Hey, we’ve got some Home Run Derby beef! It’s thin and dry as far as beef goes, but these are the famine times. I will happily accept any and all life-sustaining beef to get us to and through next week’s sportless days, this long, sparse summer, and, of course, the inevitable heat death of the universe some time after that.
On Monday night, MLB announced the eight-player field for this year’s Home Run Derby at Marlins Park, which will follow the format in place since 2015 and feature a single-elimination bracket. Cody Bellinger, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Bour, and Charlie Blackmon will appear for the NL, while the AL contingent will consist of Aaron Judge, Mike Moustakas, Miguel Sano, and Gary Sanchez.
At issue is Sanchez. The Yankees catcher missed a month of the season on the DL and has just 13 home runs this year, the fewest of any of the participants. Tampa Bay Rays 1B Logan Morrison was not enthused about the inclusion of the Yankees catcher.
“I remember when I had 14 home runs,” Morrison said. “That was a month and a half ago.”
Morrison has 24 home runs, tied for second-most in baseball, and he complained to the Tampa Bay Times that no one even asked him if he wanted to participate (he does) while Sanchez is in the field.
“Gary shouldn’t be there,” Morrison said. “Gary’s a great player, but he shouldn’t be in the Home Run Derby.”
Sanchez is a unique case, though. A midseason call-up last year for the Yankees, he was doing the Aaron Judge thing before Aaron Judge, hitting 20 homers in just 53 games. Derailed by a biceps injury in April, he’s picked up almost where he left off—in his young career, he’s averaging a home run every 12 at-bats. That projects out to 50 dingers over a full 162 games.
Sanchez also hits ‘em hard and he hits ‘em far. He’s eighth in MLB in exit velocity (with only two other derby contestants ahead of him) and second in baseball in distance on his homers. He’s exactly the type of player to put on a show in the derby.
Morrison, meanwhile, is having the best season of his life. His 24 home runs are already a career high, the sort of outburst that ought to give him a spot in the derby. But at Sanchez’s expense? The Times notes that the derby field is chosen jointly by MLB and the players’ union, and takes into account not only home run total, but previous performance and popularity as well. Sanchez is a true slugger, and as a young star who plays in New York, he’s one of the faces baseball would like to display for the world in its signature event.
Morrison understands that. A Yankees star is always going to get more attention than a Rays star.
“I’m not disappointed. It’s par for the course. I play for the Rays. I get it. They can’t even get my picture right. When they put my name up there they put Corey [Dickerson’s] picture up there...on MLB Network. When they put up the home run leaders they put Corey’s swing on there not mine.”
Morrison deserves to be in the Home Run Derby. Sanchez deserves to be in the Home Run Derby, for different but valid reasons. (I told you this beef was not very filling.) This all may end becoming academic pretty quickly—in past years, the bracket was seeded by home run total. If that holds this year, Sanchez, with the fewest in the field, will have a first-round matchup against MLB leader Aaron Judge.