Bernstein: Let's Spice Up The Home Run Derby

Raise the stakes with new targets, new values and tantalizing near-impossibilities.

Dan Bernstein
July 01, 2019 - 2:38 pm

(670 The Score) MLB has become the Home Run Derby, and we're all living it, for better and worse.

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A desire for the spectacle and value of the baseball leaving the field of play has resulted in what we have now, an actual game more than ever mirroring the funhouse version created as a mid-year sideshow. It has been a perfect storm of marketing and analytics-driven development, with both the people who sell the game and play it agreeing that this is the new normal.

Commissioner Rob Manfred dissembles about this ridiculous ball still being within their acceptable spectrum of liveliness, even as he admits that it has less drag for some strange reason and is flying through the air with little resistance. Meanwhile, hitters are gearing their swings to lift and launch due to higher velocities lowering dramatically the likelihood of scoring by any other more complex means. Instead of hoping for a sequence of fortuitous events, it's more efficient to swing the bat for a good chance of one or more runs at any given time.

All the records are going to be shattered this year. This is no exaggeration.

And it means the annual Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game is more superfluous than ever, all the oohing and aahing over once-impossible moon shots that now occur every day in every park, off the bats of hitters of all kinds of shapes and sizes. We've printed too much home run currency and are dealing with runaway inflation. So let's re-think this, as radically as we want, spitballing some enhancements to an event long past its prime and relevance.

Points for hitting targets would be great, for one thing. Have them set up in the seats and on various surfaces in the deepest reaches of the park. Sponsors of the targets can pledge special prizes for hitting them, even sharing with fans in creative ways -- should Josh Bell bang one off of the giant inflatable taco 450 feet away, for example, everyone in Pittsburgh gets a freebie the next day. And make one round only opposite field and at one point require a really small-barreled bat.

Raise the stakes with a tantalizing near-impossibility too. Set up a tablet somewhere that if hit would mean everyone in attendance gets one. The company responsible can insure against the slim chance if it wants, as there are contest insurance companies that exist solely to craft such policies.

Different point values for different balls would also be cool, color coded for certain bonus situations. A dinger of a given distance means one immediate ensuing chance for a value-doubled MegaBall or something. One can be just made of powder like that gag golf ball, randomly placed to explode into a cloud of comedy wackiness on impact.

And let's make the kids on the field matter, the ones shagging the non-homers. Send them out there representing a group of charities, designated by a uniform, and play the old game of "500" we did: a catch on the fly is worth the most, with each bounce lessening the value of a cleanly fielded ball. Fans can pledge donations that will then be matched by corporate sponsors, with the boys and girls fielding for a variety of good causes.

It all has to change somehow, because the game of baseball itself is now stealing the Home Run Derby's whole bit. I'm open to anything.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.