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3 tweaks that are needed to perfect the Home Run Derby

MLB’s Home Run Derby is the crown jewel of the Midsummer Classic, but a couple small fixes could make it even better.

MLB: Home Run Derby Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Was Kyle Schwarber robbed of a home run in last night’s Home Run Derby?

For those watching the Phils’ right fielder in his opening round, sudden-death playoff against Cardinals legend Albert Pujols, it certainly appeared as if there may have been a counting error that robbed Schwarber of a crucial dinger.

Upon first viewing, it sure does look like one of Schwarber’s home runs did not get counted during that final 40-second flurry, denying him a homer that would have left him tied 20-20 with Pujols, but pitches and swings and fly balls and home runs were coming so fast and furious during the last half-minute that it was almost impossible to keep track.

Not only that, it sure appeared Pujols had one of his home runs count when a pitch was thrown after the buzzer.

What is up with that?

The Derby is an awesome spectacle and one of the most enjoyable events on the baseball calendar, but that situation made clear there are a few tweaks that should be made to help reduce the event’s length and make it a bit easier for fans (and broadcasters!) to watch.

Wait Until The Ball Lands

Part of the issue with the Schwarber homers was that ESPN may have just simply and inadvertently missed one of them because he was pounding them so closely together. It certainly appeared as if play-by-play announcer Karl Ravetch missed some, too. Pitchers were throwing to the participants before previous balls had even landed, which meant people couldn’t watch the entire flight of any of the home runs, making it harder to count them. A ball would just be beginning its down-plane when the next pitch was on the way.

Not only does that make it impossible for fans watching on TV, or in person, to keep a count themselves, it’s also a bit dangerous. Fans watching a ball sail out of the park can’t also be watching when the next ball is hit and pick it up mid-flight, so there is a danger of someone getting hit. It also robs fans of watching to see where some of those moon shots landed. You can’t watch the ball the whole way if you have to turn and watch the next pitch before it’s landed. If we want participants to hit the ball 440+ feet, shouldn’t we make it so fans don’t have to stop watching at 280 feet?

Pitchers should be forced to wait until a ball lands before the next one is thrown. It will make the homers easier to count and more satisfying for fans to watch.

Too Much Bonus Time

The Home Run Derby was old and stale until MLB instituted timed rounds. It brought a level of excitement and drama to an event that seemed to drag on forever until a player made 10 “outs.” It was a welcome change.

That said, the rule needs updating.

Each hitter gets 3 minutes in each of the first two rounds, but then all hitters automatically get an extra 30 seconds at the end of the round. Why? (I’m hoping there’s a better reason than “so we can jam another T-Mobile ad in your faces.)

If everyone is going to get a “bonus” 30 seconds, it’s not really a “bonus.” Players also get an additional 30 seconds if they hit two or more home runs at least 440 feet. Pretty much every participant does that, which turns each round into a four-minute round. It’s too long.

Eliminate the unearned 30-second bonus and either make it a 3:30 timed round, or 3:00 flat. Then, make a player hit at least five homers 440+ feet to earn the extra 30 seconds at the end of the round. That would really reward the players who were putting on the best show and provide extra incentive for players to muscle up.

No More Brackets

If MLB wants to seed the players 1-8, that’s fine, but the benefit should simply be to give higher-seeded participants a little extra time on their rounds (5 seconds?) and/or choose when they want to hit. But having a bracket-style set-up potentially denies the best performers from moving on.

Last night, Corey Seager of the Rangers hit 24 home runs in the opening round, falling to Julio Rodriguez’ 32. However, no one else in the opening round topped 20, so even though he hit the 2nd-most home runs in the first round, he was eliminated from competition.

I do, however, understand that the head-to-head match-up adds for extra drama, so I have an alternate proposal. In the first two rounds, do not match players against one another. Allow the four players with the most home runs advance to the 2nd round and then allow the top-two performers in that round advance to the Finals. The final round would then be a head-to-head competition.

You could probably get away with head-to-head in the second round, but it should be the top four performers emerging from the first round of the competition, ensuring the best performers move on and give the fans the most bang for their buck.

There you go, three simple tweaks that would perfect an already-good product, making it a more watchable event, ensuring the best sluggers are in the event longer, and tightening up the length, as well.