Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts has no interest in Home Run Derby
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts indicated that he would not be interested in participating in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star break.
Mookie Betts is a virtual lock to be among the players representing the Boston Red Sox in the 2018 MLB All-Star Game. Just don’t expect him to participate in the Home Run Derby.
The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham asked Betts if he had any interest in entering the Derby. His response left no room for interpretation. It’s a definitive “No.”
It was a fair question to ask. After all, Betts currently leads the majors in home runs with 16. He also leads the league with a .368 batting average, .439 OBP, .772 slugging, 1.211 OPS, 63 hits, 49 runs scored, and 19 doubles.
While he won’t participate in the official Home Run Derby, Betts has put on his own mini-version of the event a couple of times this season. He has belted three home runs in a game twice this season, setting a franchise record with his fourth career three-homer game along the way.
Red Sox fans shouldn’t be surprised by this decision despite Mookie’s penchant for swatting home runs. For one thing, he’s not the prototypical slugger. He’s not swinging for the fences every time he steps to the plate like some players. Betts doesn’t have to try to hit home runs. His quick wrists generate sufficient power and his smooth swing invites solid contact.
He’s looking to drive the ball and sometimes that leads to the ball screaming out of the park. That’s a different approach from the towering moonshots off the bats of sluggers who tend to dominate the Home Run Derby.
New York Yankees star Aaron Judge won the Derby last year but has already declined a chance to defend his title. Judge’s stellar rookie season went into a tailspin after the All-Star break. He went from being in the thick of the batting title race at the break to producing a meager .228 average in the second half.
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Was the Derby to blame for Judge’s second-half slide? We can’t say that for sure but there is a long history of players who have said the Home Run Derby effected their swing coming out of the break. Remember when Bobby Abreu hit 41 homers in the 2005 Derby? That set a new record at the time. He ended up falling apart in the second half, hitting .260 with only six home runs in 73 games.
Judge and Abreu may be extreme examples and not everyone who participates in the Derby sees their second-half production fall off a cliff. Still, why risk it?
As Betts mentioned, he doesn’t even try to hit home runs in batting practice. To thrive in the Home Run Derby he would need to take a different approach with his swing. Betts is swinging the bat as well as anyone in baseball. The last thing the Red Sox want is for him to tinker with it.
The Home Run Derby is a fun event that could be even more entertaining to follow if a Red Sox player gave fans a rooting interest. Betts isn’t the right player to do it.
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The Derby trophy is one accomplishment that Betts won’t achieve this year. That’s fine. We’d rather he take home an MVP trophy instead. Or better yet, a World Series ring.