Results tagged ‘ Home Run Derby ’

My Ramblings to Tweak the Home Run Derby

Everyone might remember I had some reservations on the new “Captains” format for the State Farm Home Run Derby in 2011. After thinking about it for almost a whole season, it might have some legitimate merit, but maybe it can be tweaked a bit, just like the All Star Game starter and player selection process. Hopefully today I can outline my ideas, and maybe some day M L B will take credit for it ( just kidding).

The Captain format did take the selection process out of Major League Baseball fingers, but ( to me) it seem to evolve into a collection of “buddies” or power-stroking brethren taking turns hitting a baseball more than a competition that let fans from all over, including other countries outside the United States see our budding MLB stars. 

So why not make the American League and National League Home Run leaders at the All-Star Break the Captains in the future? That would give more of a guarantee to the assembled baseball fans the best long ball hitters from both leagues will not only showcase their unique craft at the All Star classic, but also give the media and announcers a chance to further show the participants in depth, possibly making them household names in other vistas. In 2011, that would have made Toronto Blue Jay Jose Bautista and St. Louis Cardinal Lance Bergman the first 2 players selected for the Home Run Derby. Combined the pair have crushed 55 balls into the stands heading into the 2011 All-Star Break.

From there I would love to implement a  “ State Farm Home Run Derby Participant” premise and re-institute it with 8 names from each league which would be announced a weeks in advance of the Monday event and conclude on that Saturday evening to decide which 3 candidates would of stood with Bautista or Bergman in 2011 as members of both the American and National League squads.  I know I’m using 2011 as an example, but sometimes we can learn things from our past, or fail again and again by refusing to acknowledge it’s flaws.

Sure there could still be the horror of the large market teams stuffing the ballot box, but I have a solution to keep multiple players from each squad off the final selection team. To keep the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Cardinals and possibly the Dodgers from stuffing the ballot boxes, there would be no multiple players selected from the same franchise.


That ruling would have split up the 2011 pairings of Adrian Gonzalez and Ortiz, plus would have made either Rickie Weeks or Prince Fielder the Brewer selected for the Home Run Derby. This rule would have also eliminated Matt Holiday in 2011 since Bergman would have been the Cardinals representative.

Such a regulation would keep an unbalanced Home Run Derby squad that should of included players like Cincinnati Red Jay Bruce, Chicago White Sox Adam Dunn, Oakland Athletics Josh Reddick or even Oriole’s Adam Jones could of had a chance to be voted into the event.

If this system had been in place for the 2012 event, Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton and Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun would have been the “Captains” of the event since each lead their respective leagues in Home Runs at the break.  Heck, based on Home Run totals, the New York Yankees could of been represented by Curtis Granderson than Robinson Cano. 

Sure there are thing to be worked out, and holes to fill by players not wanting to participate, but M L B could get those “Yeahs” or “Nays” at the conclusion of the All-Star voting and hype up the Home Run Derby selection process with an entire week of plugging certain players, or maybe even trying to get a up-and coming player most of the country has not seen hit the ball like the A’s Reddick, Brewers Corey Hart or even Philadelphia Phillies Hunter Pence a chance on the big stage.

M L B made an honest effort in 2011 of trying to correct some past Home Run Derby wrongs, and they made great strides in the right direction. Now by also involving the fans in the process, we can get a more suitable and diverse selection that will have people again excited about the event. With a few slices and dices in the right spots, the State Farm Home Run Derby can come back in 2013 in the confines of  Citi Field (July 16th) in Flushing, New York for the 2013 All Star Game more lean, mean and possibly pounding ball after ball out of the long confines of that massive ballpark.

That would be a pure joy to watch.

My Tweak to the Home Run Derby Selection Process

Everyone might remember I had some reservations on the new “Captains” format for the State Farm Home Run Derby. After thinking about it for a day, it might have some legitimate merit, but maybe it can be tweaked a bit, just like the selection process. Hopefully today I can outline my ideas, and maybe some day M L B will take credit for it ( just kidding).

The Captain format did take the selection process out of Major League Baseball fingers, but it ended up being a collection of “buddies” taking turns hitting a baseball more than a competition that let fans from all over the country, and other countries outside the United States see our budding stars. Sure American League Captain David Ortiz made an overall very impressive four-some, but even Ortiz made sure to mention several times that he picked his “boys”.

So why not make the American League and National League leaders at the All-Star Break the Captains in the future? That would give more of a guarantee to the assembled baseball fans the best long ball hitters from both leagues at the top of the equation. In 2011, that would have made Toronto Blue Jay Jose Bautista and St. Louis Cardinal Lance Bergman the first 2 players selected for the Home Run Derby. Combined the pair have crushed 55 balls into the stands heading into the All-Star Break.

