The 2012 Home Run Derby was highlighted by a few consecutive 450’ foot bombs by Mark Trumbo, poor showings by Robinson Cano and Matt Kemp (again), and the fountain shots by champion Prince Fielder. However, I found it to be one of the most boring Derbys yet. Ratings rose in this year’s 2012 Home Run Derby in Kansas City by about 3 percent from last year, totaling about 200,000 more viewers. Viewers were the strongest in Kansas City with about 15.1 percent as well as the giant markets of New York and Los Angeles. With about 6.9 million people watching this boring-ish derby (the most since 2009), the question needs to be asked, does there need to be a change to the derby? I think yes.
Started in 1985, the Home Run Derby has been a consistent staple in the Mid-Summer Classic. We have seen all-time greats such as Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken Jr., and Frank Thomas unload on baseballs that are probably still flying. We have seen Josh Hamilton hit 28 homers in 1 round, Bobby Abreu blasts 41 over the fence in a night, and Ken Griffey Jr. reclaim his crown 3 times. Still, the Derby in recent years has lacked the extra something to truly make the night magical. After the horrible treatment Robinson Cano and his family faced in KC due to selecting Mark Trumbo over Billy Butler, Bud Selig announced that he would be open to changing the selection process of the contestants. His idea is to make it mandatory that a player from the host city competes in the Derby. Well, I have some additional suggestions that I think would make the night a little bit more interesting.
- Connect the players we grew up with the new stars of the game today. My plan is to have 3 American League and 3 National League hitters, but add a recently retired slugger to each lineup. How great would it be to see if Ken Griffey Jr. or Mark McGwire could put a few balls into the stands like they did while they were playing and compete for a Derby title? The addition of these past heroes to the competition would electrify interest towards the Derby as the generation gap between past players and today’s superstars would be severed at least for one night.
- Another option would be to change the whole system of how the competition is run. Instead of the traditional format, we would move to a tournament style of play – somewhat like how March Madness is carried out with one-on-one matchups that take the winners into the next round. The field of play would expand from 8 players to 16 with 8 matchups in the first round. The first four players will receive automatic berths based on these criteria: most homers in the AL, most homers in the NL, longest home run (of an all star selected player), and finally one player from the host team of the weekend (thus appeasing Mr. Selig’s request). The remaining 12 players will be from different teams, allowing more fans to have a rooting interest. The matchups will be done randomly to create the most fairness. Each player will get 10 swings to hit as many homers as he can. Watching Josh Hamilton going head to head against Jose Bautista wouldn’t just happen in the final round, you could see these matchups all night. This is the type of excitement we are trying to create with a tournament style Derby.
The Derby has always been one of my favorite events of the season. After watching the 2010 Derby in Anaheim I was in awe of the talent that these guys showcase for the fans. I hope that some of these ideas could improve upon the Mid-Summer Classic and make it one of the most viewed nights in sports. Introducing ex-superstars or making the derby tournament style allows the night to keep its raw tradition while enhancing the fan experience. There is nothing like watching the best hitters in the world launch balls into space, and now, with a few changes, it can be more enjoyable than ever.