The 2013 Home Run Derby participants have been announced

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Just announced on ESPN’s SportsCenter, here are the participants for the 2013 Home Run Derby, which will take place next Monday at 8 p.m. ET at Citi Field in New York. Keep in mind that all of the players selected were also chosen for the All-Star Game. So there’s no Giancarlo Stanton here. Oh well.

National League

David Wright (NL Captain) – Wright is the captain for the National League side this year, as his team is hosting this year’s Midsummer Classic. The 30-year-old third baseman is quietly in the middle of one of his most productive seasons, hitting .306/.394/.519 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI in 85 games.

Carlos Gonzalez – An easy choice for Wright, as Gonzalez currently leads the National League with 24 home runs. It’s worth noting that he’s out of the lineup tonight after leaving yesterday’s game with a sprained right middle finger, so this is assuming his health cooperates.

Michael Cuddyer – A bit of a swerve on Wright’s part, as some may have expected to see someone like the Phillies’ Domonic Brown here. However, Wright picked someone who he has a long history with dating back to AAU ball in Virginia. To his credit, Cuddyer is having a fine season with the Rockies, batting .337/.392/.583 with 15 home runs and 52 RBI in 68 games.

Bryce Harper – This is going to be a real treat, as few players in the game have more raw power than the 20-year-old phenom. He has launched 35 home runs in 190 career games. Only four players (Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Mickey Mantle) have had more before turning 21 years old.

American League

Robinson Cano (AL Captain) – Appropriately enough, Cano is the captain once again for the American League side. The 30-year-old has 20 home runs in 88 games this season and has reached at least 28 home runs in each of the past three seasons.

Prince Fielder – A no-brainer for Cano, as Fielder is the defending champion from last year’s Home Run Derby in Kansas City. The 29-year-old first baseman has 15 home runs in 87 games this season and has hit at least 28 in each of his full seasons in the majors.

Chris Davis – The man everybody wants to see. With a swing that almost looks effortless, Davis currently leads the majors with 33 home runs. The leading vote getter for this year’s All-Star Game, he has the most home runs by anyone before the All-Star break since Barry Bonds back in 2001.

TBA – Cano is still deciding on who his final pick will be, with an announcement expected tomorrow. For now, let your imaginations run wild with the possibilities. Here’s hoping for Brett Cecil.

CC Sabathia won’t visit the White House if the Yankees win the World Series

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Over the past couple of days the subject of athlete activism, always present to some degree in American sports, but recently revived by Colin Kaepernick and a few other football players in the form of silent protests during the National Anthem, exploded into a headline dominating news story. Lighting the fuse: President Trump directly inserting himself into the controversy.

He did so during a speech on Friday night and during a series of tweets Saturday and continuing into this morning in which he urged NFL owners to “fire” or suspend players who do not stand for the national anthem. He also attempted to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from their traditional White House visit because of their star player Stephen Curry’s public opposition to him, though Curry had already said he wouldn’t go.

As Ashley wrote last night, the silent anthem protests have now come to baseball, with A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell becoming the fist player to kneel during the National Anthem. Before that, at least one baseball executive, Orioles Vice President John P. Angelos, came out strongly on the side of players and against Trump. Joe Maddon said some less-than-enlightened words on the matter. Major League Baseball issued a statement on the matter. It was, not surprisingly, somewhat empty, taking something of a both-sides-have-good-points tack. It’s understandable, I suppose. I suspect Major League Baseball and its owners would prefer to not have to comment on this at all. The league does not do this sort of controversy well.

Ballplayers, however, will likely continue to speak up. The latest: Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who was asked yesterday whether he would visit the White House if the playoff-bound Yankees won the World Series. From the Daily News:

“Never. I just don’t believe in anything that is Trump. So there wouldn’t be any reason for me to go at all. I just think it’s stupid. I just think it’s dumb that he’s addressing players and stuff that he shouldn’t be. But it is what it is, and that’s the country we live in these days . . . I’m proud of the way that everybody has Steph’s back and just athletes in general these days, the way everybody has been stepping up has been great.”

Baseball players, as we’ve noted many times over the years, tend to be a more conservative bunch than football or basketball players. There are a lot more white players and a lot more players from southern, suburban and exurban areas. A significant number of racial-ethnic minority players were not born in the United States, so U.S. politics may not necessarily preoccupy them the way it may players from the United States. As such, political protest like we’ve seen in the NFL and NBA was never going to start in baseball in 2017.

But that does not mean that it was not going to come to baseball. Contrary to what so many fans seem to think, sports do not exist inside some bubble into which the real world does not intrude. Athletes are citizens just like you and me with social, political and personal concerns just like you and me. And, at the moment, a government official is demanding that they lose their jobs because he does not agree with their political views and the manner in which they are expressed. I suspect most of us would get upset by that if it happened to us. Certainly a lot of people I know on the conservative side of the political expression worried about government overreach and freedom of speech. At least before January of this year.

So I am not at all surprised that baseball players like Sabathia are beginning to speak out. He will not be the last. Others will join him. Others, as is their right, will push back and say they disagree with him. If and when people feel inspired to tell them to “stick to sports,” or “stay in their lane,” perhaps they should ask why the President of the United States decided not to do so himself. And ask why he thinks it’s appropriate for athletes to lose their jobs for their political views and why private entities like the NFL should be patriotic institutions rather than businesses which put on sporting events.

 

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.