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Mookie Betts on Home Run Derby: ‘Do something else or take it out’

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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 was joined by teammate J.D. Martinez as well as Yankees sluggers Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the non-participation pool. Angels outfielder Mike Trout also declined to participate.

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.

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.