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Just Give Me the Game: Pre-All-Star Game Ramblings

Here are a handful of thoughts that I forgot to include in last night's post about Magglio Ordonez's performance in the Home Run Derby.

As I mentioned, I only briefly peeked in on the Home Run Derby - and it only took one Chris Berman "back, back, back!" to remind me why I didn't want to tune in. But it's easy to rip Berman these days because he's become such a caricature. Besides, it's not entirely truthful to say he's the reason I can't watch. The derby is just a slow, monotonous event, punctuated by occasionally impressive feats of power.

Sure, watching Vladimir Guerrero pump a ball 500 feet, far into the outfield seats is impressive. But how long do you have to wait, how many pop outs or "regular" home runs do you have to watch, how much inane banter do you have to listen to, before you get to see some true thunder?

I left a comment in response to Billfer's All-Star notes post that I'll repeat here: I know it's not an original thought, but one way to jazz up the Home Run Derby would be to reduce the number of outs a player gets. 10 outs is just too many. And what if the hitter is on a roll and keeps cranking out a bunch of home runs? You still have to sit through the other 10 swings where he couldn't get the ball over the fence. It's torturous.

Give the contest a sense of urgency by allowing players only three to five outs. Some would probably say they need the extra at-bats to get warmed up (and the results probably back that up). I'm saying I need shorter rounds and fewer outs to keep me interested.

While chilling out with Mr. Big Ten Hardball between games of a Saturday evening doubleheader at Fisher Stadium, we watched a few of the University of Michigan players keep themselves occupied, amused, and loose by playing pepper in foul territory away from the stands.

Actually, I don't know if it was truly a pepper game. Four or five players were standing in a semi-circle, bunting the ball into the air, and each player would try to bunt it back up before it hit the ground. Maybe that's not a true pepper game, but that's what I'm calling it.

Anyway, as we were watching, I said to Brian, "That is how Major League Baseball could jazz up All-Star Weekend. Forget the Home Run Derby. Get a group of three or four players together and see how long they can keep the ball in the air. There's your skills competition."

Am I out of my mind? Would you watch major leaguers bounce a baseball between them, hacky sack style? Get some dudes in there with handheld cameras, and you have yourself a television event. It'd probably be more exciting for the people in the stands, too.

Okay, here's the real reason the Home Run Derby causes a viscerally negative reaction in me. In 2002, I helped my sister move to Charleston, SC for a new job. On her first day of work, I was set to take a 6 a.m. flight to Detroit, and she dropped me off at the airport beforehand. Unfortunately, that flight was canceled due to mechanical troubles, and I couldn't get another flight out of Charleston until the next day. And since it was my sister's first day at the VA hospital, calling her to come pick me up wasn't really an option. But I wasn't going to sit in an airport for 12 hours until she got off work, either. So I opted to get a hotel room. Charleston's airport is small and doesn't have a on-site hotel, so I took a shuttle to a Ramada Inn nearby.

As you might imagine, there wasn't much else surrounding the hotel besides other hotels and fast-food joints. So I was pretty much restricted to my room for the day. Sure, I slept off my early wake-up. But that only ate up part of the morning. Going downstairs to the hotel bar wasn't really an option (though I probably should've given that stronger consideration). I didn't have any swim trunks, so hanging out at the pool didn't hold much appeal, either.

That left lying on my bed and watching TV. And the only thing even remotely viewable (that didn't involve adding to my room charge) was ESPN's replay of the Home Run Derby. And since it was so early, I think they might have repeated the show throughout the afternoon. That meant hours of "back, back, back... gone!" from Chris Berman, a bunch of snark from Curt Schilling, and sweaty, (allegedly) steroid-fueled long ball swing after swing after swing between Jason Giambi and Sammy Sosa.

Look, it was either that or watch "The View" and soap operas, okay? I tried to read a little bit, but my original plan for the morning was to buy reading material in the airport terminal, so I didn't have much, other than USA Today, and how long was that going to hold my attention? (By the way, I have never been without a book on a trip since then.)

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why I can no longer stand the Home Run Derby.