MLB should make Barry Bonds the final boss of the Home Run Derby
If you're a functioning baseball fan, you're likely excited as all hell for this year's Home Run Derby, and that's not something that's been said a lot in the event's history. Most years, the Derby was an overblown bit of spectacle that failed to deliver. For every instance of Ken Griffey Jr. hitting the warehouse at Camden Yards or Josh Hamilton's one-man assault on Yankee Stadium, we've had to wade through thousands of lazy fly balls and hours upon hours of empty batting practice soundtracked by Chris Berman's bleating caterwauls. (Unless you're smart and put on the Spanish broadcast. ¡Los quadrangulares estan volando!)
But that has, for the most part, changed along with the Derby's format, which was overhauled in 2015 and immediately became a must-watch event. Last year was its pinnacle, as we all watched, mouths agape, as Giancarlo Stanton reached his final form and launched endless 450-plus-foot moonshots all over San Diego's Petco Park. It was like watching a performance of The 1812 Overture where all the instruments had been replaced by the cannon blast. Here was the league's best and strongest home run hitter obliterating countless baseballs and sending them to parts of the park that shouldn't be reachable by humans. If you were able to watch last year's Derby without laughing maniacally at least a dozen times, there's something wrong with you.
This year's Derby in Marlins Park promises an even bigger spectacle: Stanton taking on the game's newest and even more impressive dinger god, Aaron Judge, the hulking man-child who is slowly destroying Yankee Stadium one home run at a time. At the risk of overpromoting this, there is no better possible matchup, should we get to that point, than a final-round battle between Stanton and Judge. Stanton is a redwood tree that came to life and learned how to swing a bat that also used to be a redwood; Judge is a monster built in a lab with the express purpose of defeating Stanton, ala Mechagodzilla. (Sidenote: MLB should do anything and everything in its power to rig the rest of the Derby so that we get that promised Stanton-Judge heavyweight bout. Sorry Cody Bellinger and Justin Bour and all the other dudes taking part in this; you all are but footnotes in one of the great chapters of history, and we need you to be that way.)
But for as amazing as the Stanton-Judge showdown would be, there is one way to make it even better—to turn it into the kind of event that breaks the internet. Whoever wins that last round should then have one more competitor to take down—a final boss, if you will. And there's no better man to stand as the game's home run titan than Barry Lamar Bonds.
(Yes, that is a 10-minute compilation of Bonds' home runs and other assorted highlights set to AC/DC's "Shoot to Thrill." It is unsurprisingly great.)
Think about it: As either Stanton or Judge celebrates their win, the lights at Marlins Park go out, and all of the sudden, the greatest home run hitter of all time strides onto the field wearing a crown and robe, then points his bat at the would-be champion and challenges him to a final round-tripper showdown. Then we get 10 or 20 or however many minutes of both players simultaneously crushing home runs as Miami's Dinger Machine overheats and explodes and all the kids shagging fly balls on the field have to run and hide from the artillery bombardment. It's essentially Baseball Thunderdome, and we would be fools not to make this happen.
Don't think the 52-year-old Bonds can do it? He took on the Marlins—including Stanton—in a spring training home run derby last season when he was the team's hitting coach, and he won. The man is, as Deadspin so accurately put it, an alien god who destroyed space-time to bring us joy, and you are crazy if you don't want him to do his home run thing from now until the ending of the earth.
So let's do this, MLB. The Home Run Derby is already great; let's make it even better.