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Purists clamor for derbies on baseball fundamentals

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Baseball holds its Home Run Derby today, but this year will do so without Mark McGwire or Ken Griffey Jr., which is a bit like holding a Britney Spears concert without a bare midriff.

Ben Davis
San Diego catcher Ben Davis would be a favorite for Gene Mauch's Sacrifice Bunt Derby.
Casual fans love the Home Run Derby, but we purists wish baseball would concentrate more on fundamentals. Instead of focusing on the longball, why not focus on the game's more important nuances? Instead of offering us creatine-gargling sluggers, why not show fans the way the game ought to be played? Instead of entertaining fans, why can't baseball educate fans?

Why not give us the Baseball Purists All-Star Derbies? Featuring ...

Gene Mauch's Sacrifice Bunt Derby
Purists know that home runs are vastly overrated. Who needs to wait on those overpaid, steroid-loaded strikeout kings to make contact when you can score runs the way God meant us to score them -- slow and steady.

Watch baseball's greatest bunters show off their skills as they lay down a perfect bunt up the first base line, moving up the runners and putting them in position to score on an exciting single to center or a dramatic sacrifice fly. Then listen to the groans from fans when they react to the official tale of the tape:

Forty-seven feet? They've got to be kidding! No way that bunt rolled farther than 39 feet!

Johnny LeMaster Groundball Derby
Who wants to see some musclebound freak take a slow home run trot around the bases? Purists enjoy speed, and even nonpurists can appreciate real hustle as batters repeatedly run out routine groundouts to first base. Whew! Because he hustled down the line, he was only out by 10 feet!

Hot Stove League
Baseball purists George Will, Ken Burns, Bob Costas and Jon Miller hold a roundtable discussion on baseball's recent changes for the worse. Cheer them on while they complain about the designated hitter, interleague play, the wild-card playoff system, artificial turf, free agency, aluminum bats, expansion, contraction, lights at Wrigley Field, the lack of doubleheaders, revolving billboards behind home plate, alternate road jerseys, batting helmets, flashy wristbands, logos on the backs of caps, mitts with fingers ...

Carlton Fisk's Rookie Panel
The Hall of Fame catcher returns us to a time when rookies were seen and not heard. No tattoos, jewelry, dyed hair or loud music here. The rookies gathered on this dais are guaranteed to know their place. Listen to them respond to audience questions with bashful silence as they respectfully defer questions to Fisk.

Just be sure to be on time -- the rookies must leave early to carry Fisk's equipment bag back to the clubhouse.

Stanley Tools Pitching Drills
Fundamentals aren't just for spring training anymore! Watch pitchers cover first base on grounders, back up third on doubles and cover home on wild pitches.

Rolaids Relay Men Derby
Chuck Knoblauch
Fans wouldn't get enough of the foul behavior in Work the Count with Chuck Knoblauch.
Many outfielders have powerful arms, but purists know that means nothing if they miss the cutoff man and allow the runner to take an extra base. Watch true professionals in action, as they field a single and fire the ball to the second baseman cutting off the ball in short right field to hold the runner at first base and keep the double play in order.

Work the Count with Chuck Knoblauch
Purists understand that nothing tires out a pitcher more than a good leadoff batter who gets a good look at all the pitches by working the count full. Ball one, ball two, step out of the box, strike one, foul, foul, ball three, foul, foul, step out of the box again ... Why, the tension is so overwhelming you'll soon be as exhausted as the pitcher!

Rawlings Sharp Dressed Men
Buck Showalter teaches younger players the proper way to wear a uniform. Baggy flannels rolled up at the knee, plenty of stirrup sock showing, button-down shirt tucked in at the waist, and most important -- never, ever wear the cap backward!

Jim Caple is a senior writer for

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