Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Some suggestions to juice up All-Star Monday

Why not stick Carlos in a home run derby?

As the Home Run Derby concluded Monday night, I couldn't help feeling like there was something opportunity that was sorely missed. The Home Run Derby has a certain Herculean draw to it that people love, and there is definitely skill involved in succeeding in it. But power is only one part of the very complex game that is baseball. If Major League Baseball would like to add some more competitions to build fan interest, I think they could and fans would be very receptive to it. Why have All Star Monday consist solely of crap like the celebrity softball game and cap it with one decent event like the Home Run Derby. What if we expanded the Monday lineup a bit?

The NBA does it. They saw the slam-dunk competition's popularity and expanded to include pre-All-Star Game events. Of course, now it has become a bunch of laughable competitions that no one cares about (including the dunk contest), but their hearts were in the right place. These are the events that Major League Baseball could employ for a glorious Monday night of festivities:

Precision Outfield Toss
Tom Emanski's Back-to-Back-to-Back AAU National Champions wouldn't have crap on these guys. Set the players up in center field and put a small bucket at home plate and dare them to throw as many balls out of 10 that they can. The last ball could be a "money ball," a la the three-point competition in the NBA. Come on Andruw Jones, even you and your .211 batting average could go to the All-Star Game this year if you wanted to.

This year's entrants:
Jeff Francoeur, Delmon Young, Willy Taveras, Michael Cuddyer, Josh Hamilton
Winner: Jeff Francoeur
Has a cannon and has 10 assists, second among outfielders. Cuddyer is the obvious choice with 15 assists, but I like to live dangerously on my fake predictions.

Home Run Rob
Everyone's favorite highlight play can come to life over and over again in this competition of skill and style. A coach or teammate of the participant lobs a ball that goes just over the wall or at the wall, and the player must make the catch in the most entertaining way possible. Be it a back flip, a running up the wall a la Bo Jackson or just an old-fashioned cookie jar grab over the fence, this one would look mighty cool. You wouldn't have to limit it to outfielder either as there are plenty of athletic fellows in infields around the Majors who could pull this off with gusto. Judged by a panel including Ken Griffey Jr., Bo Jackson, Ichiro, and Kevin Mitchell (why not?), this would be judged on style and the successful grab.

This year's entrants
Torii Hunter, Jose Reyes, Curtis Granderson, Chone Figgens, Joe Crede
Winner: Curtis Granderson
Nimble, athletic and has an awesome name. Has the right amount of flash to pull this off like it should.

Inside-the-park home run
This one is basically a test of foot speed and not much else. To start, you have to hit a ball out of the infield in the air, then make it as fast as possible around the bases. It could be a great showcase for the league's young speedsters and it would interesting to see if anyone would fall flat on their face.

This year's entrants
Jose Reyes, Carl Crawford, Reggie Willits, Curtis Granderson, Hanley Ramirez
Winner: Hanley Ramirez
He's incredibly fast and seems like he would try more than everyone else. Probably has some kind of inferiority complex to Reyes.

Fungo Precision Swat
As much as the Precision Outfield Toss judges throwing accuracy, the Fungo Precision Swat is about hitting a ball at a specific point. You could pit coaches against players, or, even better, have a team of a player from one team and the coach who hits fungo for that respective team.

This year's entrants
Rangers, Art Howe and Kenny Lofton; Red Sox, Dave Magadan and Kevin Youkilis; Astros, Jose Cruz and Mark Loretta
Winner: Astros, Jose Cruz and Mark Loretta
Homer pick puts Cheo and Loretta in the winner's circle because I want them to be there.

Non-Pitcher Strikeout Challenge
This one pits position players who think they can pitch against high school baseball players. It's simple, you pitch an inning, and whoever puts up the best stats (or least worst) wins. The only requirement to enter is that you can't have pitched a single pitch in the Majors. So, guys who did it up in the minors or high school, feel free to jump right in.

This year's entrants
Richie Sexson, Aaron Rowand, Vladimir Guerrero, Shane Victorino
Winner: Vlad Guerrero
High school hitters are so terrified that Vlad will hit them that they whiff while falling out of the batters box.

Pitcher's Home Run Derby
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You scoot the fence in about 15-20 feet and let the pitchers go to town. The only requirement would be to have pitched the minimum amount of innings to qualify for the statistical leaders list at the All-Star Break. The comedy of this one would be unrelentingly hilarious.

This year's entrants
Carlos Zambrano, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Hampton, Kerry Wood, Dontrelle Willis
Winner: Carlos Zambrano in a landslide.
Things Carlos Zambrano does well: hit home runs with excellent frequency for a pitcher, emphatically pump him fist after striking someone out, punching Michael Barrett.

Understandably, some of these competitions might push away some players for fear of injury risk, but just as happens with the NBA dunk contest, there will always be youngsters out there looking to make a name for themselves any way they can.

Reasonably yours,

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Joe Ruiz said...

First off, how can you not have Ichiro in your ITPHR competition?

Second, how bad of an All-Star weekend is it when the Celebrity game (I can't even say that without cringing and thinking back to the MLB official who asked me if I was staying to cover the Celeb game after covering the Futures in 2004 @ Houston).

Third, thanks for using my fantasy team name - we'll try to take it easy on you this week.

Joe Ruiz said...

I guess I should have finished my thought on the Celeb game. How sad is it that it's on Sunday and shown on tape-delay?

Do people really get into it?