On the bright side, the Home Run Derby isn’t rigged

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MIAMI, FL - JULY 10: Justin Bour
MIAMI, FL - JULY 10: Justin Bour /
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After buildup to the event was higher than it has been in recent memory, the Home Run Derby was an absolute dud. That isn’t what MLB had in mind.

The Goliath vs. Goliath matchup that we all wanted to watch in the Home Run Derby never came to pass. The evening was regarded as the main event for the All-Star festivities, and the event that most were looking forward to watching.

It was supposed to be one of the All-Time best Home Run Derby’s. The two main contestant’s were expected to run roughshod right through the competition, and meet in an epic derby finals. That didn’t happen, and interest waned after that.

The product was so poor, there is an argument to be made for Major League Baseball tinkering with the format in the future.

The night got started with a softball matchup that nobody was really looking forward to all that much. Save for Twins fans and Royals fans, the matchup between Miguel Sano and Mike Moustakas was barely on the radar. It came and went, and Sano won the head to head.

That’s when Gary Sanchez put on a home run clinic. The powerful Yankees catcher blasted 17 home runs in the first round. Impressive. The Miami Marlins slugger and reigning champion only managed to hit 16. After months of press and advertisement, he was eliminated in four minutes.

It was as if someone has sucked the air out of the room. The following round might as well have been held in a funeral home. Cody Bellinger defeated Charlie Blackmon, but everyone still in too much shock to care.

That’s when Justin Bour put on the best show of the evening. He ate doughnuts, waved his arms at the crowd, and blasted 22 home runs with his allotted time. Aaron Judge hit 23, and just like that, the Miami Marlins no longer had a horse in the race.

Format casualties

The rules were the same for all the players involved, and the Marlins sluggers deserved to lose under these rules. Sanchez and Judge put on a show for the fans and won fair and square. But who ultimately lost here was Major League baseball.

Nobody was looking forward to the match ups that were on their way: Sano vs. Sanchez, Judge vs. Bellinger. SnoozeSnoozeSnooze.

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If Major League Baseball were still using the format they used when people really cared about the Home Run Derby, the four highest totals would have advanced. And you know what? That would have been a dream come true from a business standpoint.

If the four highest totals had moved on, it would have been: Judge, Bour, Sanchez, and Stanton. Two players from baseball’s most recognizable brand, and two from the host city. Plus, the two players they hoped would meet in the finals would have advanced, inevitably blasting stacks of cash over the wall for the league.

Instead, we got two semi-final rounds, and a finals round that were boring to watch. The players were gassed. The totals for each round barely surpassed 10, and nobody hit more than 13 for the rest of the competition.

It was the worst Home Run Derby since 1988.

Not what MLB had in mind

This isn’t the outcome Major League Baseball was looking for. Obviously, they were praying that Judge and Stanton would meet in the finals. Ultimately with Judge winning. When the Yankees are good and have a legitimate star on their roster, the league as a whole thrives.

Judge still won the contest, but there was no intrigue en route to hoisting the trophy. Each round felt like a formality. The event lacked the “new kid on the block” angle that had been pushed for weeks ahead of time.

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Will this cause Major League Baseball to reconsider the format for the derby? Perhaps move to something less cumbersome? Who knows. If they were watching the same Home Run Derby everyone else was, they’ll have noticed it isn’t conducive to getting the most out of the contestants.

What was supposed to be an exhibition in power became a snoozefest. That isn’t what Major League Baseball had in mind. If nothing else, it confirms that the games and events aren’t rigged; they would have never fixed an event like this one.

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