In the past, the home run derby was a spectacular event that took place the Monday night before every All-Star game. It is supposed to be a family friendly event that features the game's best power hitters. Over the years, fans have been treated to many great performances in the home run derby. Josh Hamilton at Yankee Stadium in 2008. Mark McGwire at Fenway Park in 1999. Bobby Abreu at Comerica Park in 2006. However, it seems that the competition has just become a joke and a mockery of the game.
This year's participants include Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, David Ortiz, Matt Holliday, Nick Swisher, Corey Hart, Chris Young and Vernon Wells. Why are players that hit doubles being slotted into the competition? Despite the fact that he dropped out of the competition, Robinson Cano was originally slated to participate in the home run derby. When you think about the best power hitters in the game, Robinson Cano doesn't even cross your mind. Most of the players in this competition are players that plateau at 25-30 home runs per season. Are these honestly the best we can get?
The sad part is that these probably are the best players MLB can put onto the field. Many players opt out of the competition because it hurts their mechanics. This is yet another reason to abandon the derby. Why continue to have the competition if it's going to hurt players when it really matters? It's not worth it to hold this silly little competition if you're just going to put average power hitters in and advertise it as "the league's best" on ESPN.
If the home run derby were abolished, it wouldn't be as if MLB would be destroying a long standing tradition either. The first home run derby took place in 1985. There wouldn't be too many purists and traditionalists that would be against it. It's only use is as "family bonding" time for the players and as a revenue booster for the league.
What's funny and sort of ironic is that steroids is what made the home run derby as great as it was. Many of the greatest performances in home run derby history have come at the hands of steroid users (See: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds). Steroids have ruined the derby because now if records aren't broken then the fans go home disappointed. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but other than that absurd Josh Hamilton performance in 2008, you're probably not going to see players hit more than 15-18 in a round. If baseball wants to put steroids in the past, getting rid of the home run derby would be another step in the right direction.
It's a fun competition but there's just not as much excitement surrounding it anymore. MLB just throws any average hitter having a fluke season into the competition and expects them to perform. Look at what Brandon Inge did last year. He was having a career year with over 20 home runs at the all-star break and put up a goose egg on the big stage. The only way the league could make the home run derby better would be to get the real power hitters into the competition. That won't happen though because of advanced scouting regarding mechanics. Players just don't want to risk screwing them up over a little friendly competition. There's too much money at stake for GM's as well and I'm sure they have something to say about players who want to participate. Just get rid of the derby and baseball fans won't lose any sleep at all.