Last night, pitching excellence was on display in Anaheim as Justin Verlander let up 1 run in 7 innings... but he lost as Dan Haren just devastated the Tigers in every single way with a complete game 2 hitter where he walked NOBODY. In the end, it was representative of what the game of baseball has become - all pitching and very little hitting (save Jeter's 4 hits that he still has to get before Sunday night and Albert Pujols returning from the sick ward to kick the hell out of the National League Central pretenders).
Yet instead of embracing it, we pretend that the home run derby still matters in 2011.
The same could be said about Pittsburgh and Cleveland's rejuvination, but as they're on the other side of the PA Turnpike's 4 tunnels, so nobody seems to care what goes on out in the Alleghenies and Lake Erie. It's all about the longball - even if we have to utilize the aging, the one hit wonders, and the contact hitters of baseball to get it. People still aren't turning on ROOT and listening to the sound of joy come from a city better known for its football team.
Nope... it's all about post steroids era sluggers of which Ryan Howard wasn't even invited to be a part of it.
And with that, it seems that Big Sluggi is starting some kind of a trend that is about 13 years too late - picking his own home run derby team. In a day and age when the bashers aren't really coming to play (they're too afraid to hurt their swings) and the All Star Game is filled with sub par types (is Chipper Jones there because he's actually that good or is it because he's actually healthy at this point in the season), can anyone out there really feel that it's time to dig into the wallet and watch Chris Berman come up with new ways to cheer on a home run when it's Rickie Weeks doing the swinging? OK, so it's not like Prince Fielder had many good choices to go with for his team (someone equally pudgy had to counter Big Sluggi's actions after all), but certainly there had to be someone worth choosing... (Lance Berkman, maybe).
So the excitement of excitement is Prince Fielder, Jose Bautista (my pick to win it), David Ortiz, Weeks, Matt Holliday, Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, and Matt Kemp. I won't be wasting time watching too much of it (besides, I teach during the first part of it), but all in all, were I to wait for the replay in the morning, I wouldn't really feel too glued to the TV for those guys.
What I would watch wtih slobbering affection is Justin Verlander going toe to toe against Dan Haren, Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Felix Herndandez, James Shields, and David Price in a contest of seeing how many times that they can strike out Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs, Ryan Howard, Austin Jackson, Kelly Johnson, Adam Dunn, Mike Stanton, and Ryan Raburn. Today's crop of free swinging losers need to be shown up for what they are - overpaid and forgettable players.
There would be something beautiful in watching Howard get tripped up with a nasty pitch thrown high and inside or seeing Reynolds looking absolutely glazed over as he goes down again (and again and again) with a nasty curve ball. Adam Dunn's utter futility this year would be on display as he would surely chase many a slider that exploded in the dirt. And if that's because the pitchers are better, so be it. Let's see their nasty prowess, and let's see how they make players as worthless at the plate as an Eric Chavez type that just gives up to cower in fear from the bench.
And that's the point. It's the Year of the Pitcher 2. If Drew Stubbs wants to feel big and potent (like Rickie Weeks who is somehow in the derby), let him face some real pitching. If he can hit for power, let him take on the best of the best for pitching power. Hell, I'd even pay to see Randy Johnson take time off from his gig at making old guys not feel gray to come back and devastate the lineup that is going into the derby. Ten pitches each... who can hit this guy? Johnson would still be the Big Ugly, I'm sure.
So in this era of the guy on the mound, let's not pretend that any of these batters are worth a hill of beans.