Major League Baseball's Home Run Derby is the best All-Star event in the sporting world.
The long-ball extravaganza trumps the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point Contest, and it's certainly better than the skills contests that the NHL has to offer.
This year's ball-mashing blitz won't disappoint. The American League and National League are both bringing quality sluggers to the table. All eight competitors are capable of setting off fireworks with each swing of the bat.
The challenges that take place on the All-Star weekends of other sports are exciting, but they just don't measure up to the Home Run Derby.
Let's see why.
I'm not saying that hitting a slap shot at 100-plus MPH is easy, but hitting a baseball 400-plus feet is harder. Derby pitches may be coming much slower than normal, but you still have to square up a ball with a nine-inch circumference.
The same goes for dunking a basketball. Obviously, putting the ball through the hoop isn't easy, but there are fewer factors to affect the outcome.
Baseball pitches, whether fast or slow, can be altered by the slightest gust of wind and the smallest fraction of an inch when ball meets bat.
In addition, the batter has little control over where his handpicked pitcher spots the ball around the plate. He just swings his bat in a repeatable manner and hopes his technique works.
The Home Run Derby doesn't incorporate basketball's creativity, but it involves the most difficult skill in sports: hitting a baseball. For that reason alone, it's the best All-Star event in professional sports.
I don't want to see All-Stars do things I know they can do. I know NBA players, if they are 6'0'' or taller, can dunk. It just doesn't have the same impact. On the other hand, baseball players, no matter how skilled, have to repeat a swing with many moving parts. Hitting is a very technical process, and those things are never easy to mimic on a regular basis.
Hitting a home run during a real game is one thing, but the Derby's marathon pace makes it all the more difficult to sustain powerful swings.
The NHL's fastest-shot contest falls into this category as well, but it's the only one that's even comparable. I'm going to compare the Home Run Derby to the NBA Dunk Contest again for the most part, only because it's the other most prominent All-Star event.
You can't judge a home run. It's impossible. I suppose you could judge dingers by the feet they travel, but a home run is a home run.
That's not the case in the NBA Dunk Contest. A panel of judges is needed to appraise the value of each contestant's performance. That taints the event, at least for me.
The Home Run Derby has no quantitative justification for anything. The ball either clears the wall, or it doesn't.