You might think this strange from someone (me) who'd rather not see pitchers bat at all in games, but I'm all in favor of Jake Arrieta's desire to participate in the All-Star Home Run Derby:
The idea was still so intriguing to Arrieta on Sunday morning that the man with the longest home run among pitchers this season propsed a qualifying format for a pitcher, involving a shorter, four-pitcher bracket. "Get four guys who can really hit the ball a long way, and whoever wins can actually hit in the Derby," he said. "Me, Bumgarner and [Noah] Syndergaard in a short derby."
This idea was first floated about Giants righthander Madison Bumgarner, perhaps the best active home-run-hitting pitcher. MadBum has two homers this year (in 34 at-bats), hit five last year and has 13 in his career.
And in case you've forgotten about Jake's 442-foot blast, hit against the Diamondbacks April 10, here it is:
The only other Cub who's hit a home run that far this year is Kris Bryant, who hit the left-field video board at Wrigley June 2 against the Dodgers.
Jake and MadBum aren't the only pitchers who want in:
Adam Wainwright (@UncleCharlie50) June 12, 2016
Wainwright is hitting .261/.261/.652 this year. He's 6-for-23 and all of his hits have gone for extra bases: four doubles, a triple and a home run. He's got seven career homers and a .201 lifetime BA (543 at-bats) and has generated 3.7 bWAR as a hitter.
Major League Baseball has struggled in recent years with ways to try to make the All-Star Game and related events more interesting and, thus, gain more TV viewers. This desire has resulted in "This Time It Counts," with home field in the World Series going to the league that wins the ASG, one of the dumber recent ideas in baseball history.
Now here's an idea that would not only be fun, but would almost certainly generate buzz and interest among casual fans and, most certainly, more TV viewers. Granted, this would be for the Home Run Derby, not the game itself, but anything that creates more interest in All-Star week would be a good thing for the game.
Worried about Jake getting hurt? Neither he nor his manager are:
"I know. Everybody’s afraid of injuries," scoffed manager Joe Maddon. "I don’t subscribe to that theory, so I don’t worry about it from that perspective." Obliques? "My oblique’s fine," said Arrieta, who sees no downside. "What’s it going to do, mess up my swing?"
So why not let Jake and other pitchers have that four-pitcher swing-off and have the winner move on to the Derby with other hitters? Jake's already got experience:
Arrieta, by the way, not only has participated in home run derbies, but he won a recent TCU alumni derby, out-slugging, among others, Cardinals’ All-Star hitter Matt Carpenter. "I made a small bet with him," Arrieta said. "He still owes me, too." And if he had to pitch the next day after a long day of homer practice? "It’ll get me loose," he said.
Go for it, MLB. Have some fun with the Home Run Derby. Get people interested and talking about baseball. It might just be the best Home Run Derby ever.