Point/counterpoint: Has the Home Run Derby lost its luster?

BY DI SPORTS STAFF | JULY 13, 2009 7:15 AM

Duller than dishwater

It’s not easy to say, but the glory days of the Home Run Derby are behind us. Though the derby is far more exciting and enjoyable than the actual All-Star game for many, it has lost its fan and player appeal in recent years.

Tonight’s lineup is abysmal compared with lineups from the past. The NL lineup is actually somewhat respectable with Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez, and Prince Fielder, but the lineup the AL is sending for the competition is a complete joke. Who wants to watch Carlos Peña, Brandon Inge, Nelson Cruz, and Joe Mauer swing for the fences?

Mauer, though on fire with a .373 batting average, only has 15 home runs for the season so far.

That’s good enough for 24th overall in the AL. They are actually sending out the No. 24 home-run hitter in the league for the derby. Such players as Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, Evan Longoria, and Jermaine Dye all have more home runs than Mauer and more fan appeal than any of the AL representatives.

When I see a lineup like the one the AL has selected for the derby, the only conclusion I can come to is the competition has lost its appeal for the players. The AL had to practically beg players to participate, which is probably the only reason Mauer is in.

What’s really sad to say is the derby has probably gotten worse because of the MLB’s crackdown on steroid use. The days of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Jason Giambi sending earth-shattering, performance-enhanced bombs into the bleachers are long gone. And even though we knew the players were probably juiced up, it was incredibly entertaining to watch.

Ten years ago, the Home Run Derby was like a heavyweight boxing match, a battle to claim the title of King of the Long Ball for a year. Now, the derby feels like it is held out of necessity. I’m going to guess a majority of people had no idea who was even in the competition before reading this.

I have hope the derby can one day get back to the level of entertainment we enjoyed a decade ago, but until then, we have to settle for the All-Star game itself for enjoyment during the break.

— by Clark Cahill

Hey, hey, no way

Everyone digs the long ball.

The 2009 Home Run Derby is in St. Louis tonight, and it is guaranteed to be entertaining. The long-ball festival is consistently one of the highest-rated cable programs annually — more than 9 million watched last year, earning ESPN a 6.4 household rating. People love the derby.

Last year’s edition was epic. Texas Ranger outfielder Josh Hamilton belted a record 28 first-round homers in old Yankee Stadium. The crowd went nuts. The announcers went nuts. I went nuts. It was simply a fantastic thing to watch.

This year is going to be even better. The old Yankee Stadium was a more pitcher-friendly park than the new Busch Stadium, and look what Hamilton did. This year’s derby features the league’s home-run leader in Cardinal first baseman Albert Pujols, who will be in his home ballpark with his fans cheering him on.

The other participants are some of the biggest names of the sport. Prince Fielder, St. Louis native Ryan Howard, and Joe Mauer are all in tonight’s event. How can one argue it’s losing any luster? The competition has consistently brought in some of the best hitters in the game, and this year is no exception.

The only argument one can have against the derby is that it goes on for too long. I acknowledge that the competition is a bit of a marathon in its present format, but what else is there for sports fanatics such as myself to watch on television tonight? Nothing.

This is the summer. All that is aired are reality shows, reruns, and baseball games. The fireworks that explode inside the new Busch Stadium will be enough to keep you entertained for the full three hours.

I love the Home Run Derby, and I always will. With excellent television ratings and excellent ballplayers participating, it’s safe to say that everyone indeed digs the long ball.

— by Travis Varner

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