Dear Mr. Judge,
Just say "yes" to the Home Run Derby.
Please say that you were just being polite earlier this week when you told reporters that you hadn’t made up your mind about participating in the event. "I haven't really thought about it yet," you said.
This could be another example of what your teammates like about you -- that you are respectful and understated, that you aren’t shoving everybody out of the way to be the biggest guy on the stage.
You are the biggest guy on the stage, of course, the biggest position player in baseball history at 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds. But you aren’t starved for attention. And maybe you didn’t feel comfortable answering any Home Run Derby questions at a time when the New York Yankees were in the middle of a long losing streak. And maybe you didn’t want any of the guys in your clubhouse to believe you were focused on a personal achievement when the whole team was struggling.
Rest assured, the rest of baseball has thought about you taking hacks in the Home Run Derby. Marlon Brando was perfect for Vito Corleone, and Sean Connery was the ultimate James Bond; it’s as if you were made for the Home Run Derby. It’s as if the Home Run Derby was made for you, and for Giancarlo Stanton.
When Stanton made his first appearance in the Home Run Derby -- in less than ideal weather conditions in Minnesota -- other players stuck around to watch, to see how far he might hit the ball, to see whether he could reach the highest deck -- and he did. Stanton will be in the Derby this year, presumably, in his home ballpark, and everybody has already thought about the possibility of the dueling giants in the finals. Fans have thought about it. Commissioner Rob Manfred has probably thought about it. Many rival players make a point of watching you take batting practice already, and you can bet they would hang around at the Derby to see you and Stanton trading swings and taking aim at that home run thing in left-center field in Miami.
When George Steinbrenner owned the team, the Yankees always had an arms-length relationship with the midsummer events. Some of the team's stars have preferred to take days off rather than make the trek to the All-Star Game. And Steinbrenner never had a problem with that, because he wanted his players focused on the postseason.
But this is a special case, Mr. Judge. You have been the game's best player in the first half of the season with Mike Trout out, and you already are one of the most talked-about players, someone that everybody wants to see -- especially in the Home Run Derby.
The Derby isn’t for everybody. George Springer is among the AL home run leaders, but he already has said he’s not interested. Paul Goldschmidt hasn’t entertained the idea because it doesn’t really fit his preparation preference. Miguel Cabrera, one of the strongest hitters of his generation, likes to drive the ball the other way.
But your batting practice every day is like a personal Home Run Derby, and even your teammates say they don’t want to miss a swing because they wonder how far you’ll hit the ball next.
The NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest has had a lot of winners, but it was elevated by the best players stretching the imagination -- Dr. J with the windmill dunk, Michael Jordan taking off from the foul line. You could be that for the Home Run Derby.
The Yankees’ losing streak ended Wednesday, so there’s no need to be nice anymore. Just say "yes."
The Diminutive People of the Baseball World