As captain of the NL's Home Run Derby squad, Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers gets to pick who will slug for his side. The same goes for AL captain Robinson Cano, the event's defending champion. Kemp already said he invited teammate Andre Ethier to join him at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City on July 9, so that leaves two spots on the four-man squad. One of them will not be given to 19-year-old Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.
Kemp explained to reporter Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY why Harper failed to make the cut:
Harper has earned enough respect from his peers that Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, who drew a five-game suspension after intentionally hitting him with a pitch earlier this season, said the hard-nosed outfielder got his vote for the All-Star Game.
That wasn't enough to sway Kemp, who said he already has his four-member team in place and mostly chose the participants on the basis of stats.
"That's how I got in last year,'' Kemp said. "I had a lot of home runs in the first half. So you have to take that into consideration.''
Considering that Harper has seven home runs, which doesn't even put him in the top 40 in the NL, it's hard to use numbers to argue with Kemp picking others instead — even in the case his of buddy, Ethier. Still, it was a valid, non-clown question that bro Ortiz asked of Kemp. There's been talk of adding Harper and 20-year-old Mike Trout of the Angels to the All-Star festivities. Trout should be playing in the game (and he might), but the Derby would be a way for one or both to participate for certain.
Adding Harper would be good for buzz for the Derby, which seems to get more and more stale every season. Good buzz means good ratings. And the Derby, unlike the All-Star game itself, doesn't "count," so winning it isn't the point. It's to put on the best possible show, or the anticipation of the best possible show. Harper might not hit one ball over the fence, but he would get more people to watch than Ethier would.
Which leads me to this: Why is Major League Baseball entrusting a marketing decision to a player?
And why is Kemp, who has been on the disabled list since May 31 because of a strained left hamstring, even bothering to participate in All-Star stuff? Aren't the Dodgers, who expect him to return to the lineup after the break, in a pennant race?
Major League Baseball apparently named Kemp the NL captain because he won the home run title in 2011, when he also finished second to Ryan Braun of the Brewers in the NL MVP race. So giving Kemp captaincy in the Derby is like the NFL letting the respective coaching staffs of the teams that lost the conference championships coach in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. But nobody really cares about the Pro Bowl, so what does it matter who coaches?
MLB lets fans vote for the starting lineups in the All-Star game because it's the fans game. The Home Run Derby apparently belongs to the players. Hopefully, Kemp enjoys the spoils of having his prerogative.
Kemp also has said that he has "another guy in mind that everybody wants in the Home Run Derby." Gut feeling: He refers to Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins. That leaves one spot, and if Kemp doesn't pick Braun, he'll be making it appear to be revenge for not winning the MVP. So, guys like Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gonzalez and Joey Votto (if they're even on Kemp's list) probably are out of luck.
And so are we, because Kemp has ruled out Harper, the biggest curiosity in the majors.
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- Matt Kemp
- Andre Ethier