I know I said this would be (mostly) about music. But I love baseball and I’d be remiss to pass up a chance to say just how lame the Home Run Derby — er, Century 21 Home Run Derby — was on Monday night. Never mind that I picked the Rangers’ Mark Teixeira in a low-stakes office pool and he flamed out with two — TWO! — home runs in the first round.
Granted, the HR Derby was never to be taken too seriously. But my gripe is with the new format, in which each player was selected to represent his home country — a not-so-coincidental decision by Commissioner Bud Selig that happened in conjunction with MLB announcing the World Baseball Classic tournament. So, instead of four traditional sluggers from the National League and four from the American League, MLB brings you Hee-Seop Choi (Korea) and Jason Bay (Canada, eh). Couldn’t you just feel the excitement??
Worse, was ESPN abetting this farce. Take, for instance, the introductions at the start of the show. Player highlights and stats were flashed as some tragic band (Alter Bridge … who?) was boring the crowd. Teixeira, representing the United States, was shown and his season HR total flashed on the screen: 25 HOME RUNS THIS SEASON (impressive, so why only two in the first round, Mark?) Then it gets to Ivan Rodriguez (Puerto Rico), who has six — SIX!! — HRs this year. To cover up that fact, ESPN simply flashed his career HR total. Which looks better: 256 or 6? Any other year, it would be a travesty, a sham, a mockery — a traveshamockery! — to let someone with six home runs be involved in something called the Home Run Derby.
Canada’s Bay (16 HRs, respectable) proved how ridiculous this new format was, when he went up there — apparently with a hockey stick — and didn’t register a single dinger. Not a one. Nice. Bobby Abreu (Venezuela) might have saved the whole night with his 24 HRs in the first round.
Instead of simply seeing the best power hitters in the game — regardless of country of birth — launch batting-practice lobs some 500 feet into the bleachers, the whole event turned into this flag-waving, our-country-is-better-than-yours joke. Tonight’s All-Star Game better not end in a tie.