Even before the 2018 Home Run Derby field was finalized on Wednesday, we had known since May that Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts wouldn’t be among the participants. Betts said, when asked if he had interest in participating, “Hell no. I don’t hit home runs in BP. Can you imagine me going against Aaron Judge?”
Betts, in fact, thinks that Major League Baseball should find a new event to include in its All-Star Game festivities or just take the Home Run Derby out, Rob Bradford of WEEI reported earlier this week. Betts said, “Do something else or take it out. Don’t even do it.” Betts added, “Anything you do too much, people are going to get tired of it.”
Betts suggested doing a skills competition. “Something like a throwing from the outfield contest. Some time of throwing contest. Trying to throw into a barrel or infielders have to take a ground ball to your left, ground ball to your right, slow roller and they have to throw into a screen with a box. That might be something.”
While Betts’ idea is interesting, adding a skills competition wouldn’t have to come at the expense of the Home Run Derby. They could simply do both. A skills competition would be fascinating, seeing the outfield arms of Aaron Hicks, Kevin Kiermaier, Yoenis Cespedes and others put in direct competition with one another. There could even be an event where players try to circle the bases the fastest, pitting Betts against the likes of Billy Hamilton, Byron Buxton, and Trea Turner, among others.
It’s clear that the Home Run Derby is becoming less and less popular among the best players in the league, the exact players we should want to participate. That’s sad, because at least for me, the Home Run Derby has always been enjoyable to watch, even as the event as evolved over the years.
During the “Brother’s Little Helper” episode in Season 11 of The Simpsons, a crowd surrounded then-Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, who was attempting to distract them after discovering that Major League Baseball was spying on them with satellites. McGwire said, “Young Bart here was right: We are spying on you, pretty much around the clock.” Bart asked, “But why, Mr. McGwire?” McGwire responded, “Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?” The crowd chanted, “Dingers! Dingers! Dingers!”
My sentiments, exactly.