MLB Needs to Follow the Lead of its own Marketing Department for the Home Run Derby
Updated: Sep 6, 2022
MLB Needs to Follow the Lead of its own Marketing Department for the Home Run Derby
Written by: Daryl E. Robinson
Watch any MLB game these days and you will be inundated with messages to send (Blank) to Hollywood for the 2022 MLB All-Star Game. The July 18 exhibition at Dodger Stadium currently is halfway through the first phase of voting and illustrates both the good and bad of fan balloting. Young stars and players demonstrating breakout years find themselves battling teams with huge fan bases, especially the entire nation of Canada’s support for their sole team in Toronto. However, while the starting line-ups may not be 100% what MLB needs to showcase the game; all teams will be represented, and eventually the majority of the game’s best will be on the field in the Midsummer Classic. The Home Run Derby, which will be contested the night before, has no such hurdle to overcome!
The Home Run Derby has been able to withstand the change in times and evolution of athletes far better than other skill-based competitions affiliated with all-star festivities in other sports. The Slam Dunk contest on Saturday night used to be the must-see event of NBA All-Star Weekend; but the lack of superstar participation, and the physical limits of what is left undone, make the Slam Dunk contest just another part of the event. And the NHL Skills Competition as a whole suffers the same fate as the NHL, entertaining but hardly watched until the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, Major League Baseball sees its Home Run Derby deliver ratings nearly as much as the game a day later, and following the lead of their marketing arm to create a “Hollywood Showcase” would only help.
For those not in the know, the current format is an 8-man bracket for the derby. There are four representatives from the American League, and four from the National. These 8 are then seeded 1-8, and three rounds of head-to-head homers lead us to our champion. The two-time reigning champion is Mets 1B Pete Alonso. “The Polar Bear” won in 2019 in Cleveland, and after no All-Star break due to Covid-19 in 2020, Alonso came back to win again in 2021 at Coors Field in Denver. This makes the number one seed the easiest to place, as Alonso goes for the three-peat, and takes one of the four NL slots. The rest of the seven will be based upon highlighting the transcendent stars of MLB that can help grow the game, as well as showcasing a couple of future Hall of Famers.
First, we will complete the National League. As mentioned above, Pete Alonso represents the NY Mets and takes the one seed as the two-time reigning champ. Joining Alonso on the side of the Senior Circuit, I find the mix of Juan Soto of Washington, Joc Pederson of San Francisco, and Albert Pujols of the St Louis Cardinals as optimal to showcase the game’s youth, put on a show, and say thank-you to a legend. Soto gets the nod over Bryce Harper, Ronald Acuna, and Mookie Betts simply due to the fact of health. Harper, the 2021 NL MVP, has been relegated to a DH role all season due to a UCL sprain in his throwing elbow, and now is missing time thanks to an infected blister on his left hand. Betts would be an excellent mix of both an exciting young player, as well as a hometown Dodger; unfortunately, he is hitting the 10-day IL due to a rib ailment, and his participation in the ASG itself may be in doubt, much less the derby. Same with Ronald Acuna of the Braves. He and Betts are battling for the vote lead in the NL, and both most assuredly will be voted to start, but after going down in early July last year to a torn ACL, he might elect to sit out the game itself and definitely would be better off not participating in the extra action on Monday night.
Pederson, whose pearl necklace supplemented playoff run for the Braves and fantasy football-based assault at the hands of Tommy Pham have had him in the public eye for reasons than his on-field success, has had a solid power showing to start the 2022 campaign. His 15 homers have fueled him to third in NL outfield voting at press-time. This is especially impressive as he tends to sit against left-handed starting pitching. Combine that number, with the fact that Pederson began his career with the Dodgers, and even though he now wears the uniform of the hated Giants, he would most certainly get a warm welcome from the Southern California faithful. Pederson would most certainly put on a power display, and should you want more star power for this spot, the new LA Dodger Freddie Freeman could fill this slot. Other candidates capable of blasting bombs in this slot who may not be as well-known on the national stage include Braves 3B Austin Riley, Rockies 18 CJ Cron, and Diamondbacks 1B Christian Walker.
