Why the MLB Home Run Derby stinks

The Home Run Derby stinks.

It should be awesome.

It isn’t.

It’s big, dumb, takes too long, and amounts to nothing.

That describes a lot of American culture, I suppose.

I watched part of this year’s contest when a buddy of mine and I ate dinner at a sports bar in West Des Moines on Monday.

It felt like watching a video game.

Lines appeared on the screen the moment the ball was hit.

They instantly measured launch angles and escape velocity.

I am old enough to remember when that kind of terminology was reserved for NASA missions into space.

People hate the space program today.

Some say the only thing we got out of it was Tang, the powdered orange juice drink.

That’s foolish, but that describes a lot of American culture, I suppose.

The home run used to have real bombast.

They felt like a rock concert broke out at your daughter’s dance recital.

In part, that’s because they used to be a lot rarer.

For most of baseball’s history, a guy who hit 30 or 35 dingers in a season had a shot at leading the league.

Throw out the COVID scrambled 2020 season, and a guy who hit less than 40 has led the National League just six times since 1990. It only happened once in the American League during the same span.

Maybe it’s the training.

Maybe it’s the scouting.

Maybe it’s the hours of videos players watch.

I don’t know how they did it, but baseball made the home run boring.

And the homer is never more of a snoozer than it is during the Home Run Derby.

There are brackets.

Brackets!

Brackets are for basketball in March.

They don’t belong in baseball, even in a meaningless exhibition.

And there are time-outs.

Hitters lose a lot of electrolytes trying to smash moon shots off pitches lobbed into their sweet spot.

They need to stop and suck down some of that sports drink that happens to be sponsoring this moment in time.

Somebody help this old many find the “eye roll” emoji on his smartphone.

If baseball wanted to do this right, they get 15 of the best home run hitters in the game.

Don’t want to participate?

Fine.

For your first 100 at-bats after the All-Star Break, you start with one strike.

I bet Aaron Judge would show up then.

The Yankee outfielder leads the majors with 33 homers, but he didn’t want to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby because he already did it back in 2017.

Yeah, we hear you, Aaron.

Every American can identify with being asked to do the same tedious things by their employer day after day.

Fight the power, man.

Don’t let anybody steal your red stapler.

Anyway, in my improved Home Run Derby, each guy gets 25 pitches. Anything that’s not a homer is an out.

At the end of that, whoever has the most wins.

They get a stupid trophy, maybe a hybrid pick-up truck.

If there’s a tie, those guys get 10 more pitches. Same rules.

If they’re tied after that, one guy gets the trophy and the other guy gets the truck.

People must go to work in the morning.

I used to love the home run.

It felt like skyscrapers and space launches.

It was a thing that a certain kind of person could do that had no defense.

You just watched that ball streak into the stands and that man got to run a circle around the person who usually gets him out.

That’s what people forget.

Batters usually lose. Even the best batters fail about 70% of the time.

The home run felt special, a thing that happened.

The best ones were called Ruthian, after Babe Ruth, who practically invented the home run and hit more of them than most people.

A thing becomes less special when you watch a guy do it 32 times over 10 minutes.

I love ice cream on hot pie, but every now and then I have a piece of fresh fruit.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
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