Splash Down: It's Home Run Derby Time

Any of those proposals above would help. But if it were up to us, we'd try to attack that extraneous dead time, by which we mean: any aspect of the Derby that doesn't involve baseballs whooshing out of the park, if not the entire area code.

One way, suggests 2006 finalist David Wright, would be a rule that says: "You can only take so many pitches. That way, you can't have guys up there waiting all night for the perfect pitch."

Think that isn't practical? Think again.

We recently found ourselves watching the stupendous, just-released DVD, "Home Run Derby, Volume One" -- consisting of real episodes of the original "Home Run Derby," the 1959 TV classic starring eloquently understated Mark Scott. As we were watching. we were stunned to hear Scott instruct contestants Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, "Now you don't have to swing. But if it's a strike, you'd better swing."

Why? Because they had umpires back there calling those strikes. And hey, who wouldn't want to see that idea added to the modern Derbies? Imagine Bonds getting eliminated because plate ump Joe West rang him up to end Round 2. What fun.

But we also got another idea from watching that DVD. Rather than kill time after each round by parading each hitter over to the official ESPN interview reporter, how about adapting the old Mark Scott trick: Send the last hitter over to the on-field booth to chat with the crew while the next hitter is taking his hacks. Much more efficient. And if ESPN wants to adapt that idea Monday, we'll waive our usual production fee for that one, too.

4. Get creative

The issue: If people like Chipper Jones really do think the Derby has gotten monotonous, we're guessing he isn't the only one.

The solution: Add some fun new wrinkles.

To be honest, we're open to suggestions on this. So feel free to post them in the "Comments" section at the end of this column.

The most innovative ideas we've heard came from Wright, fresh off his own first Derby experience. So here are the three he tossed out there:

"Give more points if a guy hits one out to the opposite field or to center. How about two points for a center-field homer, three if you go opposite-field?"

"You can't use real BP pitchers. You have to have an actual player from your team throw to you. [Author's note: Wright, in fact, did just that last year, using Paul Lo Duca as his personal tosser.] That should add some drama. It puts pressure on both of you."

"On the last out, you've got to use an aluminum bat. All the home runs you hit before your last out are for charity, so we can call it 'the charity bat.' If you hit more homers with that bat, it just means we donate more to charity. That way, everyone wins. The fans get to see more homers. And we give more money to charity."

Oh, and not to mention, there might be a home run some day that clanks off the orbiting space station.

5. Salt flats, here we come

The issue: Folks are getting skeptical that those Derby distance estimates bear any relationship to reality.

The solution: Hold the Derby in a site where no seats, scoreboards, "Hit It Here" signs or corporate sponsors from Omaha can possibly get in the way.

The man responsible for this brainstorm is one of baseball's most creative thinkers -- Dodgers coach/witticist Rich Donnelly, a man who has served up some of the longest Home Run Derby homers ever hit through the years.

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