There is no denying the transcending allure of the home run. The explosive sound of the bat making ample contact with the ball and marveling at the rate it soars over the landscape are already enough to make it the most exciting play in baseball, but the spontaneous and metamorphic nature of the event itself is what truly gives the home run its everlasting appeal and stature.
The triumphant trot around the bases signifies the victory lap of the more powerful man, evoking heroic images of these competitors that stay with us long after we leave the ball park. However, this scenario only takes place in a real game with real emotions and real consequences. The Home Run Derby doesn’t come close to recreating or rivaling that experience in my book.
This isn’t to say the derby isn’t entertaining to watch. On the contrary, I’ve spent plenty of time watching baseball’s best sluggers knock homers out of All-Star ballparks during my younger years and into adulthood, but I’ve never made it a point to watch the derby. If it’s on the tube I’ll check it out while I’m doing other things around the house, but it’s not really a big deal to me.
When I found out Yoenis Cespedes had been named to the competition I thought, “That’s pretty cool. A steak burrito would be great for dinner tonight.” (And it was.)
While the lack of any real effect on the regular season is a big reason I’m not enthralled with the derby, a lot of my indifference stems from the monotonous mood of the display. For every majestic blast that makes fans drop their jaws, we have to sit through countless pitches that aren’t swung on, as well plenty of line drives and pop-ups for three long hours.
While people lament the increase in average game time in recent years as it inches closer and closer to the three-hour mark, we still have plenty of fans willing to listen to Chris Berman and Joe Morgan blather on and on about nonsense while watching a competition that doesn’t really count for anything for roughly the same amount of time. We even have fans willing to pay outrageous prices to watch what basically amounts to glorified batting practice.
Speaking of Berman, his “back-back-back-back” call makes me want to sit on a tarmac so I can go deaf. I used to be a fan of his, but he’s become a mere caricature that just shouts in an attempt to hide the fact he’s not really giving any interesting insight.
It’s always fun to see the best in the business launch some gigantic homers but it can only hold my attention for so long. I’ve never been much for any kind of sports exhibition that doesn’t have any bearing on real games. I’m drawn to sports because the fierce competitive environment of the game breeds compelling drama in its most raw, carnal form. While the derby is a competition, knowing it is ultimately inconsequential is what precludes it from really igniting my passion.