Someone looked at baseball and asked, “What’s the most outlandish and absurdly interesting method that could decide the outcome of a game,” and our colleagues at The Onion … oops! … I mean real baseball executives in charge of the Pioneer League, have apparently found the answer — sudden-death home run derby.
No, this is not the drunken ideology of a frat boy swinging a big orange Wiffle ball bat at an empty Natty Ice can. This is a decision that an actual baseball league actually made.
“To avoid the excessive strain on [their] pitching staffs,” the Pioneer League, an independent MLB partner league, is gonna hit some dingers and go plakata to decide a game. Hey, it works for hockey. After an overtime period, they go to a shootout, which is one of the most electric things in sports. Soccer does the same thing. So why not baseball? (Hears loud collective screech from baseball purists’ heads exploding while yelling “BECAUSE NOT BASEBALL!”)
There seems to be a movement lately at the lower levels to attempt to innovate the game of baseball and try new things. The Atlantic League recently decided to move the pitcher’s mound back 12 inches, in an attempt to curb an ever-increasing strikeout rate. Maybe injecting a baseball game (maybe I shouldn’t use “inject” and “baseball” in the same sentence, eek) with the pure fever pitch of a home run derby with a game on the line isn’t the worst idea in the world.
But no, this will never make it to the Majors — at least, I don’t think it will? But, as baseball aims to appeal to a new generation in the launch angle era, I’m not surprised that they’re giving this a try at the lower levels. To me, though, hitting more home runs isn’t what the game is missing. The game is missing contact, base hits, stolen bases, and an approach at the plate that isn’t “home run or bust.”
The soft-toss meatball pitches makes the MLB Home Run Derby the spectacle that it is. Is this home run derby the same? Are they wheeling out the assistant hitting coach to serve up lobs, or will the batter be facing the other team’s closer? What will the defense be doing, since they don’t need to be playing defense? Do all five pitches have to be strikes, or can the closer throw five straight sliders in the dirt? There are a lot of questions still to be answered. Regardless — not gonna lie — I’m looking forward to highlights of this experiment making the rounds on Twitter, hopefully accompanied by some epic “walk-off derby dinger” bat flips.