Images courtesy of Keith Allison
Citing understandable fatigue, Justin Morneau has opted out of competing in tonight's Home Run Derby, despite being the Defending Champ of the All Star-week event. Morneau has long been a silent warrior for the Twins, playing in at least 157 games the last three seasons and missing just one contest to date this year; he'll be playing in his third straight All-Star game tomorrow and spent further time on the field last spring playing for Canada in the WBC. Historically: The dude's been more dependable than an Ozzie Guillen expletive.
But tell me I'm not alone in finding Morneau's decision a little too akin to the classic Seinfeld quote where Jerry offers: "I choose not to run."
Sure, the Derby's just an exhibition event and one with a funky stigma attached that is long said to disrupt respective swings of the game's most potent bashers. To wit: in the 23 previous year's of the event, nearly as many sluggers went on to hit single-digit homers in the second half (22 percent) as those that went on to hit 20 or more (26 percent).
But what I find bothersome isn't that Morneau was simply asked, and then declined, as many ballers indeed do. But the guy's the Defending Champ. And what else have we here in the Bread Basket to actually defend? Hell: you win . . . a tallest corn contest and you show up the next year to defend. What will he tell the grandkids - "I was tired."?
As the title holder, Morneau - as steadfast and strong as he's been - should be appearing, and keeping that rep.
Instead, Joe Mauer will be in the Derby, which I find curious and somewhat worrisome. True, three other batting champs (Dave Parker, Frank Thomas, and Barry Bonds) have won the event, yet Mauer enters with the lowest HR/per at-bat of any of the contestants, the fewst HR's this year, and the second-fewest career long balls.
With his mask recently on the cover of S.I. and his name now officially atop the A.L. batting race - isn't Joe running a high enough profile already? What the hell does he need this for? If the average dips below .350 come August, whoever talked Mauer into this deal will be following Seinfeld's eventual choice of "choosing to run," and be forced to sprint away from our catcher's bat as fast as humanly possible.