The Astros may get rid of Tal’s Hill and that train

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Tal’s Hill is that little hill in center field at Minute Maid Park. It probably represents the dumbest flair-for-the-sake-of-flair design element of any ballpark in baseball. And, based on Zach Levine’s report in the Houston Chronicle, it may be gone soon, along with that train above the outfield:

Add the train high above left field to Tal’s Hill on the list of Minute Maid Park quirks potentially on the chopping block.

Owner Jim Crane said Wednesday that the club will weigh removing both features before next year when it moves to the American League and rebrands.

“Those are two things people question me about all the time and those are logical,” Crane said. ”We’re going to do our marketing research. We’re going to study it.”

The train could stay or go, who cares. But if there is market research that supports keeping a freaking hill on the playing field, I submit that such research should be ignored.

Bryce Harper defeats Kyle Schwarber 19-18 to win the 2018 Home Run Derby

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Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.

Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.

Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.

As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.