Sunday afternoon I was watching the Royals give away another game — their 49th loss of the season, compared to just 43 victories — and I thought to myself: "I wish there was something else to watch."
Then it hit me: "Oh yeah! The MLB Futures Game is on!"
Well, it was on, but I only caught the last 12 outs of the game. That was just enough time to see both Royals representatives, Miguel Almonte and Yordano Ventura, but looking at this from a broader scope, this is just as troubling as MLB's lack of internet self-awareness, which I wrote about last week.*
*It dawned on me after last week's post that Hunter Pence, whose official website still lists him as a Houston Astro, was a candidate for the Final Vote. He didn't stand much chance against Freddie Freeman and Yasiel Puig, but still. A player whose only hope of making the All-Star Game was based on his internet popularity doesn't even have an up-to-date official website.
What is the second most exciting day in the NFL's season besides the Super Bowl? The first round of the NFL Draft. What lifted the NBA out of the doldrums of the late 1990s/early 2000s? The influx of young talent in the form of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade. Fans appreciate wily veterans. They tune in for young, dynamic players.
Well, MLB's First-Year Player Draft doesn't conduce itself to must-see TV. College baseball isn't popular. High school baseball is a mystery. MLB.com, ESPN and Baseball America scouts aren't household names like Mel Kiper Jr. or Bill Simmons.
On top of that, NFL and NBA rookies make instant impacts. MLB draftees are thrown into the obscurity of the minor leagues. Only years later can they burst onto the national scene like a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper.
The Futures Game is the only realistic opportunity for baseball prospects to make a splash on a national scale. Why the hell is the game on in the middle of a Sunday afternoon while virtually every MLB team is also playing?
The Futures Game should be on at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN the Sunday before the All-Star Game every single year. Let every MLB team play in the afternoon and showcast the Futures Game in the evening. This should have happened years ago and it's a shame it probably hasn't even occurred to Bud Selig.
It would save diehard baseball fans from having to pick between watching their big league club or watching a game that happens just once every year. It would give baseball a chance to attract the more casual fans who probably aren't in front of their televisions in the afternoon. It would make the experience even more special to the players, who would play under the lights, rather than play in the afternoon like they do on get-away days.
The only obstacle I can think of is I think the celebrity softball game and maybe something else takes place after the Futures Game. My response to that is: So what?
I don't need to see the cast of "Grown Ups 2" scamper around a mini diamond in primetime. That event was made for a Sunday afternoon. Right up there with World's Strongest Man episodes from 1997.
Hold still, my All-Star Makeover is just getting started.
How about a skills competition? Hardest fastball. Strongest/most accurate outfield arm, Tom Emanski style. Fastest player from first to third. Catcher throwdowns to second base and pickoff throws to first and third. Infielder with the most range — sorry Derek Jeter. You can probably think of more off the top of your head.
MLB players shouldn't risk injury in a skills competition, you say? Fine. I don't need them. Keep some future stars around an extra day. Have two or three of them go head-to-head in their respective competition. Use the competitions to break up the monotony of the Home Run Derby.
Won't that make the Home Run Derby insufferably longer than it already is, you ask? No. Shorten the derby itself. Keep it at three rounds. Give them five outs apiece instead of 10. Or leave it at 10 outs but make it two rounds. I actually like that option better. Is there anything (excluding the "No Smoking" alert above every seat on an airplane) more unnecessary than the middle round of a Home Run Derby? If every player gets 10 outs, we don't need a second round to find out who deserves to go to the finals.
So, two rounds in the derby. Have half the skills competition before the first round and the second half before the finals. Start it at 7 p.m. ET and viewers will probably get to bed earlier than they do now. And happier.
They'll be happier because the derby itself will be more interesting in addition to being shorter because I'm still not done.
Enough of this "every home run is created equal" stuff. One that wraps around Pesky's Pole is not equal to one that lands in the San Francisco Bay. Give points based on seating tiers or decks in the outfield. Give bonus points for hitting certain ballpark landmarks. Fountain shot in Kansas City? Bonus point. Apple at Citi Field? Bonus point. Non-gang member at Dodgers Stadium? Bonus point.
Heck, let the players earn style points by calling their shot. If they call a foul pole shot and do it, just hand them the trophy and keys to a new Chevy Equinox right there. I would watch that and actually listen to Chris Berman regurgitate the same basic script he's used since the Reagan administration. Right now I have the derby on mute while listening to the Adam Carolla Show podcast and writing this post and texting and negotiating fantasy baseball trades.
And I'm basically the cutoff for generations that still care about the Home Run Derby. If this is all the attention I'm paying to it, it won't be long before the 18-35 demographic doesn't even register in the event's ratings.
At least the All-Star Game itself is flawless and above reproach.
Fire Dayton Moore
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