Have you ever gone to a movie that you didn’t think you were going to enjoy? You probably didn’t end up liking it very much. It’s just the way the mind works.
Well I went into the 2015 Home Run Derby thinking it was going to be a failure. I like to think of myself as a baseball purist, which of course means that the pace of play doesn’t bother me. I could sit on the couch for a few hours with a drink and a meal, relax and watch these machine like men hit the ball nearly 500 feet all night.
Of course, as a baseball purist, I like the records. It’s all about the numbers. Never again would we see somebody have a night like Josh Hamilton had at Yankee Stadium in 2008 or like Bobby Abreu at Comerica Park in 2005. To me, there was nothing better than sitting there all night and watching the game’s best power hitters chase these unbelievable records.
It turns out it doesn’t matter one bit!
The only thing more exciting than watching Prince Fielder stand at a plate for half an hour and taking pitch after pitch, is having him stand there for four minutes and feel the need to swing at everything with all the power he has. This event was tailor-made for Vladimir Guerrero in his prime who could have a blind man pitch to him with his feet and it wouldn’t make a difference.
There’s something about being on a clock that amplifies drama in a way that nothing else can. Baseball is my favorite sport, heck, my favorite thing in the world, but nothing beats a Peyton Manning drive in the final two minutes or Michael Jordan winding down the clock only to do the inevitable yet again.
Throw out of your mind for a minute the inside the park home run and unassisted triple play. The most exciting thing in baseball has to be a walk-off home run. Baseball has now given us the opportunity to see them hopefully every year at the derby and again, with the time winding down, nothing could be better.
We still haven’t even gotten to my favorite part. In year’s past, players would compete against a field of other guys. They didn’t know who they needed to beat or what number would get them to the next round. The head to head matchups and brackets format change that and in my mind, all for the better.
Yes, Fielder would have made it out of the first round in the other format, and he probably deserved to last night as well, but he can’t blame anybody but himself. There’s nothing better in sports than one on one. As sports fans, our dream matchups are always head to head. Who wouldn’t want to see Lebron James go one on one against Michael Jordan or Clayton Kershaw face Mike Trout with the World Series on the line? Maybe that last one is a So Cal natives dream, but it holds true. The best competition is a direct competition. It’s how competition is at its highest, rivalries get started, and results are best for the fans.
If all that drama and competitiveness wasn’t enough and you just like watching as many home runs as humanly possible, then the new format is for you too. In the 2014 derby there were 78 home runs, which lead to an exciting night. In the 2015 derby there were 159 home runs, the most of any home run derby ever.
So let’s review the equation. I WAS WRONG. More home runs + faster pace + head to head competition + unprecedented drama = A successful night and a much improved if not perfect home run derby format.