In the weeks leading up to the 2008 All-Star game in New York City, Albert Pujols was all but openly campaigning for a spot on the Home Run Derby. He’s been quoted as saying he enjoys the contest and would love to take part in it.
Normally it works the other way around. What usually happens is a slugger with the star power the likes of Pujols participates in the home run derby a time or two and then decides it’s not worth his time, that he’d rather spend his All-Star break time loafing or “visiting with his family”.
But here you have, arguably the greatest slugger in the game today, openly expressing his desire to partake in the home run derby, and the response from Major League Baseball is apparently…thanks, but no thanks.
This seems akin to the NBA telling Larry Bird, “Sorry Mr. Bird, but we don’t really want you in the three-point contest during our All-Star Weekend.”
Or imagine David Stern saying, “Sorry, Michael Jordan, but we don’t really think you’d add much excitement to the Slam Dunk Contest. We’ve already got a guy that’s going to attempt a dunk with a blindfold on. Sounds pretty exciting, huh? So anyway, maybe next time.”
This seems like yet another no-brainer blunder by the higher-ups at MLB headquarters.
Albert Pujols being left off the Home Run Derby roster could not be based on performance. Despite Albert’s power numbers being down a bit this year, they are still are comparable to the guys selected, even a little better in a couple instances; this despite spending 2-3 weeks on the disabled list earlier in the season.
This might be getting close to the real reason Pujols was overlooked. Perhaps Tony La Russa is apprehensive about letting his slugger in the contest. And I can’t say I would blame him for being concerned. Yes folks, it’s a Grubb Hub first. I’m actually in agreement (or at least not in disagreement) with La Russa on this issue.
Some people think trying to hit all those home runs can mess up your swing; that swinging really hard or using an uppercut to generate the required extra loft can have a lingering effect. Observant Cardinal fans with perspective (all three of us) remember the case of Jim Edmonds, who came into the 2005 Home Run Derby after a monster first half, and subsequently managed to hurt himself over-swinging at batting practice pitches trying to generate extra power.
Edmonds went on to have a lousy second half that year, and really has never been the same player since (although age has obviously had more to do with that than a home run derby injury). At least not until he joined the Cubs. Go figure.
So to reiterate, I’m not saying I would blame La Russa (wow, that just feels weird typing that) if he privately told Pujols he’d rather see him sit this one out and concentrate on getting a nice restful three days in New York.
However, if it’s simply a case of MLB dropping the ball on inviting a more than willing Pujols to participate, then it’s a darn shame. Of course, the home run derby usually generates more than its fair share of excitement no matter who’s in it, and this year was no exception with the record-setting performance from the Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton.
In my opinion, it’s the best thing about the All-Star Game, much more fun to watch than the game itself. Maybe they could change it so that the home field advantage in the World Series was decided by whatever league the Home Run Derby champion hailed from. That would make about as much sense.
I just hope that next year, when the game is in St. Louis for the first time since 1966, Albert Pujols has an open invitation to take part in the derby. That might just be enough to divert people’s attention away from the miniature replica of the Grand Canyon that sits next to the shiny new ballpark.