If you thought Major League Baseball announcing a $1 million prize would entice New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge to participate in another Home Run Derby, think again.
Speaking to the media on Friday, the 2017 Home Run Derby champion explained why the new prize money is not enough to convince him to compete again in one of baseball’s most anticipated yearly events.
Aaron Judge said the new $1M prize does not change his opinion about participating in a second Home Run Derby.
"The money doesn't matter. For me, I did it once. I had a blast with it. But I'm more worried about winning games. I don't want to get hurt again doing a Derby."
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) March 15, 2019
It's a disappointing declaration for fans. Judge is among the game's most prolific home run hitters. In 2017, he broke Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record when he launched 52. For his career, he has 83 homers in 294 career games.
But it’s not just the home run totals that make Judge an attraction. It's the majestic nature in which he disposes of baseballs. Judge effortlessly launches 460-foot bombs in games and in batting practice, which leaves fans curious to see which destinations he'll reach in different ballparks.
All things considered, it’s also a reasonable stance for Judge to take. It’s not like he’ll need the money with a massive contract or two surely in his future, and it’s not like the Home Run Derby itself is easy work. As Judge indicated Friday, it can be draining and potentially harmful to players who participate.
This sentence definitely stood out: "I don't want to get hurt again doing a Derby."
It's not clear if Judge is referencing a physical injury, or just referencing how swinging for the fences might have hurt his approach during the second half of the 2017 season. Judge entered the Home Run Derby slashing .329/.448/.691 with 30 homers in 84 games. After the All-Star break, he hit just .228/.391/.548 with 22 homers in 71 games.
Clearly, he wasn't the same all-around hitter. And clearly, he feels the Home Run Derby played a part in that. To put it in better perspective, Judge hit a total of 47 home runs over three rounds to win the Derby. That's a lot of swings with a lot of force behind them. And it’s far from the normal rate players are used to. It’s easy to see how a player might be thrown off by that.
While it’s understandable that MLB is looking to add incentive in hopes of attracting bigger name sluggers to participate, this is one issue they can’t solve by throwing money at it. The players they want will never need the money.
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