The Case for Pitchers in the Home Run Derby

The All-Star games in all of the four major sports leagues (NHL, MLB, NFL, NBA) are starting to become irrelevant. If you’re a player, it’s an honor to be named to an All-Star team, but some would prefer to take a few days off rather than play one more game. From the fan’s point of view, the games are largely non-competitive affairs played at half speed.

Luckily, major sports leagues have picked up on this and have implemented different contests to keep things interesting, which happen prior to the game itself. They show off the pure skill of the athletes involved.

For instance, in the NBA, there’s the Dunk Contest as well as a three-point contest and many other skill-based spectacles. In the NHL, there’s the skills competition. And in MLB, there’s the Home Run Derby.

The Home Run Derby is interesting to watch, but it is not anything new. If one really wanted to watch a home run derby, they’d buy a ticket to a regular season game involving the Baltimore Orioles and get there early to watch batting practice.

(July 14, 2008 - Source: Nick Laham/Getty Images North America)

Josh Hamilton had a memorable home run derby performance in 2008 (July 14, 2008 – Source: Nick Laham/Getty Images North America)

Problem solved.

As interesting as the Home Run Derby is, it can get boring; there’s nothing memorable to them anymore. They occur every year and the game’s sluggers go up and tee off on batting practice pitches.

The Home Run Derby is also really slow. Luckily, MLB picked up on this last year and implemented a timer. But still nothing to keep things memorable — nothing to make the Home Run Derby must-watch television.

What would make things interesting is if MLB allowed for pitchers to be in the Home Run Derby. This has been hinted at all year through media members, but nothing has officially been done yet.

If MLB would seriously like to increase ratings and make the Derby more memorable, pitchers should be included. Now I’m not saying for the league to have all contestants be pitchers. But for example, starting this year, throw in a pitcher as a competitor to make things interesting and see how they stack up.

People who normally wouldn’t watch the Home Run Derby would for that sole reason — even if it was just one pitcher hitting.

In the NHL, enforcer John Scott was voted to the All-Star Game this past season. Along with the new 3-on-3 format, Scott and the NHL saved the All-Star Game and made it the most-watched and highest-rated All-Star game in NBCSN’s history.

With regard to MLB, you can’t really change the format of the game itself. But you can make the other competitions, like the Home Run Derby, much more interesting. If they were to put in one pitcher this year, put in Madison Bumgarner — everyone knows he can absolutely rake, and in a Home Run Derby, that’s something fans never really get to see, which is pitchers hitting home runs, of course.

Bumgarner actually wants to be in the Home Run Derby — his team is the one stopping him. For the fans, Bumgarner would put on a show similar to the one he puts on in every batting practice he takes. That the Giants would want to hold Bumgarner out of the derby over injury concerns is silly. If the risk of injury were so great, why allow him to take BP in the first place?

Every sport needs innovation to stay relevant, and for baseball, it’s putting a pitcher in the Home Run Derby. If pitchers did start to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby, I guarantee you it would be one to remember.

And it would only get better by the year.


One Response

  1. jelhai

    What the Bumgarner home run reel makes a case for is the poverty of expression of the SF TV announcers calling the games. Every home run call sounded the same. Unbelievable.


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