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July 17, 2013

The Baseball Decathlon

Bryce Harper vs. Mike Trout

by Bret Sayre

There is a certain reverence that people who grew up watching the All-Star Games of yore hold, and somewhere between interleague play and the "This Time It Counts" campaign, it's begun to drift away. But instead of trying to fix the game, which is still both very popular and important to growing the brand of baseball both at home and abroad, itself, a different approach may be to surround the game with a more entertaining product. After all, how often do you get such a large representation of the game's collective star power together in one spot?

As it stands now, All-Star Weekend has essentially morphed into a representation of Justin Smoak's career (minus the recent resurgence, if you choose to even call it that). Everything is great on the minor-league side, as the Futures Game is one of the best additions that baseball has made in the last half-century. However, on the major-league side, it's more about lost opportunity. The Home Run Derby, while it is still fun in moderation, has almost become a caricature of itself and lasts nearly an hour too long. Beyond that, there’s not a single event that uses the crop of current All-Stars.

So I propose creating and televising more events for both the day before and after the actual game. And to start, I want to introduce my idea of a Baseball Decathlon. The concept is simple: two superstar players will compete in 10 different events meant to cover the major skills that a baseball player needs to have. What are these 10 events, you ask? Let’s jump right in.

Home Run Derby

The Set-Up: I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t just another current version of the Derby. Instead, the decathlon has a derby that harkens back to the old TV series from 1960. That means it’ll be quick and to the point—and just to make it more watchable, we won’t let Chris Berman in the building. For those of you unfamiliar with the short-lived TV series, the rules are relatively simple. The derby is scored like a standard game with three outs per inning and all strikes are outs (including pitches taken in the strike zone). However, instead of a nine-inning “game”, we’ll shorten it to five in order to make room for the rest of the events.

The results: Since they made their 2012 debuts on the same day, Trout has both hit 10 more homers than Harper (45 to 35) and posted a longer average distance on those homers (412.4 feet to 410.6 feet). But just to make this a little more interesting, we had them face a pitcher off of whom they have both hit 400-plus-foot homers. There are surprisingly three pitchers who qualify for this, but Anthony Bass is still not all the way back from injury and Anibal Sanchez has been too good this year to subject him to this. So, sorry Jacob Turner!

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