By Ryan Mayer CBS Local Sports
The MLB got it right.
Who knew that the way to make the Home Run Derby more entertaining was to put a clock on the entire event? The key to the success wasn’t just tweaking the rules and adding a clock, it was further tweaking at the last minute to try and shorten the Derby with inclement weather conditions possibly playing a factor that truly made the Derby into what some are calling the best of all-time.
I love the Home Run Derby because it takes me back to when I was a little kid. I’ve covered that before. But, the new format of the Derby this year seems to be gaining rave reviews from throughout the sports universe. When Deadspin gives the Derby props, you know that the MLB got something right. Now, a large part of the entertainment value came from the dramatics of Todd Frazier who hit buzzer-beating (not normally a phrase associated with baseball, still feels weird to say it) homers in each of the first two rounds and then won in bonus time in the final. With that said, putting a clock on a sport that is notoriously un-timed seemed to make all the difference in the world.
Putting the Derby on the clock made for a more entertaining style with participants constantly swinging for the fences. There were very few pitches taken and less waiting for the perfect one, the way there had been in past years with the outs system. The evidence is in the numbers with 159 homers being hit last night as compared to the 78 total hit in 2014. Part of that of course has to do with the difference in ballparks, (there’s a reason it’s nicknamed Great American Smallpark) but the new format certainly helped.
For an event that had gotten stale and at times boring in recent years, by going outside the box with their changes, the league made it better. The clock manufactured a sense of drama the way that it does in our other sports, a fact that’s amazing in and of itself when you consider that this is just a fun event that’s part of the All-star festivities. When’s the last time it could be said that a Home Run Derby was dramatic?
Overall, the Derby is a microcosm of the league itself and how the thought processes around it are evolving. Rule changes were made to speed up what had become a tedious process much the same way that the pace of play rules has made games shorter during the course of this season.
Baseball has always clung to its traditions and made it a selling point of the game. The un-timed nature of the game has been a celebrated aspect throughout its history. But, this year more than any other has proved that the league is starting to be more forward thinking, be it with an event as trivial in the grand scheme as the Derby, or the rules of the game itself. These examples of forward thinking suggest that maybe the MLB will continue to pursue ways to innovate and bring back the younger generations to the American past time.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email or tweet him.