I know it's cool to think the Home Run Derby is stupid. One of the reasons we kept Jeff Sullivan around here for as long as we did was because, for all of his many faults, he was really, really good at making fun of it.
My confession: I love the Derby. It's so stupid, so enjoyable. And I really care about who is included. Because if I'm going to spend a night watching glorified batting practice, I want the right people taking the glorified batting practice.
This comes up now because this is going to get screwed up. There's a ballot on MLB.com -- a mostly symbolic ballot that doesn't mean anything -- that is bugging the heck out of me. Carlos Beltran is on the ballot, even though he's 50, broken, and has just six home runs this year. Prince Fielder is on the ballot even though he's out for the season. Jose Abreu is not on the ballot.
Jose Abreu is not on the ballot.
So let's talk about the things that need to happen for the Home Run Derby this year. This advice for the team captains is not optional, and the players involved have no say. The "Player's Association" or whatever can't have that much power, surely. Here are the rules for selecting the 2014 Home Run Derby participants:
1. Giancarlo Stanton must be on the National League squad
He was injured last year. If his arm is missing this year, he will be required to grow another one. Some hitters dislike the very idea of a Derby, complaining that it messes with their swings. It looks like Stanton is one of those players, considering he has never participated in a Home Run Derby, which is like Ozzy Osbourne never making an appearance at Ozzfest.
There is a derby of dingers, and Giancarlo Stanton has never participated. This is horrible and must be rectified.`
2. The name of the Derby is now The 2014 Gillette Home Run Derby featuring Giancarlo Stanton
Seems like it would be pretty hard for him to back out if they did that.
3. Jose Abreu must participate
That MLB.com ballot is awful in so many ways, but I think I figured it out. It was compiled before the season. In March, someone in the MLB public relations office had a Post-It on their computer that read, "Don't forget to make the Derby ballot in June," and they said, "Nuts to that. Let's get this out of the way right now."
This would explain the Abreu snub, and it would also explain the inclusion of players like Jay Bruce, who is hitting .215 with five homers. I don't think there's going to be a grassroots campaign from Reds fans to get him in the Derby. Abreu is second in the AL in dingers, and he's mighty fun to watch. He's in.
4. Hunter Pence must participate
The Giants do have a player on the ballot -- Buster Posey, who has cracked 20 homers exactly once in his career. He takes a good batting practice, I'll admit. But do you know who takes legendary batting practices? The player who makes people ooh and ahh wherever he goes? Pence.
Nice, 10th straight game of the broadcasters talking about watching Hunter Pence in batting practice.— Patrick (@Phils08champs) August 9, 2011
If you've never watched Hunter Pence take batting practice, do yourself a favor and get out early next time you go to a game. Unreal.— Justin (@JGallagher24) July 31, 2012
Hunter Pence puts on a pretty nice show in batting practice, I'm surprised. He crushed one way up towards the back of the Red Porch in LF.— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) August 13, 2013
One of the best batting-practice players I've ever seen, really, and I used to go early to watch Mark McGwire at Candlestick. Factor in the goofiness of his being, especially when he's swinging, and it's a crime that he hasn't been invited already.
5. Yasiel Puig must participate
He wants to, I'm sure. He doesn't seem like a but-my-swing weenie. He wants to go and flip his bat after every successful homer, walking back to the dugout to get a new bat every danged time. And we'll let him.
Those are the five simple truths, though I'm flexible with the part about Stanton's name in the title. Four players who must be in the 2014 Home Run Derby, then. Pick and choose the rest as you see fit. Here's my choice for the full roster:
Alternate lineups if some of those players are unavailable:
Giancarlo Stanton with a wig
Giancarlo Stanton in a funny hat
Giancarlo Stanton with glasses and fake mustache
Giancarlo Stanton wearing a Red Sox hat (to troll Twitter)
Giancarlo Stanton with a fake beard
Giancarlo Stanton with a Mission Impossible mask that makes him look like Chris Sale
My only concern with my first lineups is the dearth of left-handers, which might mean it's better to have Brandon Moss instead of Cespedes, or Anthony Rizzo instead of Goldschmidt. While I like variety, the more important thing is to have those eight players in the Derby. They would hit dingers, so many dingers. I can't think of a better group to watch.
(Apologies to Evan Gattis.)
(Okay, fine, put Gattis on your ballot instead of Pence. Your loss.)