I have to start by saying that the home run derby (like the NBA slam-dunk contest) hasn’t really interested me since I was about 15. It’s over-produced, irrelevant to any real baseball skill, rarely won by the “right” guy, and generally boring. Oh, and ESPN’s coverage, led by Chris Berman and Harold Reynolds, is atrocious.
That said, this newest idea to “enhance” the derby is pretty dumb. Never able to miss a chance to sell baseball fans on something they don’t have any interest in, Selig & Co. have decided to “kick off the countdown to next year’s World Baseball Classic” by making the home run derby a contest not between eight of baseball’s top sluggers, but between representatives of eight baseball-playing countries.
So far, here’s the lineup:
Andruw Jones – Curacao
Bob Abreu – Venezuela
Carlos Lee – Panama
Jason Bay – Canada
Pudge Rodriguez – Puerto Rico
David Ortiz – Dominican Republic
USA and Japan are still looking for their representatives.
This is just silly. I’m fine with A.Jones in the derby, but Curacao? I’m anxiously awaiting their entry to the World Cup. Jones, Randall Simon, Hensley Muellens, Ralph Milliard, and some guy named Ivanon Coffie.
And Puerto Rico? Is that even a country? Pudge Rodriguez, like all other P.R. natives, has been a U.S. citizen since birth.
It would be one thing if they were just trying to get a top slugger into this thing (like they did with Jones), but Pudge only has 5 HRs.
And who’s going to be the Japanese entry if the Yankee Matsui doesn’t do it? Shinjo? Taguchi? I keep hearing that Ichiro could hit 30 HR “if he tried.” Maybe this would be a good time to see.
Carlos Lee is truly the Panamanian Powerhouse, though. A couple more good years and he passes Ben Ogilve as the country’s home run king.
I suppose they could also have added:
Alex Sanchez – Cuba
Midre Cummings – Virgin Islands
Vinny Castilla – Mexico’s all-time HR leader
Jolbert Cabrera – Columbia
Marvin Benard – Nicaragua
Hee Seop Choi – S. Korea
Sidney Ponson – Aruba
Dan Graves – Vietnam
Chin-hui Tsao – Taiwan