From there I would love to trash the current “Final Vote” premise and re-institute it with 8 names from each league to have a week’s worth of voting to decide the final 3 candidates to stand with Bautista and Bergman as members of both the American and National League squads. Sure there is still the horror of the large market teams stuffing the ballot box, but I have a solution to keep multiple players from each squad off the final selection team.

To keep the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Cardinals and possibly the Dodgers from stuffing the ballot boxes, there can be no multiple players selected from the same franchise. That ruling would have split up the 2011 pairings of Adrian Gonzalez and Ortiz, plus would have made either Rickie Weeks or Prince Fielder the Brewer possibly selected to the team. This rule would have also eliminated Matt Holiday since Bergman would have been the Cardinals representative.

Such a regulation would keep an unbalanced Home Run Derby squad that should of included players like Cincy’s Jay Bruce, White Sox Paul Korneko, Ranger Nelson Cruz or even Oriole’s Mark Reynolds.

This system also has a flaw or two that need to be ironed out, like this year’s winner Robinson Cano might not have been picked with this format since Mark Teixera and Curtis Granderson had more Home Runs heading into the break than Cano.

Sure there are thing to be worked out, and holes to fill by players not wanting to participate, but M L B could get those “Yeahs” or “Nays” at the conclusion of the All-Star voting and hype up the Home Run Derby selection process with an entire week of plugging certain players, or maybe even trying to get a up-and coming player most of the country has not seen hit the ball like the Marlins Mike Stanton a chance on the big stage.

M L B made an honest effort this season to correct some past Home Run Derby wrongs, and they are steps in the right direction. Now by also involving the fans in the process, we can get a more suitable and diverse selection that will have people again excited about the event.

Watching Bautista and Weeks struggle last night was painful at times, and there is no doubt some people changed the channel……With a few slices and dices, the Home Run Derby can come back in Kansas City for the 2012 All-Star game lean, mean and pounding balls after ball into those fountains. That would be a pure joy to watch.

Options for Broadcast changes to the Home Run Derby

 

Here we go again people, eight hours until all the fun starts all over again. But hopefully tonight;s game will not have that rambling and prognostic feel of last night’s State Farm Home Run Derby. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching a home run as much as the rest of us, but it did not have the same flavor this season for some reason. Not to say there was not a few majestic swats into the outfield caverns there at Busch Stadium.  There were a few blasts that evoked an awe factor from me watching on my big screen, but for some reason the anticipation and the true spectacle of it all was dulled for some reason.

I sat there and tried to remember, or even fathom why I felt this way until I heard the “back, back back!” thundered over my television screen by ESPN legend Chris Berman. It was then that it all finally began to click and fall into place. The event was not falling by the wayside for me, it was the stale and predictable audio coming out of the mouth of commentators Berman, Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, and former Met GM Steve Phillips. Sometimes I think they should instead maybe pick some of the great voices of the Major Leagues to come out and broadcast the Home Run Derby as a tribute to their announcing chops.

Locally here with the Tampa Bay Rays we have been blessed with a pretty good broadcast crew on both the television and the radio. But then again every city has that distinction. But maybe MLB can regenerate the enthusiasm and the bravado of the Home Run Derby by instituting a chance in the on-the-field staff to cover the event to maybe include  a member of the MLB family who usually only does their own local broadcasts. Not that I would not like to see Joe Buck maybe pop down there like he did last night, but he is reserved for the big game. I  am all for maybe one of the voices being from the home stadium crew, which would replace Phillips and do a better job just by sitting down in the chair.

I hear too much of Phillips just on “Baseball Tonight”, do I have to be subjected to him again during a fun event like the Home Run Derby?  So with that in mind, even thought the event is now over, we could have gotten  Al Hrabosky, who is not only a St. Louis folk legend and former  Cardinal player, but a pretty good broadcaster in his own right.

Hrabosky has been up in the television booth for the Cardinals now for his 13th straight season for FSN-Midwest. He started with the team back in 1985 doing broadcasts on several different venues before finally finding his home on FSN-Midwest.  “The Mad Hungarian” would have been a instant hit for the fans watching at home who used to watch his antics on and behind the mound during his playing career. But also of note would have been the telling of stories by fathers and grandfathers to the kids watching about this great  reliever legend.

