Replacing the HR Derby with a Skills Competition

We’re only three weeks into the season and MLB has already released the All-Star ballot for the 2012 mid-summer classic. That means speculation about who will participate in the Home Run Derby.

Too bad, really. I’m tired of the Home Run Derby. I’m tired of the complaints about who’s in and who’s out. I’m tired of the talk about whether participants change their swings to win the Derby. I’m tired of “back, back, back, back, back.” I’m tired of the only non-game activities during the All-Star festivities being about home runs. Because baseball is so much more than home runs.

In that spirit, I propose that the Home Run Derby be replaced with a baseball skills competition. The NBA and the NHL put on skills competitions during their all-star weekends. Sure, they’re a bit goofy, but they do a pretty good job of highlighting the different aspects of the game. Here, take a peak. First, the highlights from NBA’s 2012 Skills Competition:

Dribbling, passing, shooting. Yeah, there’s not a lot of defense involved — unless you count the human-shaped pylons. But it’s better than watching guys shoot bombs from half court.

The NHL’s Skills Competition is a good model for what baseball can, and should, be doing. It features tests in speed, shooting accuracy, hardest shot, breakaways, elimination shootout and it includes a relay race like the NBA’s dribble, pass and shoot. Here’s a clip from the fastest skater competition. If you’re really interested, you can find more clips on YouTube.


I propose an All-Star Week baseball-skills competition that features tests of speed, pitching accuracy, hitting accuracy, throwing accuracy and throwing distance. Sure, there are injury concerns. But if these players can do it without getting hurt, I bet the major leaguers can, too:


What would a throwing accuracy competition look like? I’m picturing a mechanical runner on first, a ball-shooting machine at the plate, aimed at right field. The home plate machine lofts one into right field, the mechanical runner takes off for third base and the right fielder tries to do this:


Or you can have the mechanical runner at first, a pitching machine on the mound and a catcher behind home plate. The pitching machine serves up a fastball, the mechanical runner goes toward second and the catcher tries to do this:


There would be two separate throwing distance competitions. One for long-tossing pitchers:

The other for position players:


The winners in each distance-throwing competition would face off for the title of Baseball’s Furthest Hurler.

The speed test would be just like what the little leaguers do. Kind of like a pretend inside-the-park home run but without the outfielders crashing into the wall:


What say you, baseball fans? Is it time to replace the Home Run Derby? TV ratings for the Derby, broadcast on EPSN, were up slightly last year. And MLB got a lot of mileage out of its Derby-related social media plan. But ratings for the All-Star Game itself were down, to less than 8 million viewers, the fewest number of fans to watch the mid-summer classic since it was first broadcast in 1967.

I favor All-Star activities that showcase all of the skills and excitement of baseball. Do you agree? What would your skills competition include? Tell us in the comments. Every movement has to start somewhere.

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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and You can find her work at and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.