Monday night's Home Run Derby had social media buzzing, and for good reason. Vlad Guerrero Jr. was worth the price of admission on his own, as was the actual winner of the competition, Pete Alonso, who doubled his salary by taking down Vladdy Jr. in the final. Joc Pederson and Ronald Acuna Jr. impressed as well. There were tons of mammoth homers, and words like ELECTRIC and EPIC and UNREAL were used in ALL CAPS to describe the proceedings. And there were GIFs, so many GIFs. All in all, it was a great night for Major League Baseball.
That said, there is something still missing from the All Star Break. Glorified batting practice and what's now a meaningless, often juice-less All Star Game just don't cut it (they should bring back home-field advantage in the World Series to the winning league * ducks *). The week needs something bigger, something more special, more entertaining.
It needs a Skills Competition.
Every other league does it. The NBA's All Star Weekend is king, and the NHL's Skills Competition does plenty to satisfy its niche fan base. Hell, even the NFL has a wacky Skills Showdown during Pro Bowl week now, and it includes freaking dodgeball. Surely, the MLB can do better than that.
We've got a few ideas for what a MLB Skills Competition could and should look like. Feel free to call us when you're ready to discuss, Commissioner Manfred.
This is what got us thinking about our hypothetical Skills Competition in the first place. You know who needs to learn how to bunt more than anyone? The current crop of MLB stars. It's not all 440 foot dingers and bonus time in the real world. Learn how to move a runner over for me one freaking time.
Let's take a page out of the NHL's fastest slap shot competition and do fastest pitch for the MLB, shall we? You get three pitches, fastest is the one you use. There is nothing fans love more then seeing the MPH of something slapped up on a screen. Speaking of ...
Fastest run around the bases
Fastest pitch followed by fastest run. Speed kills, folks. You do these two challenges back-to-back and people will be on the edge of their seats. Never mind the fact that you're practically begging for guys to get hurt in both instances.
Speaking of injuries, this is another surefire way to get one. Then again, it is a skill, and this is a SKILLS competition. Let the kids slide!
Throwing from the outfield
To avoid injury in what's quickly turned into a "who will get hurt first?" competition, you could do this like the NBA Skills Challenge where there are passing nets all over the court. You put one at third base and home plate, maybe with a painted box in front of the base for one-hoppers. So the net would be big enough to catch throws on the fly and on the one hop, provided they hop inside the parameters of the box. No two-hoppers or dribblers allowed.
Throwing out runners
You would need guys to run (and potentially slide head first?!?!) for this, which, again, is asking for injury in an "All Star Break" competition, but hey, you could just as easily get hurt on NBA All Star Weekend and that seems to be going just fine for the Association. Let's live a little, people.
Properly beaning a batter
Fine, we'll use a practice dummy and not a real human batter for this one, ok? But I don't care what anyone says, properly beaning a guy and avoiding the head is a skill that absolutely still belongs in the MLB considering every slap hitter in the league can hit 10 homers and pimp them all now. Put a little paint on the baseballs and see if pitchers can learn how to not only paint the corners, but paint a batter's ass.
Essentially the MLB version of the NBA Dunk Contest. Get a couple of legendary pimpers, Jose Bautista, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, etc., and have them judge bat flips on a 1-to-10 scale. Highest pimp score wins (maybe don't call it highest pimp score though...).
Sunflower Seed/Bubble Gum/Chewing Tobacco ... eating?
MLB Skills Competition meets the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. Who says no?
Arguing with the umpire
These last two even get the managers involved. I'm all for peak participation from everyone involved.
Breaking a bat over your knee
This one may have been better suited for the steroid era, I'll admit.
Literally recreate the hitting mini game from MVP Baseball 2005
Now we're getting somewhere.