That would bring a spark to the Home Run Derby. To bring a local figure onto the broadcast team for the entire event. It will also add a air of local pride and resources as this is their domain, and they know the nooks and crannies of Busch Stadium as well as the men who built it. They are there every day and would have additional stories and ad libs that would keep the audience interested even during a lull in the action at the plate. Do not fret Phillips, I do not instantly dislike you banter on the panel, but I want to All Star game to be about special instances and situation, not the one guy I get to hear 162 games a year and beyond every night on ESPN.

By me picking Hrabosky is no slight to the other broadcasters like Mike Shannon in the radio booth ,or even Jay Rudolph or Dan McLaughlin. I am only trying to find the diamond-in-the-rough that most people do not get to hear during their team’s broadcasts. Who knows, maybe in the 2010 event hosted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim we can get ex-player Rex Hudler or Mark Gubicza to come on board and bring some special Angels flavor to the Home Run Derby panel. 

And Joe Morgan, well I love your stories sometimes, but maybe you need to go for someone else who can keep me doing more than re-twitting and pausing away hoping for a break in the action to see some more exciting commercials than your re-hashed speculations about the Derby hitters. I am beginning to see a pattern in your observations on the hitters. I have heard the same lines, but tweaked a bit left or right about hitters for the last few years by you on the ESPN Sunday Night games, and it is growing old to me. So my idea to replace Morgan might be the best one yet.

You see, I am not voting for myself or another fan to replace Morgan, that would be too easy, but maybe MLB, which is spending millions on this 3-day festival can get ESPN to waiver a bit from their mundane announcers to let a current MLB legend or newcomer take the reins from Morgan. I am going to use the Rays Dewayne Staats only because I have some familiarity with him. He is someone who will be the in the broadcaster wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame before it is all said and done and would be a breath of fresh air not only for the fans to get another perspective, but to hear a voice that has called some of the most remarkable and memorable games.

To let the youth, and the older generation like me enjoy some of the voice around the league at that table would be an true All Star experience. Maybe if not Staats, then Seattle Mariners voice Dave Niehaus, who was admitted into the broadcasters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.  He is a voice that people on the east coast of the United States do not get to hear, and would bring about more energy and substance to the game knowing it is their national time to shine.

That is not to say I would not like to hear others like Arizona’s Daron Sutton, who is in his third year with the Diamondbacks. Each of these guys, even at their opposite points in their careers would be another taste of the MLB for each of us to savor during the All Star week. To bring about the change where the MLB audience gets to hear some of the voices and charisma that fans throughout the league and America get to hear each night might be a great influx of new energy and enthusiasm at the broadcast table during the Home Run Derby. They are voices that do not get to be heard unless it is below a clip on the Internet or ESPN now. Or their voices get echoed around the playoff times for substantial calls or historic moments.

The third change might be the hardest for ESPN to imagine, but it might also be a great springboard for their broadcasters. Each segment of their network seems to have their gems, or up and coming guys/gals who have displayed their talents and the crowd has warmed to them during that season. Maybe the broadcaster who is considered their number one person that year, be it a newcomer or an old veteran gets a shot at the big time stage by sitting in Chris Berman’s chair.

I have loved Berman for year and years, but in that statement is the problem. Years and years I have also heard the same phrases rolled over and over until they should have a toe tag attached to them. How many time last night did Berman try and elevate Pujols to cult status during the broadcast even though he was involved in a 3-way tie in the first round.

Josh Hamilton last season deserved that praise, Bobby Abreu a few years ago also garnered that respect and attention, but Pujols was not the giant that night. After his first round 11 home runs, you really did not get the feeling the panel really was going for Prince Fielder until his semi-final round was complete. But the worst thing about last night was the odd comment getting thrown around left and right to fill air time.

There could have been better stories about players like Carlos Pena or even Nelson Cruz that would have made you root for them. Like the fact Pena had a dream before the end of the 2007 Spring Training with the Rays, where he was a non-roster invitee, about getting on the plane with the players for the first series against the Yankees. About how and injury in the last Spring Training game to Greg Norton opened the door for Pena to hit 101 Home runs since that moment in the major leagues.

Or maybe a short stint to show he went from a scrub and almost a non-issue minor leaguer with the New York Yankees system in 2006 to the 2007 Comeback Player of the Season, to a 2008 Silver Slugger in the American League, to a Gold Glover last season. The elevation of his game was the reason for his All Star selection, not just his current home run total. It was the mythical rise of the phoenix of his career from the bottom to the top.

Heck, I even got a few people twitting I should do the broadcasting of the Derby. First off, I am honored, and I did take a aptitude test back at Eckerd College in 1976 that told me my two vocations that stressed my strengths was law and radio in that order. But that is another chapter to discuss at another time. I have  some ideas to maybe invite  fellow fans who love to broadcast to maybe be invited to participate in the on-air duties during the Taco bell celebrity and athletes softball game to give it a different flavor. Maybe that is the stage for me to  see the MLB break out of the norm and have a good time with it all.

