- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2008

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

It was time to get rid of it about five years ago. The biggest-name sluggers don’t want to participate in the event anymore, and the allure of the home run has worn off since the widespread use of a certain substance became known to the public. The derby takes way too long. The home runs just aren’t that awe-inspiring anymore. And none of that even takes into account Chris Berman’s overbearing presence.

In some ways, it reminds me a little bit of the Slam Dunk Contest at the NBA All-Star Game. There were people clamoring to get rid of that a few years back, as well, and now it has been revived to the point it’s a staple of the event again. I have a feeling that as you get more young players becoming big names and doing all this for the first time, the star power of the Home Run Derby will come back. And steroids or not, the home run is still baseball’s most exciting moment. Maybe you play with the format a little — perhaps turn it into a tournament-style competition — or find ways to shorten it. But I still think there’s potential there. I will not attempt, however, to defend Chris Berman.

Good. If you had defended Boomer, I would have had to send you back, back, back to Minnesota. As for the Home Run Derby, why not take a cue from the NHL and scrap it in favor of a true skills competition. Have players try to see who can do the following: bunt, hit-and-run, rob a home run at the fence, throw a runner out at the plate and, OK, even hit a home run. Put that all together and I think you’d have a more interesting event that would showcase all kinds of players, not just the sluggers.

Sure, it would showcase all kinds of players. But isn’t the point of these things usually to give fans the flashiest display possible? And how many players even make an All-Star team anymore who know how to properly bunt? Also, if you’re worried about players dropping out of the Derby, imagine how many would bail on the idea of letting a 300-foot throw fly from the outfield. From a purist’s standpoint, a skills competition would be cool. But with a little tweaking, the Home Run Derby is still the best vehicle to appease the fans.

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