KANSAS CITY -- With the "sideshow" (as Indians closer Chris Perez called it) that is the Home Run Derby coming Monday night, I can't help but think that Major League Baseball is capable of a bit more with this showcase. It's a captive audience, among baseball fans, with nothing else in the sport going on. Considering all the great athletes -- especially among the exciting crop of youngsters taking the league by storm -- can't there be some skills competitions like the NHL and NBA put on?
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I came up with a few ideas. Obviously you want to showcase every tool, if possible. There could be an "inside-the-park home run," timed. How about some sort of accuracy competition among pitchers? Or outfielders, throwing from deep in the outfield and trying to hit a spot in the infield. Another good one for outfielders: Launching three balls in intervals (say, five seconds apart) to different parts of the outfield and seeing if they get to all three.
So, yeah, this is a "just for fun" idea. I have no illusions it would ever be allowed to happen. If you want a serious post, go read what I wrote about Andrew McCutchen. Anyway, I asked several players about my ideas or if they had any of their own. Here's what I got ...
“Long toss," said Chris Perez, without hesitation. "Like back in elementary school, the softball toss."
"Derek Lowe is pretty good," Perez answered when asked who might win. "He's 39 years old and still gets a good crow-hop and launches it. In this room [among All-Stars], I would say [Josh] Hamilton.”
It's worth noting that Perez really loved his idea, as did I. Of course ...
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones liked the idea of the inside-the-park home run times, and also added that outfielders could do the accuracy competition from different spots while also measuring velocity. Could he win anything? "No, [the other All-Stars in the room] are way better than me."
Rangers starting pitcher Matt Harrison and I kind of collaborated on an idea where pitchers could have a competition to see who hit their spots the best, like having targets with different sets of points. And who does he think would win? "I'd probably say [Rangers teammate] Joe [Nathan]."
“How about the dizzy-bat race?" Orioles closer Jim Johnson said with a laugh. “Or sacrifice bunt competition for pitchers? Make points available like shuffleboard?”
After discussing some ideas with more players and thinking over how these things might play out, I realized it's probably not a great idea. If this is the best we could do, it's probably not worth discussing further.
Or, I'll allow National League Home Run Derby captain Matt Kemp to put it more succinctly:
"The Home Run Derby is all you need," he said. "I don't think there is anything else that wouldn't be boring."