All-Star game needs more attention than Derby

Published 9:36 am Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Home Run Derby took place Monday at Yankee Stadium and Josh Hamilton put on a show.

Hitting 28 homers in the first round was impressive to watch and connecting on 13 consecutive swings was an amazing feat.

But was it as big of a deal as it has been made out to be by everyone?

Email newsletter signup

In short, no. The story behind Hamilton and his return to baseball is obviously the bigger story, but did everyone suddenly realize this story as the guy pummeled pitches into the stands at Yankee Stadium? I don’t think so, instead it seems that people have an absurd obsession with the Home Run Derby.

The story was unavoidable Tuesday. I was driving around town, listening to KFAN at various stages of the day and every time I got in my car, one of the personalities was talking about the Home Run Derby. Paul Allen seemed to have devoted a couple of hours to the thing, in addition to complaining that Erin Andrews was not wearing more revealing clothing during the show. Dan Cole “The Common Man” opened by talking about the derby and offered his usual over-the-top take by asking if people actually pay to attend the event. Dan Barrerio talked about it ad nauseam that he had to stop taking phone calls about it because he was sick of it.

While some believed that the Home Run Derby isn’t a big deal, callers and e-mailers felt otherwise. Some thought Morneau was slighted because everyone focused on Hamilton. Come on. Nobody should feel that passionate about a home run-hitting contest. It’s a fun event to watch; Hamilton hitting 28 homers was cool to see, let’s leave at that.

What Hamilton is doing this year during the regular season is more amazing than anything he does at batting practice. His 95 RBIs rank among the most ever at the All-Star break. How he has been able to turn his life around is more amazing than hitting a baseball of a sign in Yankee Stadium.

As for Morneau and Twins fans getting upset he didn’t get his due, Morneau even said Hamilton deserved it. I am more concerned about Morneau having a strong second half of the season instead of him not getting enough attention for winning a home run derby. The man has an MVP, I believe that’s recognition enough. He is also having a fine season. What I hope is fans don’t have to hear about how Morneau screwed up his swing in the derby and that’s the reason he is having such a poor second half of the season.

The Home Run Derby is the fun part of the All-Star break and people shouldn’t get worked up about it. Discussion topic? Sure. Sour grapes? No.

What’s clear is that more people pay attention to the Home Run Derby because of its instant gratification than they do the actual game. The whole, “Now it counts” slogan adopted by MLB as a away to ameliorate the debacle in Milwaukee has done little for fans. If anything it has angered fans. The players aren’t going to play harder because it could win their league home field advantage; they’re happy with the huge bonus they just got for making the All-Star team, giddy that they have a few days off.

If the game is going to count, MLB will have to do more than award home-field advantage. It’s going to have to change the way managers use pitchers and hitters. They ought to arrange the break so pitchers can be accommodated so it will not affect their ability to pitch for their clubs. A return to when the guys played the game a little harder would be refreshing, don’t make sure everyone plays, play to win the game. That way ties won’t happen like it nearly did again Tuesday. The American League was down to its last pitcher, and the National League had already brought in its. The game would be far more interesting if the starters played longer. Pedro Martinez mowing down hitters always sticks in my mind as a great moment in All-Star history and it would have been better to see what he could have done the rest of the game.