Watching the start of the Home Run Derby as we enter into the Mid-summer Classic break, thinking baseball does the All Star Game right. More than any other major sport, it creates a game that’s both fun to watch and has some meaning – more so now that it determines World Series home advantage.
That said, there are still ways it could be improved upon. Watching the Home Run Derby shows how the teams should look, with the teams looking like a teeam in the American League and National jerseys and black caps with their team logos. The actual game would look better and be easier for casual fans to follow if teammates looked like teammates- and MLB could boost sell some merchandise to boot. I know if I had extra expendable cash, I’d buy an AL jersey with the Jays logo on the sleeve to add to the Toronto wardrobe.
Moreover, am I the only one who’s not entirely enthralled by the Home Run Derby? It’s not totally without appeal or interest (especially in years like this when Toronto has a representative), by the time we get to the last rounds, two or three hours in, dinger dreariness has set in. Then again, one of the few stats that doesn’t impress me much in baseball is the length of a blast. A ball just scraping over the rightfield porch in Yankee Stadium is every bit as much a homer as a ball bouncing off the B&O Warehouse in Baltimore or splashing down in the ocean off San Francisco. Heck, all three might pale in comparison to a ball bouncing around the left field corner at Rogers Centre being turned into an inside-the-park homer by a speedy runner. Still, it won’t stop me standing up to cheer if Josh or Prince end up knocking one into the Ohio River!
As a real baseball fan, I’d prefer to spend the pre-ASG game watching the Prospects game, (this year, only one Toronto organization rep, a pitcher named Jairo Lambourt) to see the players that will be the All-stars of 2020 or 2025. Imagine seeing that game circa 2010 and watching young Mike Trout running down fly balls off the bat of Manny Machado. But the less-than-diehard fans who tune in to see Albert Pujols hit one 500 feet would be flipping to Two Broke Girls if confronted with a game featuring the likes of Tyler Beede pitching to Renato Nunez, so we’ll say that baseball gets that right, too.
Josh Donaldson accredited himself well in the first round of the HR Derby. Let’s hope he left at least one big fly in his bat for tomorrow. The AL will likely need it, given the pitching they’re going to face. I like the American League’s starting position players better than the National’s but am picking the NL to win the game, alas. It’s said good pitching stops good hitting and if so, the AL is doomed. Nothing against Dallas Keuchel, their starting pitcher , but he’s not in the same category as the NL’s Zack Greinke. Greinke starts the game with the lowest ERA -1.39 -of any pitcher this deep into the season since 1968 and riding a 35 2/3 inning streak of shutout innings. In Keuchel’s last seven games, he’s had three losses and a 3.20 ERA. Greinke, in his last 7 has allowed only 30 hits and has a miniscule 0.61 ERA. Not to mention that he is one of the rarities who’s been pitching better on the road than at home. It won’t get much easier when the NL can go to the likes of Gerritt Cole, Madison Bumgarner and AJ Burnett (having his career year) from the bullpen, whereas the best pitcher the AL will have not starting probably won’t pitch. Sonny Gray lowered his league-leading ERA to 2.04 with a complete game shutout on Sunday, thereby rendering him all but incapable of throwing a pitch on Tuesday. My guess: National 9, American 2.
I’ll be watching the game, cheering on the American League, hoping Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin can make some special moments and that Jose Bautista’s shoulder gets better with his four-day break. Mostly though, here’s hoping Alex Anthopoulos’ phone doesn’t take a four-day break and when the schedule resumes on Friday, the Blue Jays will have some new pitching to be excited about.