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Home Run Derby more exciting than All-Star Game

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The Major League Baseball All-Star Game isn’t what it used to be. It is still the best and most competitive all-star competitions among the major sports, but what made it great is now missing.

When Johnny Bench, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Reggie Jackson and other superstars took the field, some outstanding displays of offense would seem to come from at least one of the fan favorites. More often than not, the latter day game features multiple flame-throwing pitchers striking out multiple batters in their one inning of work.

Before the era of the closer, all-star starting pitchers would pitch the first three innings, then turn it over to others whether they be starting pitchers or relief pitchers. Now, the game is dominated by pitchers who throw an inning at a time for a living.

This year the National League pitching staff contains 14 pitchers, five of which are closers. The American League staff also consists of 14 pitchers, but only five are starters. Sprinkled among the other nine are closers and late-inning set up men.

With that kind of philosophy, it is no coincidence the American League is dominating recent games. They should be big favorites to win Tuesday night’s game as well.

In addition to having a versatile, well-stocked pitching staff, the game will be played in pitcher-friendly Petco Park in San Diego. The ball does not carry well there at night, but playing at twilight might lead to a home run or two when the hitters aren’t swinging and missing.

With offense and home runs lately at such a premium, the MLB Home Run Derby held on Monday night has become just as popular, or more, than the game itself. The old Nike television commercial featuring pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine pointed out their frustration that “chicks dig the long ball.”

When it come to the All-Star Game, so do the guys. It is far more entertaining to watch 488-foot blasts than 99 mph fastballs blowing away the best hitters in the game.

The Derby went far too long a few years ago, but with the format changes, it is more fast-paced. The head-to-head bracket contest featuring eight contestants, was wildly popular among fans in its inaugural run last year.

Monday’s event will feature second-seeded Todd Frazier of the White Sox, who is returning to defend the title he won last year in Cincinnati. After two disappointing performances, Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, seeded fifth, tries again to launch some of the shots only he can hit. Some say he might be strong enough to hit one over Donald Trump’s proposed wall into Mexico.

Tampa Bay fans might have a rooting interest for the sixth seed. Former Ray Wil Myers takes on third-seeded Adam Duvall of Cincinnati. American League home run leader Mark Trumbo of Baltimore is the top seed.

The All-Star Game may not be what it used to be, but the Home Run Derby is better than ever.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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