OBSESSION ABOUT HOME RUNS SEEMS A SOARING PROBLEM
Charlie Blackmon is Nazty. But he ain’t no beast. After watching New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge smack baseballs over the moon during a Home Run Derby that made the All-Star Game look like a sideshow, Blackmon was in awe.
“He looks like a contact hitter trapped in an ogre’s body,” Blackmon told Adam Berry of MLB.com.
Judge is the new face of baseball. But he’s way more. Judge has the body that could revolutionize the game, in the same way running back Jim Brown struck fear in the NFL 60 years ago and Magic Johnson forever changed the way we look at what basketball could be with a 6-foot-9 point guard.
Blackmon is far from a tiny dude. He stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds. His lower body is as thick and sinewy as any linebacker on the Broncos’ roster. Standing next to Judge, however, Blackmon looks like Aaron’s bearded baby brother.
At 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds, Judge is a beast among men. He has ripped asunder our historical conception of a power hitter and offers a glimpse of what baseball could become in the not-too-distant
Put it this way: Hank Aaron, recognized by many baseball lovers still as the true home run king, blasted 755 dingers. Aaron, who was born in 1934 and retired from the majors at age 42, stood 6 feet tall and nicely filled out his uniform. In his prime, Aaron also weighed 100 pounds less than No. 99 for the Yankees.
The difference between Mr. Aaron and young Aaron is not only evolutionary but could be revolutionary. With homers flying out of major-league parks at a record pace, commissioner Rob Manfred insisted Tuesday with “absolute certainty” that the baseballs being used in 2017 are not juiced.
I was a “C” student in science, and don’t pretend to be anything more than a press box observer with mustard on my shirt, but when Rockies pitcher Jon Gray crushes a homer 467 feet in Coors Field, it does make me wonder if the ball might be wound just a wee bit tightly.
Manfred says research shows the home run is a popular play. Well, duh. With Judge knocking television ratings for the Home Run Derby out of the park, up a robust 38 percent over a year ago, there’s no arguing with the commish’s verdict.
But here’s the problem. As anybody who has watched Rockies shortstop Trevor Story swing and miss from his heels, baseball’s obsession with the dinger has become borderline unhealthy. Throughout the majors, whiffs are also at a record pace for the 10th consecutive season. We sit around the ballpark for three hours, waiting for the next dude to smack a homer over the fence.
A national pastime that used to be known as baseball has become little more than a home run derby. Yes, I’m enthralled watching Aaron Judge, awesome force of nature, take his mighty cuts. But if glorified batting practice has become more entertaining than the actual game, why would anybody bother to sit through nine innings?
The Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon lines out during the first inning Tuesday night in the All-Star Game at Marlins Park in Miami. He went 0-for-3.