The two most popular skill competitions in American professional sports are the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, and the MLB Home Run Derby.
While the Slam Dunk Contest has added a few variations over the year’s to keep the event more in-line with the times, the Home Run Derby hasn’t changed too much.
Although, to be fair, MLB has implemented a few new changes to this year’s Derby. The new captains pick system has added a new wrinkle to the team selection process. Additionally, it was announced today that some of the derby participants will be live tweeting and using other social media during the festivities.
Here are 10 more necessary changes the Home Run Derby must make if its ever going to make it to the next level and be more enjoyable for the fans.
Why this is a good idea: It is an honour for a city to host the MLB All-Star Game. The distinction means extra revenue and brand exposure for the team. Also, the city itself earns extra money from the influx of people that show up.
So, wouldn't it make sense that one member of the home town team should have to participate in the Home Run Derby? It surely would help showcase the star power of their own squad.
Casual fans who don't watch all the team's may learn of a player's presence for the first time. Not only that, the home town fans feel good when one of their own gets a chance to hit home runs as often as possible.
Arizona's Justin Upton has 15 home runs this season, but isn't taking part in his home stadium's home run derby. What gives?
Why this is a good idea: Having a team captain from each league select whom is going to swing for the fences is a good idea as it practically ensures that the team will be made up of big personalities and big bats. That being said, team captains shouldn't hold all the cards.
Each team captain should be allowed to pick two players to go to battle with, and the third player should be left up to a fan vote. This will give the fans a chance to see who they want hit some home runs.
Why this is a good idea: What better way for an All-Star snub to take out his aggression by ruining the fun of the Home Run Derby participants? A bunch of unhappy professional baseball players attempting to stop balls from leave the yard as a means of revenge.
Not only would fans get to see home runs, they would also get to see some fantastic grabs. It's the best of both worlds.
It's time for the system of little kids clumsily shagging fly balls in the outfield during the Derby to pass and the slighted Major Leaguers should be the new guards of the Derby outfield. A group like Ben Zobrist, Torii Hunter, and Brett Gardner would make for a few interesting moments.
Why this is a good idea: If we let Jose Bautista and Prince Fielder use a Louisville Limited Edition Omaha instead of the regular, boring 'Powerized' Louisville Slugger, not only would we have a ton of home runs, we'd also see majestic shots the likes of which have never been seen.
Why this is a good idea: How do you make a home run even more awesome? Hit it further.
It is slightly unfair to put too much of an emphasis on home run distance since not all baseball players can launch one over five-hundred feet. The powers that be could change the scoring system to total home run distance. A scale of one point per one foot may make the derby more interesting, as the total footage would be comparable between the consistent chip-shot home run hitters and the sluggers of the all or nothing variety.
This can be used in tandem with the aforementioned aluminium bat proposal.
Why this is a good idea: There were 90-five home runs in last year's Home Run Derby, and not a single long ball hit one of the handful of targets that were placed in the stands. That's a problem.
Chase Field has a perfect design for home run target practice. The large scoreboard and accompanying support beams in centre field can easily be adorned with various bulls-eyes, nets, banners, and even fragile items just begging to be smashed.
The existing targets promise a fan $1,000,000 courtesy of MasterCard if a contestant hits a home run off of their signs. Prizes should be assigned to any new targets that may be put up, but they don't have to be as extreme as a check for seven figures. Perhaps a year's supply of Subway sandwiches would suffice for some of the easier targets.
Why this is a good idea: There isn't a better batting practice guy in the Majors than Josh Hamilton. It was a little surprising that David Ortiz didn't select him to the AL squad, but with a rule such as this, we'd never have to worry about no Josh Hamilton again.
Another thing that should be folded into the organisation of the Home Run Derby teams is the arbitrary rule that only All-Stars are allowed to participate. This basically ensures that batting practice dynamos like Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, and Willy Mo Pena will never get a chance to show us just how good they are at hitting home runs at will.
8. The pitcher that gave up the most home runs during the regular season should be the Derby pitcher
Why this is a good idea: This is an amazing idea since A) the pitcher in question clearly knows how to give up gopher balls, and B) it would give Bronson Arroyo something to do other than play his guitar outside of the stadium all weekend.
A variation on this idea is picking a pitcher who has been reluctant to give up any home runs during the season. While pitchers do not throw anywhere close to 100% of their potential in batting practice, choosing a control specialist like Cliff Lee or Justin Verlander would create a more challenging event.
Why this is a good idea: Century21 was the sponsor of the Home Run Derby for several years, and they created a sweepstakes where one lucky fan could win $250,000 towards a new house if the player that they selected to win the event actually won the event. That's pretty cool and all, but buying a house is really complicated and is subject to numerous factors.
Additionally, 250K towards a nicer home may not be enough to guarantee lifetime ownership nowadays.
Now that State Farm is the sponsor, they should offer a 'Lifetime Protection' type prize where the winning contestant cannot lose their home. One lucky family would receive foreclosure and home insurance.
There are numerous logistics to something like this, but if MLB and State Farm brought this type of sweepstakes back solely to help families in need, it would be a win-win situation, and one less family wouldn't have to live in fear of losing their shelter.
Why this is a good idea: Just because Bud Selig has been the best commissioner of all four major American sports, that doesn't mean that he's immune to the humour of sitting in a carnival style dunking booth in the outfield.
The panel that holds the trigger that tips the seat should be moved from it's traditional adjacent position to the top of the tank to better the chances of a wet Selig. Every time that Selig ends up in the drink, some money should go to a charity of the batter's choice.
If Selig didn't want to do it, another equally hilarious victim should be chosen. Perhaps Brian Wilson?
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