Home Town Frazier Takes New Look Derby
July 13, 2015

When Cincinnati Reds slugger Todd Frazier was down 14-9 in his final home run derby round to Joc Pederson of the Dodgers this evening, and then started to attack with about two minutes to go, ESPN's Aaron Boone yelled “We've got drama!” Excitement? Yes, Home runs? Absolutely—the most ever. Drama? When all is said and done, not really.

Frazier completed his round with 14 home runs, tying Pederson, then in his first swing in bonus time of 30 seconds, hit one out to left center, taking the Home Run Derby championship 15-14. The crowd went wild, people at home were undoubtedly screaming at their TVs, and you have to believe when the ratings numbers come in, they'll be pretty good. The competition though, really wasn't very indicative of players talents in a lot of respects.

They changed the format this year, and overall you could probably say for the better. Instead of having a parade of hitters, with the top four making it to the semifinals and the top two after that batting for the championship, this year it was a single elimination tournament. The player with the most home runs in the regular season would have a head-to-head battle with the player who had the lowest total, number 2 would face number 7, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5. Good idea. Actually, great idea. It made all the difference in the world.

Another change, though. Instead of each hitter getting 10 “outs” (non-home run balls) to hit as many long balls as they can, this year it was a four-minute timed round, and 30 seconds of bonus time if you hit one homer of 425 feet or more. Balls were flying out at a rapid rate, not a lot of players taking pitches from their batting practice throwers. Early returns seem to indicate that everybody thinks this is a great idea, too. It's not.

With eight participants in a single-elimination tournament, that means there are seven one-on-one competitions. All seven were decided by one home run, and only one time (Pederson beating Albert Pujols in one semifinal) did the player who batted first (the lower-seeded player) win. This isn't drama at all, and with apologies to all you basketball fans out there, is like the NBA playoffs. Very few upsets, and if there is one early, that team (or player in this case) will lose next time anyway.

Overall, though, an exciting change to an event that was beginning to resemble (again with apologies to NBA fans) the slam dunk contest. It needed a revival and it got one. Maybe next year they can keep the bracket format but go back to each hitter getting so many outs. Maybe fewer than ten, or have some rule that no hitter can take more than say two pitches in a row. You may have loved the derby, and this was one of the best ones in awhile, but it was pretty lopsided. Give it “time”, and then you will see, clocks do not belong in baseball.

All-Star pregame: The rosters are set for tomorrow's Mid-Summer Classic, and if you are one of those people who think that not every team needs to be represented with a player, consider this. There are 75 All-stars this year. 75! If you count players that were selected but can't play due to injury, pitchers that pitched on Sunday and are still recognized but aren't eligible to play, and guys who actually do get to put on the uniform, there are 75 different players. 34 players are active on each team. A major league roster is only 25. Yes, no matter how many players you have, someone will be snubbed, but 34 is more than plenty. It's perfectly fine to have a Philadelphia Phillie, or even two.

Competitive advantage?: The National League should win tomorrow because they have more guys on the team busted for steroids tham the American League. With no Alex Rodriguez on the AL squad, this year they only have designated hitter Nelson Cruz. The NL has shortstop Jhonny Peralta and catcher Yasmani Grandal.

Local All-Star moment: Remember how cool is was a couple of years ago when Robinson Cano's father was his pitcher for the home run derby? A local dad gets a similar dream this week in Portland, Maine. Yuba City's Brock Stassi has made the Double-A All-Star game on Wednesday, and will participate in that league's derby. Brock is a former Gold Sox MVP, and his father, Jim, who is a Gold Sox coach, has flown across country to pitch to him. It may not be on ESPN or national television, but what a moment, and congratulations to both.

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