each league chooses a charity to represent and whichever league tallies the highest combined home run total will have a donation made in its name to said charity. This is a good thing all around. It is humane. It is decent. It is inspiring on some level.
But it’s not exactly a “fun” tweak.
The fun tweak deals with how the league’s teams are assembled. In the past the league had to ask the sluggers that were elected to participate in the All-Star Game itself whether they would like to be in the Home Run Derby as well. (I’ll get to why this is a bad thing in a minute.)
This year, however, the past two Home Run Derby champions (conveniently from different leagues) have been named as Captains of their league’s foursome. This means that they choose the other three members of their team. Sluggers picking sluggers. This is a good thing for the competition and the spectacle.
Now, how is this different than before? And why is the old way a problem?
When the league was asking players to participate, they would get turned down every so often by someone claiming that they wanted more rest or that they didn’t want to mess up their swing. If a first choice declines then a second choice must be asked. This waters down the competition and you end up with guys like Brandon Inge trying to hit the long ball.
They can’t accomplish this and everything and everyone suffers for it.
So the extra change this year is that the captains can choose anybody from their league. They don’t have to be All-Stars this season. Heck, they don’t have to have ever been an All-Star at any point in their career. Truly, the sluggers can choose fellow sluggers. 3TO becomes the new market efficiency!
2010 Derby winner David Ortiz is the AL Captain as a member of the Boston Red Sox. Prince Fielder, the 2009 winner, is a Milwaukee Brewer and therefore is the captain of NL team. These things you know. They are the men tasked with filling out a pair of rosters.
The question remains: “Who will the captains choose?”
Justin Upton, of the host Arizona Diamondbacks, was asked if he would participate if asked. He said he absolutely would. He’s a bit of a slugger to be sure.
No offense to him (even though he was on my short list of options which I tweeted to Buster Olney this afternoon) but this Home Run Derby has a chance to be truly epic. Guys that beat the rubberbands out of baseballs but would never make an All-Star team because of their high strikeout totals, low batting averages and general perceived lack of contribution have an opportunity for once.
Hopefully Prince and Papi take full advantage.
Who then would I choose? Here are the names that I listed off the top of my head earlier today. I haven’t thought any more about it since then. Feel free to critique, complain and over-analyze, but then please tell me who you’d want them to take instead.
- David Ortiz (C) – Boston Red Sox
- Jose Bautista – Toronto Blue Jays
- Adam Dunn – Chicago White Sox
- Russell Branyan – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California by way of the University of California at Los Angeles
- Prince Fielder (C) – Milwaukee Brewers
- Matt Kemp – Los Angeles Dodgers
- Mike Stanton – Florida Marlins
- Wily Mo Pena – Arizona Diamondbacks
Adam Dunn, Russell “The Muscle” Branyan, Mike Stanton, and Wily Mo Pena hit the ball harder and farther than most people on earth. Batting average? Who cares. On-base percentage? Irrelevant. WAR? What is it good for? These guys destroy baseballs. Period.
That’s what the Home Run Derby is all about. It’s what it has lacked in several participants over the years. It’s exactly what the Home Run Derby needs.
Get it done, captains.