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.

MLB execs go to bat in favor of shrinking minor leagues

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Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports published an article this morning in which he quotes several executives of MLB teams, including Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, defending the league’s proposal to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.

We first learned of the idea about a month ago. The proposal was widely panned, even drawing scorn from Congress as more than 100 members of Congress — including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — signed a letter condemning the league. In the time since, MLB has spent considerable time defending itself amid the public scrutiny. MLB also got into a bickering match with Minor League Baseball.

To generally sum up what was said in Brown’s column: the GMs echoed what MLB previously said in defensive of its proposal, which is that cutting 42 minor league teams (mostly in short-season and rookie ball) would free up more money to pay players more and improve their working conditions, including food and travel as well as facility conditions.

It is hypocritical for the league and team executives to express concern for the salaries and the quality of life for minor league players. After all, Major League Baseball spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress in order for language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be amended. Doing so allowed the league to classify minor leaguers as seasonal workers and thus not owed things like a minimum wage and overtime pay, among other worker protections. This all happened because MLB is the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, originated by Aaron Senne and several other former minor league players, alleging that the league violated state and federal minimum wage laws with minor league players.

Shapiro is not a fan of Sanders’ constant harping on the league’s proposal. Shapiro said, “I’m never going to go toe-to-toe with him on domestic policy. But I will go toe-to-toe with Bernie Sanders on professional baseball.” As Brown explains, Shapiro is among those who believes that having a smaller minor league system would allow his organization to offer greater focus to each player remaining within that system. With the increased focus, the team would be better able to develop major league-caliber prospects. As we know, teams love prospects because their salaries are artificially depressed for the first six years of their careers.

One anonymous GM harped on the fact that “minor league baseball is not a moneymaker.” It didn’t sound like he was complaining; rather, simply recognizing how their parent teams view the situation. Another anonymous GM, however, said that the 42 teams are on the chopping block “for a reason.” He added, “I’m guessing that reason isn’t because they had overwhelmingly positive gate turnouts or that their facilities were in good shape. I think that’s been the criteria.”

As I pointed out last month, there are two teams that, at minimum, disprove the shabby-facility talking point. The Lowell Spinners (short-season) have had multiple renovations done in recent years. Team owner Dave Heller called his team’s stadium “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League.” The Quad Cities River Bandits, as another example, have earned awards from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” and finished in third place as recently as two seasons ago for “Best View in the Minors.”

As for attendance, BallparkDigest has the 2019 numbers for all 160 teams here. The four Double-A teams on the chopping block — the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Chattanooga Lookouts, Erie SeaWolves, and Jackson Generals — ranked 91st, 74th, 80th, and 130th, respectively. Only one of those teams is significantly below the 50th percentile. Furthermore, one of the High-A teams on the list, the Frederick Keys, ranked 57th in attendance this past season, close to being in the top one-third of the entire minor league system.

The arguments are obviously facile. We should expect nothing less, however, as these execs do the bidding of their team’s ownership. Their jobs necessitate developing players efficiently and thoroughly. Chopping 42 minor league teams would have the double benefit to them of helping reduce overhead so the owners can report higher profits, as well as making their system run more efficiently (or so they think). So be it if thousands of jobs in towns across the U.S. get slashed in the process. So be it if small towns lose a central focus of their local economies and cultures. So be it if baseball becomes significantly less accessible across the nation.