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July 9, 2004

From the Desk of Vex Peters

The Attitude Derby

by Jim Baker

Editor's Note: Every so often, we lay our hands on a document that was probably not intended for public consumption. We are not at liberty to say how it is we come by these things because we do not wish to compromise our conduit thereto. Suffice it to say, we will continue to make these available to you as long as we can continue to "come by" them.

To: All-Star Planning Committee
From: Vex Peters, Steering Chairman, MLB
Date: July 8, 2004
RE: Home Run Contest Reformatting

I think we have a situation on our hands that needs to be fixed ASAP. Obviously, it's a little too late for this year, but if we address the problem now--and I think I've made a pretty decent start of it--we can have our solution in place in time for the 2005 contest.

As we all know, what really wins baseball games isn't the long ball, it's playing with a winning attitude. You know this. I know this--everybody who knows anything about anything knows this. Why is it then, that we have a contest the day before every All-Star Game that does nothing more than promote the idea that home runs are the single most important thing in the game? It is my belief that any such contest should celebrate what really matters. What we need is a complete overhaul of the whole home run contest concept. We need to go in there and core it out, blow it up, haul away the debris, remediate the ground and build it up all over again in an entirely new format. Question is: how?

I've put my head together with some of the folks in marketing and a few of the competition committee guys and come up with a new approach to the All-Star break festivities situation. This is what we are proposing:

The Attitude Derby
A six-leg contest to determine who really has what it takes to win

Just like in the home run contest, we're going to have five players from each league, only now they'll be asked to do a number of tasks rather than just swing as hard as they can at meatball pitches. The contest will be broken up into six different segments with the final, most television-friendly event taking place on Monday night. Here's how the segments will go:

1. Walk-off Plate Rushing
A game-winning scoring event will be simulated by a team of player fill-ins. As one of them crosses the plate with the "winning" run, the contestant will be poised on the top of the dugout ready to join in the celebration. Each participant will be graded for the following:

  • Pure joy
  • Youthful exuberance
  • Time required to get from dugout to hero
  • Contribution to making dogpile complete
  • Degree of reckless abandonment

2. Rally Capping
The contestant will be confronted with a dire situation. His team is down in late innings. How will he respond? Will he rise to the occasion properly? Contestants will be scored on the following criteria:

  • Originality of cap reconfiguration
  • Ability to convince teammates to reconfigure caps
  • Increase in mindless-but-encouraging chatter

3. Sloganeering
A lot of players can have a positive influence in the clubhouse but only the real team guys can come up with a phrase around which the team can rally. The late, great Tug McGraw managed to do this for two different championship teams. The precedents are set by such famous catch-phrases as "We are family," "Yes we can," "Cowboy up..." Contestants will be scored on these aspects:

  • Originality of slogan
  • Relevance to team
  • Catchiness

4. Chemistry
Either there is chemistry among people or there isn't. There are no gray areas in this regard. In this portion of the contest, each player will be placed in a small group of players (actors? Minor leaguers? Let's get with legal on this one) and asked to create chemistry. He can do this by any means he thinks workable, whether it be sycophancy to stars, needling equals, riding scrubs or harassing rookies. Players will be judged on the following:

  • Acceptance by group
  • Creating cohesion within group
  • Fewest number of fistfights started (or most if stated desire is to create a "rowdy-but-winning" type of chemistry)

5. Clubhouse Demeanor This is different than chemistry in that it will test the player's ability to cop the right attitude during very specific situations. These are a few of those situations that we have come up with:

  • A teammate had a no-hitter going through 8 1/3 innings and was leading 2-0 when a player on the other team bunted for a hit to break it up. What do you say?

  • Your opponent was up 11-5 and stole a base in the eighth inning. How do you react to this?

  • Your team has lost six games in a row but your teammates seem more concerned with the clubhouse spread than the streak. What do you do to the buffet table?

  • The team has won eight straight and have taken over first place. One of your teammates is playing his boom box full blast featuring a genre of music you don't particularly care for. How do you react?

  • The team has lost eight straight. One of your teammates is playing his boom box full blast featuring a genre of music you don't particularly care for. How do you react?

Players will be scored on the following:

  • Being supportive of group
  • Protecting baseball's unwritten rules
  • Adaptability
  • Ability to give hotfoots and determining when it is best to do so

6. Moving runners over
This is the big one: the main event of the whole contest! This will be set up just like the current home run contest only it will have the one element that the homer contest never did: real life relevance. Contestants will face a live pitcher with the purpose of grounding a ball to the right side. They will get ten pitches to hit balls as slowly and weakly as possible in that direction. Anything that is missed, foul, hit to the left of the diamond, hit in the air on a line or even on the ground but too sharply will be counted as an out. The drama will build as players are eliminated from each round until, finally, only the two best are left. If you want to see 45,000 people and a national television audience spellbound, you watch this contest next year!

Scoring
Each player will be scored on the basis of how much more than 100 percent they are giving. The winner will be the contestant who is determined to be giving the most in excess of 100 percent.

Myself, along with the steering committee, are committed to making this happen. Naturally, I am open to suggestions on how we can refine the items above. I would like to be able to present a finished proposal to the Commissioner and potential sponsors in no more than two weeks. I need your feedback ASAP, people!

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