SI’s Tom Verducci with the “why the heck didn’t I think of that?!” idea of the year: change the Home Run Derby to suit a bracket format, not unlike the NCAA basketball tournament.
Here’s how it works. You get 16 participants. The nine leading home run hitters are guaranteed entry. The host team gets one entrant. (It still boggles the mind that Justin Upton wasn’t selected in Arizona nor Billy Butler in Kansas City.) The defending champion also gets a spot. That leaves five wild card entrants. The Home Run Derby Committee, a panel of baseball officials and media personnel, will select the wild cards based on . . . well, let’s be honest: you pick the five remaining guys people most want to see.
The committee seeds the players one through 16 — not based strictly on leagues or home run totals (though the two guys with the most home runs should get the 1 and 2 seeds), but generally on the most entertaining matchups. This is entertainment, folks.
It works like the NCAA brackets. You go head-to-head against another player. It’s one-and-done or survive-and-advance. Each player gets 10 swings. The higher seeded player chooses to go first or second. The one with the most home runs moves on. Simple. In the event of a tie, the one with the longest home run advances, putting a premium on putting on a show.
Such a change would benefit everyone, from the fans watching, to the various media entities out there (ESPN et. al. would have their own bracket creation tools), to the writers, to the TV station covering the affair, and so forth. I love this idea to pieces.
The Home Run Derby, in its present format, takes too much unwarranted criticism but it certainly isn’t perfect and could stand to make a few changes. Granted, adopting a bracket format is a fairly big change, but the Derby has undergone plenty of changes in recent years. In 2005, the Derby took eight competitors, each from different countries. From 2000 to 2003, the Derby used a bracket format for its semifinals and finals (but not for the first round).
If I may suggest one additional rule: Wily Mo Pena must participate.