SweetSpot: Home Run Derby



That was my favorite tweet of the night about the Home Run Derby. Unfortunately, while Giancarlo Stanton hit the most impressive home run of the night -- a towering shot into the third deck at Target Field with an official distance of somewhere between "430 feet" and "moon," Stanton failed to reach the final after putting up a goose egg in the semifinal round.

Stanton not reaching the final summed up the disappointing first three rounds of the contest -- a slow-moving, rain-delayed affair that saw Yasiel Puig put up his own zero and Todd Frazier somehow come out of the National League side of the bracket despite hitting a total of nine home runs in three rounds. Maybe it isn't the best-designed contest if someone can reach the final after "winning" 1-0 in the semifinals.

On a cool 58-degree night in Minnesota, the balls weren't flying like they were a year ago at Citi Field in New York, when temperatures topped 90 degrees. The towels to wipe off sweaty foreheads were mostly ceremonial this year.

Luckily, Yoenis Cespedes came to the rescue in the championship round, slamming nine home runs, matching his second-round total, the second-highest of the night behind the 10 that Jose Bautista hit in the first round. Included in that barrage was a 446-foot shot and a 452-foot blast, the longest "true distance" home run of the night (it had a projected actual distance of 509 feet, one foot behind Stanton's projected longest distance of 510).

Cespedes became the first back-to-back winner since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and 1999, cementing his reputation as one of the premier BP sluggers in the game.

The new format seemed to draw mixed reviews on Twitter and in our ESPN chat, with many fans not liking the seven outs players were given instead of 10. The other criticisms were some of the big names that were missing, most notably White Sox rookie Jose Abreu, the major league home run leader with 29. My guess is it wasn't the format that was a problem as some of the low home run totals -- Puig's zero (joining a long tradition of Dodgers faring poorly in the Derby), one from Frazier in the final, and two apiece from hometown Twins hero Brian Dozier and former Twins hero Justin Morneau. At least those two received rousing ovations from the fans, one of the nice moments of the night.

Weather aside, you do wonder if the format will be tweaked next year. Admittedly, one of the issues with the Derby is that ESPN fills a three-hour time block; the event would clearly work better at two hours. Heck, Bautista had to wait nearly two hours after hitting in the first round and getting a bye before hitting again in the third round.

But let's be honest: In a way, Josh Hamilton ruined the Home Run Derby back in 2008 at Yankee Stadium when he blasted 28 home runs in one round. That was an unconscious display of power ... something we're not likely to see anytime soon.

So don't hold the contest up to that standard every year.

And Jose Abreu -- please join the fun next year.
The Home Run Derby is baseball's premier individual competition. It's also the game's only individual talent competition.

While the NBA and NHL All-Star events feature multiple contests, baseball has just the derby. Maybe it's time for some additional contests that showcase some of baseball's most valuable and cherished skills.

Foul Ball Competition



Home runs are great, but it's much easier to hit them when a pitcher is worn down from having to throw a lot of pitches. In the Foul Ball Competition, contestants try to foul off as many pitches in a row as they can, driving up the pitcher's pitch count. And as exciting as watching MLB players hit foul balls can be, sometimes the most exciting action in the Foul Ball Competition is in the stands as fans brawl for the balls rocketing into their section!

Opposite Field Challenge



Featuring the same contestants as the Home Run Derby, but now they're facing an infield shift! Hitting a home run is worth five points, while slapping a single down the line away from the shift is worth one. Doing the latter is ultimately more valuable, though, because it earns the eternal respect of old-time baseball analysts.

Bunt Derby



While chicks may dig the long ball, baseball purists dig the short ball. Here baseball's premier bunters showcase their skills under the bright lights of prime time, dropping dribbler after dribbler inside the chalk. There is no player declared the winner of the Bunt Derby. Because the winner is fundamentals.

Pitching Inside Battle



Why should pitchers be left out of the All-Star competition festivities? This event would feature hurlers who are tough enough to practice the art of throwing inside. At the plate would be a batter recently busted for PEDs. Do the contestants have the guts to brush back someone who could be prone to a violent roid-fueled outburst? Tune in to find out!

Pitcher Home Run Derby



Because the regular Home Run Derby is often lacking in laughs, now we get to see the All-Star pitchers swing for the fences. Or at least the outfield grass.

Veteran Locker Room Presence and Leader Competition



This competition would be part of the regular Home Run Derby. After a slugger completes his first round, he then spends time with his regular team's appointed veteran locker room presence -- a player in his 30s, hitting below .250 -- until the second round begins. If the home run total goes up in the second round, that improvement is attributed to inspiration and intangibles provided by the veteran locker room presence. A trophy would be awarded for this competition, but the winner would inevitably turn it down because he values only team goals, not individual accomplishments.

I have a 15-year-old nephew who loves the Home Run Derby but doesn't care all that much about the actual All-Star Game. That seems a little blasphemous to those of us of a certain age who grew up hating Pete Rose and Steve Garvey and all of those National League punks.

It's easy to be a little cynical about the Home Run Derby, but remember that the kids like it and in the end it's not all that different from the All-Star Game -- it's a vehicle to publicize the sport. (Except the Home Run Derby won't potentially be decided by Brett Cecil pitching to Marco Scutaro.)

This year's combatants -- Robinson Cano, defending champ Prince Fielder, Chris Davis and a to-be-determined slugger in the American League; David Wright, Carlos Gonzalez, Bryce Harper and Michael Cuddyer in the National League -- is a pretty entertaining group.

I'm glad Davis and his MLB-leading 33 home runs and Harper are in it. They are the two guys on the All-Star rosters I'd most want to see in this event. You can argue that Harper doesn't even deserve to be in the game because he was out for several weeks on the disabled list with a knee injury, but don't tell me you're not more likely to watch it now -- especially if you're 15. (And with the right-field overhang at Citi Field, you can expect these two left-handed hitters to put a lot of balls in the upper deck out there.)

As for the final AL participant, team captain Cano says he is still working on it. I think Miguel Cabrera is the guy we all want to see, although Jose Bautista would be a solid alternative. Unfortunately, my dream of seeing Ichiro Suzuki in a Home Run Derby isn't going to happen.

The one odd choice is Cuddyer, who isn't a big name and not among the NL home run leaders. Plus, with Gonzalez, that's two Rockies, and you would think you'd want more teams represented. But as Wright, the NL captain, said on "SportsCenter," he grew up near Cuddyer in Chesapeake, Va., and admitted that this was a bit of a buddy pick.

MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt would have been a better choice, or Phillies breakout outfielder Domonic Brown, but I would have gone with Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who has 22 home runs and as much raw power as anyone around. He would have been a fun guy to watch.

But the New York crowd will get to cheer on Wright and boo Cano, and the rest of us can enjoy Davis and Harper.

SPONSORED HEADLINES