I have to admit, I did have more fun watching Nellie make diving catches and Shawn Johnson doing her rendition of Ozzie Smith’s flip. It made me want to watch the softball game. And that is new for me. I usually watch about 10 minutes of it all then click to something else, but last night I got interested. And no, it was not because I fell in visual love again with Jenna Fisher from “The Office”. I have had a TV crush on her since I first saw her, but that is fantasy people. Anyways, the Home Run Derby was based on a 1959 show with the same title. That show evolved into the present day model we see during the All Star game.

For this event to again evolve might take some hard stances by MLB with their broadcast partners, but for one night shouldn’t the event be about the broadcasters of the MLB and their premier hitters. A combining of the two forces both vocal and physical could bring about a renewed interest in the viewing of the Home Run Derby. The All Star game is still going to be the focal point of the three days, but to elevate the Home Run Derby a bit would only bring more money and more exposure to other facets of the MLB.
 

By letting their league broadcasters showcase their talents during the event would make someone in San Diego, California, or even another country want to hear a game called by Boston Red Sox’s  Jerry Remy or maybe the Chicago White Sox’s Ken Harrelson or Steve Stone. It would mean more revenue for the MLB through the MLB.TV packages, and also retain some interest of fans outside their current markets.

To expand the minds of baseball fans is not always an easy task, but for us to enjoy hearing some of the legends and growing talent around the league maybe call the Home Run Derby would be a deep, deep shot into the night. It is now your choice MLB. You can take this advice and use it as your own, or you can just let the Derby stagnate until the viewership goes down and you do not know why. It is time for a change, and here I listed a few easy solutions, the rest is up to you. Do it for the fans. Do it for the International viewers. Do it for the expansion of the sport around the globe. Or like Nike loves to say………”Just Do it!”

2009 State Farm Home Run Derby thoughts

 

Most people call it the “most exciting play in baseball.” I am talking about the one play that can make even a visiting crowd stand up and rise to their feet and cheer and celebrate the true nature of the play. No, it is not a around-the-horn ( 5-6-3 ) double play but the always exciting home run. It doesn’t matter if it is a solo shot or a Grand Slam, people love seeing that ball take its extreme flight path from home plate to its final resting place hopefully in someones hands in the stands.  It is a play that in one swing of the bat can take a game and transform it in so many different directions for the two teams involved in the contest.

It packs the essence of power, of skill and of will power all compacted  in that one solid swing against that little white ball. But it can also hold the hopes and dreams of winning with it’s majestic path towards the outfield walls. There is no other play in baseball that is held in such a high level of respect and admiration when it comes to hitting. 

So we have come to that point just beyond the halfway mark where we celebrate everything that is great about the long ball for one long night. The stage and the players have been set, and their game faces will be different tonight because they will get to also celebrate with fellow teammates and All Stars from both leagues sitting right there within eye sight of the participants.
 

At today’s media day, there will be a million questions thrown at the participants in this seasons State Farm Home Run Derby.  Some asking about totals, distance, or if they can hit the Mastercard banner and win someone some extra spending money for the week. But hopefully someone will remember to ask this one question, this one simple thing that could bring a bold smile to each of their faces. ” What is your motivation for tonight’s event?”

Some of those questions will merit unique answers that might take a player back several years into their past. Others might speak of recent injuries or events that have shaken their core and made them a better player.  And other might just see it as an opportunity to introduce themselves to the world’s audience as both a player and as a person.

The event had grown into a  huge precursor to the All Star Game itself. To say the  Home Run Derby event has taken on a life of its own would not be too far fetched at all. E Bay will be full of 2009 Home Run Derby balls on Tuesday morning, including the gold-colored balls used to escalate the fortunes of charities tonight. For some to be at the event is enough, to celebrate the act of the Home Run and see the cheers of the crowd will be like drinking 5 Amp energy drinks in a row. Sparks will fly, minds will wander and kids will fall all over the outfield trying to catch these hit balls.

Heck, I even took a gander over there today and saw a ball from the 2008 Home Run Derby signed by Hamilton up for bid right now at $ 169.99. But then again that is a “Buy now” option that might not be met. But there is a smattering of about nine past HR Derby balls from 2001 to 2005  all running under $ 40 right now.  It is great that this event has  elevated itself to its current stature in the 3-days events surrounding the All Star Game.

