World of Shame

In its infinite wisdom, baseball, apparently taking a hint from that grand spectacle of athletics known as “futbol,” has decided that the 2005 Home Run Derby ought to feature an “international flavor.” Eight hitters will step up to the plate tonight, each from a different country that the average baseball fan couldn’t find on a map.

Don’t get me wrong. After steroid-enhanced freaks like Mark McGwire and Brady Anderson turned the game into some sort of pill-popping WWF sideshow with their tight little biceps and medicine cabinets full of God knows what, baseball needed to do whatever it could to restore the former glory of the Midsummer Classic. But this? This isn’t a sideshow, it’s a freakshow. Minus the freaks. This so-called competition isn’t going to whet anybody’s appetites for next year’s World Baseball Classic any more than a Trinidad/Botswana soccer game is going to make me, Skip Bayless, shout “Olé!”

This is the sissification of baseball, pure and simple. In the name of globalization, MLB has seemingly forgotten its roots. This is the national pastime. This isn’t some United Nations crap. There isn’t any need to concentrate on selling baseball to people who can’t even speak English.

One of the hitters participating tonight is Andruw Jones, who hails from the tiny island nation of Curacao. Curacao? They couldn’t dig up some bum from Cuervo Nation while they were at it? The only other major leaguer currently hailing from that floating dock is Randall Simon. You may remember Simon as the sickening thug who took a bat to a young lady dressed up as a Braunschweiger during a Milwaukee sausage race. Andruw Jones could have torched an orphanage and he’d be a better face of baseball in Curacao than Randall Simon. Some competition you’ve got there, Andy.

And then there’s Hee Seop Choi. Hee Seop Choi isn’t a guy who’s good enough to start for his own team against lefties. You mean to tell me he’s good enough to represent his entire country in international competition?

The Koreans are wonderful people, and I’ve got nothing against them. But Hee Seop Choi isn’t fit to carry Ichiro’s jock, no matter how mindful MLB is of the game’s burgeoning popularity in Asia. Either the powers that be know something about Hee Seop Choi that Jim Tracy and Paul DePodesta don’t, or this decision was all about selling jerseys in Pyongyang, and not about giving baseball’s best a chance to shine.

But it gets worse. The last time anybody cared about Panama, they were dragging that nut Noriega off to the slammer. Yet Carlos Lee, the best of an illustrious roster of Panamanian hitters that includes such stars as Jose Macias, Einar Diaz, and Olmedo Saenz, will be stepping up there and taking the rightful place of a deserving – ie. American - hitter. It’s a travesty. Who’s going to challenge for Jason Bay’s Canuck spot, anyway? Corey Koskie? Stubby Clapp?

Look, the fact is this: if you take the best home run hitters in baseball right now, they don’t make a rainbow. American baseball players – American baseball fans - will have to make do with Texas’ own Mark Teixeira as their sole representative. Nobody denies his talent, but dozens of deserving American hitters will get the shaft.

You can’t polish a turd like Hee Seop Choi and call it the Silver Slugger. And so, instead of an exciting Home Run Derby, we’re primed for another yawner, as a bunch of little guys with funny names hit a bunch of 310-foot loopers.

Let’s hope there’s a tailwind in Detroit tonight. We’re gonna need it.

Skip Bayless is a columnist for E$PN and a frequent correspondent on the hit E$PN2 morning show "Cold Pizza." In 1978, he was disqualified from the Texas regionals of the Mr. Universe pageant for punching out a fellow contestant who argued that barbecue was the same as grilling, and he’d gladly do it again. Look for his upcoming book, “No Way, Jose: How the Bash Brothers Ruined Baseball” in Vitamin Shoppes and finer truck stops near you.


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