Are they done yet? HR Derby drags, needs makeover

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Watching Ken Griffey Jr. whack a ball off the warehouse at Camden Yards, that was neat. Seeing Ryan Howard splash a shot into the Allegheny River, very cool. Marveling at Josh Hamilton launching rockets at Yankee Stadium, outstanding.

Somehow, though, the All-Star Home Run Derby has lost its luster. It seemed to drag on forever Monday night — no kidding, Corey Hart waited 90 minutes between swings.

Here are five ideas on how to make the longball show more lively:

— Aluminum bats. Let the big boys mash with metal, at least for one pitch. Think of it as the money ball in the NBA’s All-Star 3-point shooting contest. Just wondering, could Albert Pujols hit it 600 feet?

— More real sluggers. Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard and the aforementioned Mr. Pujols all were in Anaheim, but they were absent from the batter’s box. Sway the big boppers to step in — and convince ’em that one night of swinging for the fences won’t wreck them for the rest of the season.

— Speed it up. At a brisk 90 minutes, the derby would be quite entertaining. At nearly 3 hours, the thing never seems to end. Hey, Nick Swisher, you done yet? Cut down how many swings everyone gets. Really, we don’t need to see Vernon Wells make 10 outs — especially when Toronto teammate Jose Bautista, who leads the majors in home runs, is merely a spectator.

— Add more festivities. A cut-down Derby would leave time for more events. There used to be an Old-Timer’s game — in 1992, Reggie Jackson homered off Bob Gibson at San Diego. In 1989 at Anaheim, Reds shortstop Barry Larkin hurt his arm during an outfield-to-home relay. OK, scratch the relay.

— Bring back Barry. A couple weeks shy of his 46th birthday, it’s a safe bet that Barry Bonds could still crank. For sure, fans would like to boo — or cheer — as the current career home run champ tried to go deep. Remember what a kick it was to see Magic Johnson come out of retirement for one last NBA All-Star game and win the MVP award.