It is hard to even remember that this event might have been made possible by a simple television program stated in the 1960’s. The black and white “Home Run Derby” show was so popular in the 1960’s that it had to have spawned the current event. Even though these shows only pitted two of the best home run hitter of that season, it  did have a huge impact on the future of the art of hitting the long ball. I remember seeing a few dozen of these shows as a kid and trying to copy the swings in Little League. But you did try and copy them because they were your heroes and you wanted to see them blast the ball into the stands with every pitch.

And the Home Run Derby did not hurt its image last season when the world got to see the re-emergence of Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. From the  great personal story of Craig Counsel, his former AAU coach and personal Home Run Derby pitcher, to the struggles and demons Hamilton had to wash away to get back to this stage, it set up a heroes return to the game that impassions him from top to bottom.  And  his shattering of the events record books only goes to show that anyone can take the stage. But how many people remember that he did not win the event?

And America ate it up like a hot, creamy plate of mac & cheese. But it was also the kind of message that needs to be delivered to the youth of this country. That even if you hit rock bottom and the depths of despair, with a little faith and the courage to change, the world is at your feet.

But what will be the story this year?  Will it be another coming out party for another one of baseball’s stars. You know one of the great “feel good” stories will be the coming back from injury of Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, which  also rhymes with power, this season. The young catcher has been known for his scattering of hits and his placement of the ball in achieving his current AL leading .373 average. It will be exciting to see him bend his back and thrust that bat to produce some power tonight in the Home Run Derby.

It might also be one of the “coming out” parties I eluded to in the beginning of the blog. Most people associate him with hitting in general. With a good showing in the H R Derby, he will also put his name on you mind when you think of Home Run potential. It is another aspect of his hitting game that might not get the attention it deserves, before tonight’s event.

Then you have someone like the Tampa Bay Rays Carlos Pena, who had been tossed around the league for a few years from teams from the Rangers,Oakland A’s, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees before he got a non-roster invitee invitation to Spring Training in 2007 from the Rays. Pena  has always had the great glove, awesome power and the ability to pull a team together, but they had not all combined together at the same time before his stint with the Rays.

That spring in St. Petersburg, Florida his game came together and his power numbers have been impressive over the past 2 1/2 seasons. Pena has hit 101 homers with 282 RBI  since his Opening Day start for the Rays in 2007. To even hear the story of him dreaming he was going to be on the plane to New York for the opening series after Rays Manager Joe Maddon informed him he was going to Triple-A to begin the season is amazing. 

An unfortunate injury to Greg Norton opened the door for Pena to fly with the team to New York, and he has been with them ever since. Pena has a very natural home run swing, and the rightfield fence in Busch Stadium, which is 335 feet down the line, could play a major role in how he does tonight.  But when you see him lean back and swing through the ball you have the thought in your mind each hit could go over the wall. He has the ability to take any pitch and drive it, so tonight might make people remember his name.

Brandon Inge, here is a guy I have been pulling for all year long for the Detroit Tigers. He has more homers and RBI than Miguel Cabrera, but most people outside of the American League do not even know his name. Because of his pairing with Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino in the All Star Game Sprint Final Vote, he has been dubbed the front part of the “Bran Torino” pairing.

This former catcher, turned third baseman has been doing the same thing for years without the acknowledgments, but tonight he can also get his name out there for future shots at the All Star team. Hidden beneath the names of Magglio Ordonez and Cabrera, Inge has been the consistent power monger on the Tigers this season. With 21 homers and 58 RBI, he is showing his numbers fit right into the program for the Home Run Derby. He even hit two on Saturday night to maybe get some extra momentum going into tonight’s event.

The reason you have seen only AL names listed here is because of the recent video by Harold Reynolds that put all the focus on the NL first baseman getting ready to participate in the event tonight. I am not taking Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder or Ryan Howard for granted at all, but to single out the four first baseman and not even chat about the AL competitors is just wrong.

It is for that reason I want to see Mauer,Inge,Pena and Ranger Nelson Cruz slam the door shut on the National League guys. That is right, I want to see a barn burner where the AL comes out on top…again. I am sorry if it is Albert’s house, but it is our event to win tonight. By Reynolds putting that video out with so much emphasis on the NL and not a word about the AL is good old fashioned bulletin board fodder that will be eaten up by the AL participants.

Let the balls fly where they may, but I am going to throw out my final round prediction here: Mauer versus Inge for all the marbles. And if you want a great story, either one of these guys could win it all tonight. But the best part is all of us get to witness some awesome power tonight, and maybe another player will step from the shadows tonight and become another favorite of the world and of your kids.

 

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