Well, that stunk. Oh, sure, the 2014 Home Run Derby had it’s moments, but in my mind at least, it was the worst Derby since the Modern Derby Era began when ESPN started showing it live instead of on tape delay.
And I think the problem was format. Oh, sure, there were other things wrong: the rain was totally outside of everyone’s control, of course, and Target Field was never going to be the place to give us one of those Derbies that remind us why they hold the event in the first place (such as the 1999 one in Fenway, or Abreu’s performance in Pittsburgh or Hamilton’s in New York). But, mostly, it was the format.
Oh, sure, the new format of having brackets leading up to a showdown between the best HR hitter of each lead seemed good in theory, but in practice, it stunk. Mainly because it forgot the main reason we watch the Derby: to see lots and lots of dingers, especially those from BP legends like Giancarlo Stanton, who can (and did) send balls into parts of the stadium you never even knew existed.
With the bracket format, however, Stanton and Jose Bautista sat around a lot, and by the time they got back from their bye, they were rusty, and the now-truncated 7 outs (instead of 10) didn’t really give them much time to warm up. The result? Last night saw us see a lot of Todd Frazier (who isn’t bad, but is far, far from a Giancarlo Stanton, HR-wise) and very little Stanton and Bautista. Only the fact Yoennis Cespedes was still going throughout the whole thing kept it from being a total snoozefest.
So, here’s my idea on how they can fix the HR Derby:
9 Players: 4 AL, 4 NL and one Wild Card
Having “Captains” pick teams has been more good than bad, so that can stay, but for sake of time the number of players overall should go down. So, instead of picking four teammates, as they did this season, they will only pick three, as they did in previous years. However, a “Wild Card” spot would be added, to be decided upon by the powers that be. It could be a prospect who has impressed (like Joey Gallo), it could be a recently-retired slugger who probably still has some pop in his bat (imagine if Jim Thome, for example, had been swinging last night), or it could be for a MLB player who the captains just couldn’t find a spot for.
10 Outs, but Only 2 Rounds
Each batter would get 10 outs, but, to make the Derby shorter and less of a drag, there would only be two rounds: the first round of 9 (which would also act as a “AL vs. NL” round, with the winning team getting a bunch of dough for the captain’s charity), then a second, championship round of three.
And, hey, if they NEED to pad it out a little… why not have a third round of the top two who survive the round of three?
I’m just saying.