USA Today Sports

Mookie Betts has a good idea when it comes to fixing HR Derby mess

Rob Bradford
July 10, 2018 - 9:39 am

The Home Run Derby is in trouble.

More and more players are saying, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' when it comes to participating in the All-Star event, including the big league's home run leader (J.D. Martinez), Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, and some more of the game's most dynamic talents (Mookie Betts, Mike Trout).

So, is it time to rethink the viability of the contest, which has been part of the festivities since 1985? Betts thinks so.

"Do something else, or take it out. Don’t even do it," Betts said when asked about the HR Derby. The American League All-Starter added, "Anything you do too much, people are going to get tired of it."

So, what to do? Betts has what seems to be a good suggestion, one which is born from his experience in a baseball tournament as 12-year-old.

Bring on the skills competition. It's a strategy the NBA took when the dunk competition started getting stale ("I think the other stuff, like the bigs and littles, that’s more fun," said Betts regarding the NBA All-Star Weekend.) Now it's time for baseball to follow suit.

Betts explained that there is absolutely a blueprint for such an endeavor, pointing to the youth baseball tournament put on at the Baseball Hall of Fame each year.

"I think if you look at Cooperstown, they do a really good job," he said."

Some of the pieces included in the competition are timing runners and something called "Around the Horn," where an entire team is asked to execute a series of throws to the bases and from the outfield. Betts did it as a 12-year-old ("We won it," he said), and thinks it could work with the game's greatest players. As he points out, if nothing else it's something different at a time it would seem we need something different.

"I kind of think that’s the route you’re going to have to go," he said.

The entire notion of having a skills competition opens the door for all kinds of ideas, such as another Betts thought of.

"Something like a throwing from the outfield contest. Some type of throwing contest," he said. "Trying to throw into a barrel or infielders have to take a ground ball to your left, ground ball to your right, slow roller and they have to throw into a screen with a box. That might be something."

The Home Run Derby isn't totally without its merits, as Red Sox manager Alex Cora pointed out before his team's game Monday night. But when you have more and more and more players choosing not to join the fun, it's a problem.

"It’s great, man. Just sit there and watch it with family. That’ll be great," Cora said. "It wasn’t going to mess up my swing. I wasn’t going to get tired. It should be fine, regardless of who is in there. I know people want to see J.D. but if you guys watch J.D. taking batting practice, it’s not fun because he’s working on his craft. Mookie, same deal. Judge, Stanton, I read they’re not doing it. They have their reasons. There are going to be a few guys there. They have their reasons."

If there was a skills competition, like the one proposed by Betts, maybe fewer would have reasons to participate in the Monday fun. Just a thought.