Sometimes in sports simplicity is best, and Major League Baseball should keep that in mind when it comes to the Home Run Derby.
Tuesday's annual dinger display exposed one pretty significant flaw with the current format when Baltimore's Adley Rutschman, who put on one of the best shows in the opening round, did not get a chance to advance and compete for the championship.
Several years ago, Major League Baseball made some changes to the derby format by making each round a timed head-to-head competition. Hitters would get an unlimited number of swings within a certain time period, and the winner of each head-to-head matchup would advance in a bracket-style tournament.
Under the original format, players would get 10 outs where every swing that was not a home run was an out.
Once you used all of your outs, your round was over. The top home run hitters in the first round would simply advance.
While the timed aspect of the current format is a nice touch and allows fans to see more home runs (which is what they are paying to see), the head-to-head tournament creates some problems.
Rutschman was one of the unquestioned stars of the opening round, clubbing 27 home runs from both sides of the plate. He hit 21 home runs from the left side to open his round, and then switched over to the right side and hit six consecutive home runs on six swings during his bonus time. He stole the show. The stadium was buzzing at his performance.
But fans did not get to see him hit again because his opponent—Chicago's Luis Robert Jr.—hit 28 home runs to beat him in their matchup.
Rutschman's 27 home runs in the first round were the third most, trailing only Robert's 28 and the 41 hit by Seattle's hometown star Julio Rodriguez.
He hit more home runs in the first round than five other players, including the two players (Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Randy Arozarena) that ended up facing each other in the finals.
Here is a free idea for Major League Baseball: Keep the unlimited swing, timed aspect of it. But dump the head-to-head and go back to simply taking the top home run hitters and letting them advance. Give the fans what they want.
It is not something that needs to be high on commissioner Rob Manfred's to-do list but is a small change that makes sense for MLB's All-Star week.