The Home Run Derby is Far More Fun than the Slam Dunk Competition
It didn't use to be this way.
There was a time--only a few years ago where Major League Baseball's "Home Run Derby" had become a multiple hour, long, slow paced slog of a broadcast/event that often chased the few people watching to sleep.
It was so dull, the calls for it to be eliminated grew every year.
But to Major League Baseball's credit, they heard the complaints and made some adjustments---making the yearly competition one day before the League's All-Star game a much shorter, fast paced and fun to watch event.
Instead of having what seemed like an hour to complete a turn, the players squared off in mano-y-mano competition with 4 minutes to hit as many "Batting Practice" pitches out of the park as they possibly could.
The players could earn bonus time for hitting at least two balls 440 feet (try that at home).
The changes made for arguably the most fun competition you could possibly think of despite most every big name player in the American League not being willing to participate.
Maybe it took a round or so to get jumping but when it did---it was one heck of a sight to see...
Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs isn't a "Household" name---though you could argue he will be. Baez lost in the 1st round to Max Muncy (who?) of the Dodgers. But not before Baez hit a 479 foot home run....
What made things interesting though---the clock. It produced some crazy last minute comebacks, including this one by Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs. Schwarber made it to the final round largely because of this crazy flurry of bombs...
Your winner---home town hero Bryce Harper who despite having (for him) an awful season, put on an absolute show and did the same thing to Schwarber that Schwarber did to Philadelphia's Rhys Hoskins in the previous round including the bonus time walk-off for the win....
If you've read this far--you're probably asking yourself--ok, we just got a recap, what about the headline criticism?
Well, that's my point.
The NBA Slam Dunk Competition once created excitement on the same level. It no longer does. Yes, you can easily say both events don't draw the "Top Tier Talent" and you would not be wrong.
Though I would argue--Harper and Freddie Freeman of the Braves are two of baseball's best. Baez, Schwarber and Hoskins are soon to be. Though I should add they're all National League players.
The Slam Dunk Competition has been watered down a ton. Players get multiple turns if they miss. You get guys who while ungodly athletic, are almost always at the end of their teams bench. The marquee guys don't participate. At all.
Back in the Michael Jordan/Dominque Wilkins era, the event was absolutely captivating. And on occasion, it still can be. Though recently it has been an absolute waste of time.
The Slam Dunk Competition is subjective. It is based on the votes of guest judges. Or to be perfectly honest---the opinions of said judges. The most athletic dunks are often not rewarded the same way the showiest ones are.
Which is the problem.
For all of its warts, the Home Run Derby is about performance. There are no do-overs. You either hit home runs or you lose. You don't get rated/scored. Either the ball goes out of the park or it doesn't.
Yes, while it used to be an interminable bore of an event largely plotted around the endlessly boring drivel of ESPN and it's broadcast team (mostly the formerly insufferable Chris Berman), it's now about the performance---in the batters box.
Which is why this year...and hopefully the following years will make the Derby "Must See TV"....