Major League Baseball has made a few tweaks to this year's Home Run Derby. This year featured two captains in Prince Fielder of the NL and David Ortiz of the AL who selected their squads.
For the AL, Ortiz picked Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez—two fellow players from the Dominican Republic and one fellow player from the Red Sox.
For the NL, Fielder selected Matt Kemp, Rickie Weeks and Matt Holliday—Weeks being a teammate from the Brewers.
It seems liked quite a missed opportunity to have a Home Run Derby in Phoenix, Arizona and not include Justin Upton.
As Brad Allis of the Tucson Citizen writes:
How can you have a home run derby in Phoenix, Arizona and not have Justin Upton involved?
God forbid you give the fans a hometown hero to cheer for in the event. I mean, does crowd noise sound bad on television? Do you not want the hometown fans getting behind their guy?
Allis gives examples of great hometown efforts by Lance Berkman in Houston and Ivan Rodriguez in Detroit that made for an exciting event for the fans. He also criticizes Prince Fielder's picks for the NL team.
In the end, Upton should have been the captain. It is his home field after all. Instead it went to Fielder, who bypassed Holliday’s teammate Lance Berkman, the National League leader in home runs, and also skipped Ryan Howard and Jay Bruce, both who have 18 dingers.
Matt Holliday does have just 12 home runs this season, so Justin Upton with 14 wouldn't have been a bad pick by any means.
Sure, the New York Yankees have Robinson Cano representing them, but his 14 homers is nothing compared to Mark Teixera and Curtis Granderson who each have 25.
Lance Berman with 23 home runs isn't participating either. Neither is Paul Konerko with 22, Nelson Cruz with 20, or Mark Reynolds with 20. No Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera, or Carlos Pena. Why?
The home run derby should contain the hitters with the most home runs and highest slugging percentage. It also should contain more players overall and less from the same team. The Boston Red Sox and Milwalkee Brewers don't need two players each when there are only eight players in total.
Major League Baseball needs to do more to get fans interested and fans want to see players from their team, especially if they deserve to be there.
With more rounds, the Home Run Derby would be able to include more players. Less outs would prevent players from fatiguing in later rounds.
If the derby included 12 to 16 players, more teams could be represented and more fans would be interested. Then the next round to could play out similarly to the current Home Run Derby—reducing to eight players, then four, then two.
Reducing the number of outs per round to somewhere in the five to eight range would mean that batters aren't swinging more than usual with viewers getting to see more of their favorite players.
The All-Star break isn't really much of a break at all, especially for players that are in the Home Run Derby or the All-Star game.
Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, and Matt Holliday are all participating in the Home Run Derby and starting in the All-Star game. Certainly, these events aren't as intense as actual games, but it still can concern an organization.
Players will often skip participating in the Home Run Derby due to concerns that it will ruin their swing. Organization often don't allow their pitchers to participate because they are expected to start when the All-Star break is over.
The current All-Star break is just three days, but if Major League Baseball wants the Home Run Derby and the All-Star game to be filled with more top players and be more interesting to the fans, extending the break may be a good idea.
One of the new tweaks to the Home Run Derby this season was the addition of team captains. Prince Fielder and David Ortiz were both able to select their squads this year. It's an interesting idea and may have been more entertaining had the MLB done more to promote it.
Instead, baseball would be better serving the fans to make it more like the All-Star game and have voting determine the participating players.
That way it'd be less likely the fans would have to miss out on Paul Konerko and Curtis Granderson swing the bat.