I love the Home Run Derby. A fairly recent addition to the All-Star Game festivities (it’s televised tonight, at 8PM, check your local listings), it pits the big bats, like David Ortiz and Prince Fielder, head-to-head in a contest to see, you guessed it, who can hit the most homers. It’s fun. It’s a family thing. Some of the players bring their small children onto the field with them, and they sit together on the sidelines in special tiny uniforms. I could squeal from the adorableness of it. Even though David Wright was never quite the same hitter after whacking a record 16 home runs in the first round of the 2006 competition, the HRD is one of my favorite pro sports events of the year. (‘Cause according to Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, “chicks dig the long ball.”)
But the All-Star game itself? It’s become a charade. Who cares who gets voted in? Who cares that your kid voted, like, a thousand times for Derek Jeter, C.C. Sabathia, Mariana Rivera, José Reyes, Justin Verlander, A-Rod, or Chipper Jones? They’ve already been yanked out, substitutes announced, either because their managers don’t want to risk injury to their superstar players, or, in the case of José Reyes and Alex Rodriguez, they’re already injured.
And if the superstar pitchers nominated by the managers of their respective teams have pitched in the last couple of games before the break, like Rivera and Sabathia, they are automatically yanked because of rules Major League baseball has set up to protect the pitchers.
I understand injury prevention. I’m a Mets fan. Half our team is injured at any point in the season. We just lost José Reyes, the team sparkplug, to a hamstring pull. Even if he was healthy, he might’ve been yanked. What manager these days wants to risk their best players for a game that essentially doesn’t count, is nothing but PR?
But if the superstars aren’t going to come out, that not very good PR.
So I think they should ditch the All-Star game altogether. Save our overpaid thoroughbreds for the pennant races. And how about using all that great media time and goodwill (and still give Major League players a few days off midseason) to highlight the accomplishments of minor league ball players? How about an All-Star game for the guys coming up? I still crow about watching José Reyes play for the Binghamton Mets, before the Mets drafted him. Wouldn’t it be great to see, in prime time, the next A-Rod? The next Derek Jeter? These guys work hard, often on their own time, or for not very much money. Give them a shot at the big time, or a bonus; give them some publicity, a big hand for how hard they work, and let the MLB superstars spend the break on ice.
I’d definitely watch that.