Welcome to the liveblog. You should know ahead of time that I've never managed to sit through one of these things all the way. A Home Run Derby, I mean. I find them to be meaningless and borderline unwatchable, for the following reasons, listed in no particular order:
- It isn't even. Okay, so all the hitters get all the same rules. Fair competition, right? Laughable! For one thing, there's the issue of sample size - statistically, you can't draw any meaningful conclusions about a player's home run-hitting ability based on 10 or 20 or 30 swings of the bat. For another, parks often play differently to left- and right-handed hitters. Angel Stadium, for example, is harder on lefties than righties when it comes to going deep. That's an important variable. Finally, there's the matter of the pitchers. The hitters may love the pitchers they've chosen, but those pitchers are people, and people are inconsistent. These aren't pitching machines. If Miguel Cabrera's pitcher is unusually bad, or if Hanley Ramirez's pitcher is freakishly accurate, then that complicates things. That complicates things!
The pool of contestants is underwhelming. This is true most years, but especially this time around. As mentioned earlier, there are 11 hitters in baseball who so far have gone deep at least 20 times. Only two of them are participating. Jose Bautista, who leads both leagues with 24 dingers, isn't taking part. Joey Votto, who's tied for second, isn't taking part. Josh Hamilton, who's also tied for second, and who put on the most prolific Derby display of all time in 2008, isn't taking part. And so on and so forth. Why is Hanley Ramirez in the Home Run Derby, again? Between some players getting skipped over and other plays declining their invitations, we're left with something roughly comparable to the Pro Bowl, and I think we all know how many people look forward to the Pro Bowl.
- Chris Berman. If you gave Chris Berman Morgan Freeman's script, and asked him to narrate, Shawshank would be one of the most unpleasant movies ever filmed. The only things I find the least bit enjoyable or endearing about Chris Berman are things he hasn't done. Like, he hasn't personally come over and left my bacon out of the freezer while I wasn't around. The only positive about Chris Berman is that he doesn't literally do everything he could to be awful.
- It takes forever. ESPN has this thing scheduled for two hours. I don't actually remember how long previous Home Run Derbies have taken, but I know that I've watched them start, then gone off and done a bunch of other things, then come back and watched them end. Not like little things. Big things. Like mow the lawn, or travel to Pittsburgh.
- It spoils something special. There are two things that make home runs cool: they're really valuable in the context of a game, and all things considered they're pretty rare. The Home Run Derby pretty much removes the game context and then features dinger after dinger like they're shot from a machine gun. Last year's derby had 82 home runs. 2008's had 105. 105 home runs in something like 150 minutes. The Home Run Derby is like the time I ate two big bags of York Peppermint Patties in one sitting when I was 13. I just had my first York Peppermint Patty since then a couple months ago. It was disgusting. The only thing that's cool about watching the Home Run Derby as it is - the only thing at all - is that some of the balls are hit impressively far, but so what? These aren't game situations. These aren't pitchers trying to make good pitches. They're deliberately throwing meatballs for the express purpose of allowing home runs. If we just want to see baseballs get hit really far, why not give the guys metal bats and make it a party?
Nine minutes from start time. I'm amped. You amped? I'm amped. Let's watch us some dingers. They are sure to be meaningful and exciting. Every last one of them.