If last season was the rule, not the exception, the Home Run Derby is already much better than it used to be. The competition was never supposed to resemble real baseball, which is probably why it improved with a clock. If you’re going to go full mutation, don’t stop at the webbed feet, that’s my motto.
That doesn’t mean the Derby can’t be improved, though. Bryce Harper isn’t going to be in it. Mike Trout isn’t going to be in it. Kris Bryant isn’t going to be in it. David Ortiz declined. Madison Bumgarner wanted to participate, but the MLBPA didn’t like the idea. If you’re wondering how the Derby always seems to have a Hubie Brooks or Brandon Inge in there, it’s because they probably weren’t anyone’s first choice. There are always some irregular sweaters on sale at the Derby outlet store.
This, then, is about the Derby field that I would pick if I had dictatorial powers. The timed part of the format stays, but this is going to be a team game. National League vs. American League. The only thing that matters is raw home run totals after five minutes of swinging for each participant on both teams. I’m pretty sure it should determine home-field advantage, too, but I’ll save that for another, more passionate article.
We can do better with the participants. Yes, I’ll be giddy to watch Giancarlo Stanton, too, but I could see him fighting with Daniel Murphy and Eric Hosmer in the last two rounds. We never get the most exciting possible roster, and it’s time to fix this. Now that we're in agreement, here are the best possible teams for the New Classic Home Run Derby Presented By SB Nation:
Yoenis Cespedes (L)
David Ortiz (R)
You would watch this. Instead of herding together 10 random players out of the 40 best power hitters in baseball, this derby has to get participants who fit into a clearly defined category.
Legitimate slugger batting with the opposite hand
You might remember this idea from a previous article. Well, John Fogerty was sued for plagiarizing himself because he was recording for a different label. I’m still with SB Nation, though, so it’s totally different. You see the nuances now.
More importantly, it’s the best idea I’ve ever had, and I want to make sure everyone really thinks about it this time. David Ortiz hitting from the right side. Yoenis Cespedes from the left side. It’s a combination of cognitive dissonance and unfettered majesty. Can they hit a single ball out? Can they hit several? How many times would they swing and miss? Who is the best switch-hitter that never committed to switch-hitting?
You know that players sit around and talk about this stuff. You know there are bragging rights involved. There’s just one of these opposite-handed slots available, though, so competition would be fierce. Giancarlo Stanton is young, so he can do it next year, when there aren’t so many Marlins.
Aw, heck, put Stanton in there if you want. This is for the people.
Active legend at the end of his career
This is a category that’s rigged to get Ichiro in there, but it’s not like I’m going to say no to Rodriguez swinging as hard as he can until he pukes, either. This slot ensures that we see at least some 450-foot homers, which is supposed to be the point of a Home Run Derby.
Barry Bonds says that Ichiro would win the derby, and I believe him.
The Ichiro of Unlimited Power has been an urban legend for years, and if we can let him fulfill his dream of pitching, we should let him fulfill our dream of a single-minded dinger-happy Ichiro.
Coach or Manager
Not rigged to allow Barry Bonds in! That’s just a happy coincidence, but this would work with Mark McGwire, bench coach. It would have worked when Frank Robinson was a young manager. It would have worked when he was an old manager. Let the older gentlemen relive their glory days on the playing field.
Edgar Martinez wasn’t exactly a home run legend, but he’s sort of the Ichiro of this field. You know he could have hit more home runs if he concentrated on them, and I’m sure he could hit more than a few in a competition like this. As someone entrusted to help his league to home-field advantage in the World Series (screw it, that’s a part of this now), I would imagine there’s a certain amount of pride that would come with him going head-to-head with Bonds.
If you don’t want Martinez, there are other options. Paul Molitor. Robin Ventura. Harold Baines. Wally Joyner. Ruben Amaro, Jr. The field is wide open, and your imagination is the only real problem, here.
Speedster without power
This sounds like it would get old, like we’d have a minute of watching these wee players swing hard and grow tired of it. If all we wanted were to see the balls go over the fence, yeah, this is a good point.
Except this player can also choose to take off after hitting the ball with any one of his swings. Or all of his swings. And when he takes off, the ball has to be fielded by one of the 743 kids colliding with each other in the outfield and relayed to the infield. If they can get it to the catcher before the hitter touches home (we’ll use a force play, here), it counts as a swing. If the hitter reaches home first, it’s a home run.
It’s up to the hitter. Swing for the fences, or look for the ones that split the sea of uncoordinated children. Or both.
Also, thanks for asking, but I can’t take your money until I talk to the lawyers and the league and the players and the players’ association. Though I’m sure I could just hold on to the money, you’re right, so let’s work that out after this article.
Pitcher who has never swung a baseball bat for money
Now here’s where you get the players swinging hard so we can laugh at them, and I promise you will never get tired of it. Neither Jonathan Papelbon nor David Robertson has ever had a plate appearance in the majors. Neither one of them has had a plate appearance in the minors. As far as I can tell, neither one of them had an at-bat in college.
Maybe make this the three-point line of the competition. If either one of them hits one out, it counts as three homers. There are an unlimited pool of pitchers like this — these two are just the ones who have played in the most games without a plate appearance. It’s time. And it needs to be on national television.
There were cuts to these teams, of course. Kyle Schwarber in a cast missed the cut. Bartolo Colon, sweet Bartolo Colon, just had too much power to consider. Tim Lincecum has the most at-bats without a homer of anyone who’s played in 2016. If we expand the field to broadcasters, Duane Kuiper would have a chance at dinger-flavored redemption.
For now, though, we have star trying new things, a living legend, a former legend, a very fast little player, and a pitcher who spends five minutes looking for the bat’s on/off switch. Both leagues could send up a representative. Both teams could stack the deck if they know they have a closer with 20 college homers on the roster.
Or you could just do the same old Home Run Derby. Which was fine last year, sure. At least consider this, though, Major League Baseball. You know that the kids would Glamsaddle each other about this on social media. You know the ratings would be through the roof. You know this.
Please call me.
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Another Derby idea: Let Madison Bumgarner in
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