Bryce Harper, All-Star right fielder for the Washington Nationals, will not be participating in this year’s Home Run Derby, he announced to reporters Monday. Bryce’s father, Ron Harper, is his preferred pitcher and has been since he was young. Unfortunately, Ron underwent surgery on his torn rotator cuff after a snowboarding accident. Tied for the second most homers in all of baseball (25), Harper’s presence will surely be missed.
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Although the idea of Harper participating in the Derby sounds exciting, as he was the runner-up in 2013’s competition, his absence in the event may be a blessing in disguise. Players who take part in the Home Run Derby are sometimes known to unintentionally alter their swing, as repeated hacks can affect a player’s rhythm. Mike Trout declined the league’s offer to participate in the 2013 Home Run Derby, for just that reason:
"“The biggest thing is just the big swings you take over a period of time,” said Trout. You can get beat up a little bit. It’s tough on your body.” (h/t Los Angeles Times)"
Other players refuse to participate to avoid injury, in order to evade the Chris Davis fate, who popped a blister during the Derby in 2013 and saw his production slide in the second half of the season as a result. In 2012, Josh Hamilton declined the offer to be the captain for the American League squad, saying:
"“It’s just not the right time. I haven’t done it in the last couple years. I want to be healthy and be the best I can be for the team. I don’t want to take a chance of going out and hurting anything trying to entertain folks in the [Derby]. That’s why I declined again.” (h/t USA Today)"
Harper did not comment on either of these issues, and most likely doesn’t believe in them, as he waited a few days to make his decision. However, the evidence is there, and the risks may not be worth taking as far as Nationals fans are concerned. With an injury-depleted lineup and 3.5 game lead on the New York Mets in the NL East, the team needs his MVP-level production. Any risk of reducing that, or, heaven forbid, losing him altogether, would be devastating for this Nationals team.
Luckily, the Nats will not have to test this theory this season, and it is for the better. Bryce, have a good time at the All-Star Game, maybe win an MVP, and then get some rest. There’s another half a season of baseball to be played, and we’re all riding you to the postseason.