When putting together the 2018 Home Run Derby field, Major League Baseball can skip right past the Boston Red Sox roster. Two of Boston’s and the American League’s best home run hitters this season, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, confirmed Wednesday they have no intention to participate in this year’s event.
The Red Sox sluggers will join New York Yankees homer-hitting machine Aaron Judge on the sidelines. The 2017 Home Run Derby champion announced in March that he had no intentions of defending his crown. Judge reiterated his stance this week, stating there was “no need” to do another Home Run Derby.
Despite never having participated in MLB’s Home Run Derby before, Betts and Martinez aren’t all that motivated to get involved this year. Both were approached about the possibility this week and each offered completely opposite but equally interesting explanations for their lack of interest.
Why is Betts skipping the Home Run Derby?
According to the Boston Globe, Betts doesn’t feel the Home Run Derby format fits his style.
“Hell no,” Betts said before Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. “I don’t hit home runs in BP. Can you imagine me going against Aaron Judge?”
Betts said that not knowing Judge had already declined, but it doesn’t change his sentiment at all.
It’s been said that Ichiro Suzuki could hit a home run any time he wanted to in batting practice during his prime years. Apparently Betts is the opposite.
Of course, no player takes BP with the same urgency that’s required under MLB’s current Home Run Derby format. Batters are in a race against time to hit as many home runs as possible during the round’s allotted time limit. It’s strenuous. It’s draining. And for Betts, it’s clearly not all that appealing.
“I’m not that kind of hitter.”
Betts entered play on Wednesday with an MLB-leading 16 home runs on the season. That would obviously make him an appealing selection for the Home Run Derby, which this season will be held at Nationals Parks in Washington D.C. We can’t imagine the Red Sox are too disappointed to hear he’ll be a bystander.
Why is Martinez skipping the Home Run Derby?
It’s a little more personal for J.D. Martinez.
He’s still not over being passed over for the 2015 Home Run Derby in Cincinnati.
“MLB didn’t want me (in 2015). I figured I’d have the option of doing it and they said no. They had other guys they wanted, all these young guys,” Martinez said. “I was like, ‘Forget it. I’ll never do it.’ ”
Martinez had good reason to be disappointed. The then Detroit Tigers slugger had 25 home runs heading into the 2015 All-Star break. He finished the season with 38 homers, which was his career high until he hit 45 last season between Detroit and Arizona.
Martinez is capable of hitting home runs in bunches. He hit 29 over a 57-game span last season after being traded to Arizona. During that stretch, he became one of only 17 players in MLB history to hit four home runs in a single game. He’s already up to 15 this season, which is tied with two others for second most in MLB.
Again, that type of hitter definitely has Home Run Derby appeal. But Martinez’s arm won’t be twisted.
“I’m out,” Martinez concluded.
Who are other possible Home Run Derby candidates?
Bryce Harper went on record last season stating that he would participate in the Home Run Derby at Nationals Park. That’s one big name MLB should be able to count on.
Even without Aaron Judge, the Yankees have no shortage of candidates. Giancarlo Stanton won the event in San Diego in 2016. Gary Sanchez reached the semifinals last season after topping Stanton in the opening round. Didi Gregorius and perhaps even rookie Gleyber Torres could be worthy choices.
Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani would be fun additions too, with the latter seemingly being the more likely to agree. Manny Machado, Francisco Lindor, Joey Gallo and young Braves stars Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies are among the other appealing names.
There are definitely plenty of possibilities, but losing Judge, Betts and Martinez does damage the star power potential that often drives the Home Run Derby hype.
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