I know, I know. "Everybody loves the Home Run Derby," I can hear you saying. "Only some kind of pinko commie fruity boy doesn't like the Home Run Derby!"
Well, I don't like it. And I'll tell you why.
To me, the Home Run Derby is everything that's wrong with the modern game of baseball. It's just glorified batting practice; a bunch of power hitters up there hacking away at bp tosses, trying to hit the ball further than everyone else. Maybe I'm wrong, but last time I looked, actual baseball involved more than just swinging really, really hard.
The weird thing is, I am completely one of those people who always gets to the ballpark early, just to watch batting practice. I love watching guys take their hacks, trying to groove their swings, and launching ball after ball into the stratosphere. That's fantastic. You can see guys in the middle of a slump trying to make adjustments, trying to shoot the ball the other way or figure out how to keep their front shoulder from flying open. So much of the minutiae that makes the game special right there on display, two hours before first pitch, just waiting to be discovered by those intrepid souls who care enough to seek it out.
But somehow, once you take those quiet moments of batting practice, moments that exist only for players and coaches and those lucky few in the stands, and run them through the ESPN hype machine, what you get spit back out at you is awful. Instead of the hushed murmuring of lifers and the occasional excited outburst, you get Chris Berman and his ridiculous schtick. It's vulgar and noisy and above all else, irritating, yet somehow the man has become the soundtrack to the modern sports world.
Last year, when Josh Hamilton put on such a display in the Derby, everyone was in awe of his accomplishment. I remember thinking to myself, "What accomplishment? He's the best at batting practice. Awesome. Now, what in the hell does that actually mean for the game?" Sadly, I'm not sure I have an answer even now. I assume it's only a matter of time before we see competitions between pitchers to see who can throw a ball the furthest, or guys running wind sprints for crowds of excited onlookers.
So will I be watching the Home Run Derby? Of course I will; while I am a sanctimonious prick, I do manage to offset it by being a massive hypocrite. All I really want out of it, though, is to see Albert Pujols come through with his elbow intact. As long as taking 80 or 100 max-effort swings isn't the straw that finally broke the camel's UCL, then I'll just sit over here in my corner and complain quietly about the good old days. If not, well, then I won't be held responsible for whatever might happen.
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