The final NL slot goes to Albert Pujols, as a final showcase on his way to Cooperstown. Pujols may only have 4 HRs thus far this season, but his career 683 jacks more than earn him a spot in this event. Nobody knows how many homers he has left in-game, and his numbers have not earned him a nod to the Tuesday night game, so why not give him one final highlight at baseball’s midseason celebration!?!
For the American League, you could also go with a future Hall of Famer in Miguel Cabrera. Although he is not officially on a farewell tour, letting him take his hacks just after eclipsing both 500 homers and 3000 hits seems apropos. Joining Miggy on the AL side, I have Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, and Yordan Alvarez. Judge leads all of baseball with 25 dingers currently, and is the clear AL MVP front-runner at this juncture. Plus, he is one of the young faces of baseball, and the face of the most celebrated organization in the sport the New York Yankees. My judgment is his participation is a no-brainer!
Mike Trout has been the best player in the bigs over the last decade, plays for the other LA-based team the Angels, and also can hit bombs. If you wanted international flair in this spot, you could easily go with Trout’s teammate and last year’s AL MVP Shohei Ohtani, and get no complaints. Particularly in light of his less than explosive performance in last year’s derby, I have no doubt he would not mind giving it another hack. Either way, it gives you an LA-based MVP superstar capable of providing lift-off and showcases two of the AL’s brightest stars.
Finally, I chose Yordan Alvarez simply for young power. Being that he wears an Astros uniform, he may pass on this chance in Dodger Stadium, in light of the Astros cheating scandal surrounding the 2017 World Series versus LA, even though Alvarez did not debut with Houston until his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2019. Alvarez currently is day to day with a hand injury and may opt-out of consideration for health concerns anyway. With that in mind, you could go with both Angels’ stars, or consider Blue Jays second-generation 1B Vlad Guerrero Jr, Twins OF Byron Buxton, Rangers SS (and former Dodger) Corey Seager, or another Yankees slugger in OF Giancarlo Stanton. If you want the fireworks, Vlad or Stanton is probably the best option. Looking at Alvarez’s injury and team status, and to avoid doubles from Angels and Yankees, I will go with Guerrero. This allows MLB to show appreciation for the Blue Jays ASG voting support, and represent Canada.
Now to seed the participants for the match-ups, other than the one seed which has been allocated to Alonso for coming in as champ, I will use current home-run numbers. Judge gets the second seed for his Major-leading 25 homers at press time, and Trout gets the three slots due to his 21. Vlad Guerrero has 17 and Joc Pederson has 15 blasts, so they will clash in the four verses five matchups in round one. The sixth seed and a date with Mike Trout go to Juan Soto and his 14 homers. Next up are our two Cooperstown-bound sluggers, with Pujols edging Cabrera 4 homers to 3 to take the seven seed.
First Round Match-ups (Seeded #)
Pete Alonso-NYM (1) v Miguel Cabrera-DET (8)
Aaron Judge-NYY (2) v Albert Pujols-STL (7)
Mike Trout-LAA (3) v Juan Soto-WSH (6)
Vlad Guerrero Jr-TOR (4) v Joc Pederson-SFG (5)
This offers a showcase of youth, and power while honoring two great players, and having a few Hollywood-level stars in the field. An exact formula for what MLB needs. Now if we can just get the Canadian landslide of starters corrected, MLB will have a proper showcase for two days in July that the game needs for continued growth. But as far as who plays in the All-Star Game itself, that is a discussion for next week!
Daryl E. Robinson is an Atlanta-bred, self-proclaimed “Sports Geek”, guest writer for SportsTimeHQ, and co-host of the Recliner Kings Sports podcast, who now resides in Rapid City, SD with his wife and son. Daryl can be followed on Twitter @derobinson1980 and @reclinerkings. In his off time, he obsesses over Braves, Falcons, Dawgs, and Hawks, plus pop-culture nostalgia, especially Jurassic Park and 80s animation.