Usually, he doesn’t do that. Usually, he capitalizes on mistakes and sends them over the wall in Dodger Stadium. Instead, he’s leaving fans wondering why he wants to leave one of the best young talents in baseball — and one of the league’s best stories — out in left field when picking his team for All-Star festivities.
Kemp, who as captain of the National League team is in charge of inviting Home Run Derby participants, has indicated that he will not be offering Bryce Harper a spot.
“It’s not because he’s a rookie,” Kemp told USA Today. “It’s just that there are other guys out there that are capable.”
Well, sure. There are plenty of other guys in the major leagues who are capable of hitting home runs. Rickie Weeks was on last year’s NL Derby roster, for example. But the excitement that Harper brings to the game — that’s what should really matter.
Harper’s numbers this year are not exactly All-Star worthy. He’s only batting .278 in the big leagues and is on pace for about 20 home runs over the course of a full season. But he wouldn’t be facing major league pitching during the contest — and the buzz he can generate around the league is second to none.
Harper may not be an All-Star this year, but he deserves to be a part of the biggest celebration of baseball’s brightest starts, regardless of the opportunities he may have going down the road.
“[Harper’s] going to have plenty of time to participate in many Home Run Derbies,” Kemp explained, clarifying his decision. “Just not this year.”
Why should that matter? Why not extend the olive branch this year in honor of his achievements? What’s wrong with rewarding the kid for setting the league on fire with everything he does, from his haircuts to his hustle to his trademark phrase? So rarely has baseball had a bright young star of this nature — charismatic, talented and popular — that it seems like when one now falls into their lap, they don’t know what to do with it.
Bryce Harper has more deserving teammates who deserve All-Star bids before him, but you can at least explain that away by admitting that the actual game counts. The Home Run Derby is an exhibition, for the fans.
Not inviting one of the league’s most popular players to be a part of it? That’s clowning, bro.
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