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Set the DVR: Home Run Derby To Feature Slugging Prowess Of Hart, Cano (UPDATE)

↵I know that Corey Hart has 19 home runs, which is tied for seventh in all of baseball and tied for second in the National League. That's swell. But does anybody in their right mind really want to see Corey Hart in the Home Run Derby over, say, Prince Fielder or Ryan Braun? Yes, I know that Hart has eight more homers than Braun this season, but over the course of his career, Braun has 114 (averaging 37 per 162 games) to Hart's 86 (average of 23 per season). For what it's worth, Fielder has 178 homers in his career (38 per 162 games), including 18 this year. ↵

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↵Sure, Hart is having a great year and has already hit just five fewer homers than he's ever hit in any of his five-plus years in the bigs, but does one-half season make him a compelling contestant for the Derby? ↵

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↵Maybe it does. And so the same goes for Robinson Cano, who is leading the Yankees in home runs this year. Cano is also leading the team in slugging percentage by 56 points and batting average by more than 20 points. It still seems odd that a guy with 103 career home runs in five-and-a-half seasons is in the Home Run Derby when his teammates like Alex Rodriguez (595 home runs), Mark Teixeira (256 home runs) and, heck, even Nick Swisher (28 home runs per 162 games) seem like more appropriate choices. ↵

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↵The Yankees don't even want Cano in the derby, as being in the contest has notoriously – and somewhat unfairly – been seen as a swing killer for the more traditional line-drive hitters. Per the New York Post: ↵

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↵⇥“It’s an exhausting process, it takes a lot out of you," hitting coach [Yankees] Kevin Long said. “It’s taxing. You see guys come back after that and it affects their swing. Alex (Rodriguez) can tell him, he’s done it. Bobby Abreu did it that one year and struggled after that, Josh Hamilton. ↵⇥

↵⇥“Do I think it’s a great idea? No…Let’s just say that he gets on a roll and starts hitting a lot of home runs, it’s going to take its toll. ↵⇥

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↵⇥“It’s not so much messing with the swing as much as it takes a toll on his body,’’ Long said. “We don’t ever play home run derby, we don’t ever try to hit balls out of the park, so it’s something that he is not accustomed to doing. He’s got a lot of pop; he’s got potential to go far. This is the first time I am not going to root for him." ↵⇥

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↵UPDATE: Mark Feinsand just tweeted that Cano has pulled out of the Derby with a minor back injury. The field worsens... ↵

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↵Alex Rodriguez hit 156 home runs in three years back when he was in Texas. You know what all this hand wringing about steroids has produced? Line-drive hitting Robinson Cano as a viable candidate for the Home Run Derby in 2010 while his hitting coach is freaking out about it, that's what. Are we okay with this? Didn't the Derby once matter? Or am I just being one of those old sportswriter types who thinks things were better when he was a kid? It could be that. Or it could be this: ↵

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↵In 2009, the National League put Fielder, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez into the Derby. Those are some big time sluggers. The American League? Nelson Cruz, who finished 2009 with 33 home runs but had never hit more than nine in a season before that, Joe Mauer with 28 homers in 2009 yet no more than 13 before that, Carlos Pena, who was a justifiable selection with 218 career homers and a 35 per 162 game average, and Brandon Inge who has hit a career-best 27 homers twice in his career and averages 17 per 162 games. ↵

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↵What's happened this year? The National League can't get anyone from last season to commit, and right now has just Hart and Matt Holliday representing the league with five days to go before the event. We're looking at the merits of Vernon Wells, who hasn't hit more than 20 homers since 2006, as a reasonable choice on the American League side. Other sluggers will eventually step up and do it, but the contest is by no means the marquee event it has been, and could be. ↵

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↵You know what, maybe I'm being too critical. The 2010 Derby does have David "Big Papi" Ortiz and Miguel Cabrera. Those two are pretty legit slugging types. Besides, having Hart and Cano in the contest does leave time for snack breaks and gives Chris Berman at least half an hour to come up with the likes of Robinson "Cano believe how far that ball just went" while trying to cram "Sunglasses at Night" puns into Hart's at bats. Here's a tip for Berman, courtesy of a cursory internet search: drop in an "It Ain't Enough" reference for every ball Hart hits to the warning track. It could be more entertaining than his actual at bats. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.