We all know that Matt Kemp was recently selected by Major League Baseball as captain of the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby National League team, an event which will take place on Monday, July 9th at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City during All-Star Week. As captain, Kemp gets to select the four participants who will represent the National League in the contest. Although I’m probably in the minority, I’m hopeful that Kemp is smart enough to exclude himself as a participant in the Home Run Derby.
First off, it’s a meaningless exhibition event. If he were to somehow win it, it isn’t like Dodger fans have bragging rights to anything. We won’t move a game up in the standings or anything like that. Yes, there are monetary rewards to winning it, but Matt’s already making $20 million a year for the next eight seasons. The Home Run Derby is a circus show that exhausts participants and can lead to injury or into bad habits with their swing. That is something that you don’t want to tamper with.
By the time the HR derby participants arrive in Kansas City in July, Kemp will be coming off about two months of disabled list time with hamstring issues. He doesn’t need to risk more injury in this event. I fear that peer pressure and MLB pressure may get him out there swinging. Hopefully he doesn’t succumb to their enticement. The event is what it is. A contest to see who can hit the most lollypop pitches into the bleachers.
One of the greatest batting practice hitters I ever saw was Billy Ashley who would hit these mammoth homers in batting practice. We all know how he turned out. He simply wasn’t able to handle major league pitching. But against B.P. pitchers, Billy was one of the best.
In 2005 Bobby Abreu dominated the event and it threw his swing so far out of whack that he went into a tremendous slump. Abreu’s first half numbers that year were 18 HRS, .307 BA, .428 OBP, .955 OPS. His second half numbers dipped to 6 HRS, .260 BA, .376 OBP, .787 OPS. After the derby, (where he hit 41 homers), he failed to hit a home run for a month once the season resumed. His July batting average after the All-Star game was .214.
I understand that Matt Kemp isn’t anywhere near the same hitter as Bobby Abreu and that the derby may not affect him at all, but why risk it? We have seen so far that Matt is susceptible to injury, really for the first time ever in his career. I think we’d all agree that a healthy Matt Kemp is vital to this teams’ success during the pennant stretch drive. Jeopardizing his health for a meaningless home run exhibition is not a wise move.