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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Baseball’s home run derby has found a way to stay fresh – but the clock is ticking

Giancarlo Stanton, of the Miami Marlins, rips one of his 61 homers on his way to winning the Home Run Derby. (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press)
Giancarlo Stanton, of the Miami Marlins, rips one of his 61 homers on his way to winning the Home Run Derby. (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Who knew a clock in baseball would be a good thing? Strike that. A great thing. A home run, really. Read on.


• The trouble with ancillary events at all-star games, no matter the sport, face one unchangeable fact: They grow stale. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. The expiration date for the NBA’s slam dunk contest passed long ago. For any dunk contest, really. There are only so many things to jump over – including, famously, sharks – before it just gets silly. The same could be said for the home run derby. Watching guys hit the ball a long way is always impressive, sure, but the competition aspect of the derby exited the ballpark a while ago. Until someone got the bright idea of putting a clock on the action. Last year’s derby was unusually fun. So was this year’s, even with Seattle’s contestant, Robinson Cano playing the role of first-round speed bump for Giancarlo Stanton’s big-rig performance. But that’s OK. This area had its moment in the sun. Pat Shine, the former Gonzaga Prep standout – and, in that weird connective way that abounds around here, a former assistant coach at my alma mater, UC Irvine – threw to Stanton as the Marlins’ big man bombed pitch after pitch out of the park. You may recall the last time Stanton was in the derby, former G-Prep and Gonzaga University star Mike Redmond pitched to him. But Redmond, then the Miami manager, is no longer with the Marlins. He did, however, bring Shine in as his replay guy, and Shine stuck around after Redmond was fired. Shine also throws BP often. Pretty good BP I’m guessing. With the clock added last year, the pitcher took on more emphasis in the competition. Until the change, only outs mattered. So the hitter could let 20 bad pitches go by before taking a swing. No more. With only four minutes to hit, every pitch counts. San Diego’s Wil Myers had his brother throw to him this year. He plunked him. (Let’s go to our reporter on scene at the Myers’ house this Thanksgiving, where there is an argument going on that was heard three blocks away ...) In the finals, Todd Frazier, the defending champion, was struggling with some of the pitches he saw. But Stanton seemed in rhythm all evening. Credit Shine with a big part of that. And credit baseball with being willing to change. No traditionalist wants a clock anywhere near the game – in any aspect. But for this event it works, and works well. But for how long? Even this iteration of the derby will grow stale. So what is baseball doing to prevent that? Thanks to folks like Madison Bumgarner, there is talk of adding a pitchers’ derby next year. Or letting one or two into the regular contest. Now that would take a while to get used to. And grow stale.

• Tim Duncan called it quits yesterday. Quietly, professionally. You expect anything else from a guy who was nicknamed early “The Big Fundamental?” Duncan did a lot of things well but there were two areas in which he excelled: making his teammates better and winning. Seems like a couple of areas that would be valued highly, right, considering how everyone wants to say winning is the only thing? But guys like Duncan and Bill Russell, two big men who weren’t flashy, are always undervalued when it comes to picking the NBA’s all-time best. Give me those two guys any day. Between them they won 16 NBA titles, with Duncan chipping in five in an era when no one team dominated like Russell’s Celtics. And winning championships is what separates the good from the great, right?


• WSU: The Pac-12 all-stars lost to the Australian national team today, 92-83. The main reason Australia won? Aron Baynes. The former WSU big man, sporting an interesting hair style, had 28 points and nine rebounds. Brock Motum chipped in six points and seven rebounds while Josh Hawkinson, who started for the Pac-12, has two points and four rebounds. The teams play again Thursday. ... The Cougars hope to win a Pac-12 football title this season and these three players will have to lead the way on the defensive side of the ball.

• Whitworth: Found this story yesterday. It’s about a New Zealand basketball player who is coming to Whitworth next year. If it’s accurate, then the Pirates are in NCAA trouble. My guess is the line about Sam Lees receiving a “business and basketball scholarship” is a mistake. Whitworth is an NCAA Division III school and is prohibited from handing out athletic aid.

• Chiefs: The Chiefs had a bit of a logjam at goalie so they traded one to Everett yesterday.

• Indians: Every Indian wants to play in the major leagues. But, according to Josh Horton's story, Chad Smith has a couple of extra reasons. ... Spokane takes tonight off after defeating Everett on the road last night, 9-2. ... Eugene lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. ... Tri-City held off Vancouver in Canada.

• Preps: Greg Lee catches up with new Sandpoint football coach George Yarno Jr. for his weekly youth notebook.

• Mariners: Everyone knew Michael Saunders was talented. But no one knew if he could ever stay on the field. Now in Toronto, the former Mariner has stayed healthy this season. So he’s an all-star. ... Despite last night’s derby showing, Cano is having a great season. Maybe even a comeback-of-the-year type season.

• Seahawks: Punter Jon Ryan got married this past weekend. To comedian Sarah Colonna. In another of those weird connections, Colonna’s father, Jim, is one of the reasons I’m in Spokane. He was the Orange County Register sports editor – my boss – when I decided it wasn’t the place for me and went looking for work. It’s a long story. And, like most of those I write here, boring. So we will skip it.


• A reminder: There will not be a post tomorrow. We will be back on Thursday. Enjoy the All-Star Game. Until later ...

Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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