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Joey Gallo declined an invitation to participate in the Home Run Derby

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The annual All-Star Game festivities are just nine days away, which means we’re nine days closer to watching the best sluggers in professional baseball light up the Marlins’ home run machine during the Home Run Derby. Not everyone is prepared to take on reigning Derby champ Giancarlo Stanton, however. Rangers’ third baseman Joey Gallo reportedly declined his invitation to the home run contest, telling reporters that he didn’t feel he had earned the right to compete against more seasoned All-Stars.

“I don’t feel comfortable doing it right now in my career,” the slugger said, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. “I just want to put my head down and do what I need to do to get better. If I get a little more well-rounded as a hitter, I’d like to do it. But I’m not an All-Star and I respect that you should earn it. Others deserve it more than me.”

Entering Saturday, the 23-year-old infielder has racked up 21 home runs so far this season, blowing well past his previous single-season record of six home runs and ranking fifth among all major league batters in total homers. In fact, he hasn’t been able to anything but mash taters for the Rangers, dragging a .194 average and .301 on-base percentage through his first 279 PA. It’s this lack of well-roundedness that has likely precluded him from an All-Star nomination, though Grant points out that Derby selections aren’t limited to the pool of All-Stars.

Then again, some may argue that entering a competition against renowned slugger Giancarlo Stanton is a fool’s errand to begin with (unless, perhaps, your name begins with “Aaron” and ends with “Judge”). Through Friday’s games, 14 major league batters boast at least 20 home runs in 2017, including league-leader Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Justin Smoak, Eric Thames, and so on. At least one other contender has officially committed to the task so far: Twins’ third baseman Miguel Sano, who carries 18 home runs to Stanton’s 21 this year.

Tony Clark: among players, the universal DH “is gaining momentum”

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Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark met the press late this morning and covered a wide array of topics.

One of them: free agency, which he referred to as being “under attack” based on the slow market for free agents last offseason.

“What the players saw last offseason was that their free-agent rights were under attack on what has been the bedrock of our system,” Clark said. He added that they “have some very difficult decisions to make.” Presumably in the form of grievances and, down the road, a negotiating strategy that seeks to claw back some of the many concessions the union has given owners in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. CBAs, it’s worth noting, that Clark negotiated. We’ve covered that territory in detail in the past.

Of more immediate interest was Clark’s comment that the idea of a universal designated hitter is, among players, “gaining momentum.” Clark says “players are talking about it more than they have in the past.” We’ve talked a lot about that as well.

Given that hating or loving the DH is the closest thing baseball has to a religion, no one’s mind is going to be changed by any of this, but I think, practically speaking, it’s inevitable that the National League will have the DH and I think it happens relatively soon. Perhaps in the next five years. The opposition to it at this point is solely subjective and based on tradition. People like pitchers batting and they like double switches and they like the leagues being different because they, well, like it. If the system were being set up today, however, they’d never have it this way and I think even the DH-haters know that well. That doesn’t mean that you can’t dislike a universal DH, but it does mean that you can’t expect the people who run the game to cater to that preference when it makes little sense for them to do it for their own purposes.

Anyway: enjoy convincing each other in the comments about how the side of that argument you dislike is wrong.