Reading Room: No Home Run Derby for Jose Abreu

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Plus: The Red Sox miss out on Abreu's talent, Masahiro Tanaka will try to avoid surgery, and other stories of the day

Best I can tell, Jose Abreu never officially declined an invitation to join the American League Home Run Derby, but his continued lack of enthusiasm for the event probably did it for him.

Which is unfortunate, because the official lineups leave something to be desired (average 2014 home run distance in parentheses):

American League National League
Jose Bautista (404.6)
Giancarlo Stanton (423.8)
Adam Jones (399.2)
Yasiel Puig (417.3)
Josh Donaldson (394.4) Justin Morneau (402.4)
Yoenis Cespedes (383.5) Todd Frazier (401.0)
Brian Dozier (379.6) Troy Tulowitzki (399.4)


If the semifinals come down to Bautista, Cespedes, Stanton and Puig, that'll be worth watching. But if Dozier -- an appeal to the home crowd -- sneaks in, bleh.

I understand the anecdotal fears about preserving swing mechanics, but there wouldn't be any reason to fear it, because players often perform at different levels after the All-Star break for no significant reason at all. The derby just offers the convenience of something different to point to.

That said, if the biggest complaint about Abreu is that we can't watch him murder baseballs in a setting designed for just that occasion, I'll take it. His OBP is up to .337 by the way, so even that's significantly above average (.320 in the AL) these days.

Christian Marrero Reading Room

Jose Abreu's first trip to Fenway Park was a successful one, as he went 8-for-16 with a homer, three doubles and two walks (both intentional). Boston was one of his potential landing spots, but the Red Sox came within $5 million of the White Sox' $68 million offer, so the White Sox reap the spoils. One interesting note Boston's side:

Signing Abreu also wouldn’t necessarily have precluded the Red Sox from re-signing Mike Napoli. Based on their scouting reports and his workout in the Dominican Republic, they might have considered Abreu at third base, according to an industry source, and he would have represented a substantial right-handed-hitting upgrade over Will Middlebrooks.

"We would have figured out a spot for 27 home runs," a team official said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the White Sox' own failed pursuit of an international free agent is a little easier to swallow. An MRI on Masahiro Tanaka revealed a partial tear in his UCL. The Yankees are choosing to avoid surgery right now, opting for a platelet-rich plasma treatment (PRP) to attempt to strengthen the area instead. Jeff Passan says such news will continue to be woefully common, because the league has a hard time figuring out a way to explore the issue:

It's not just the teams banding together. It's the league and the players finding détente in a place that offers little. MLB and the union have tussled over the level of research that can be done on active players, and both sides' positions are understandable. MLB wants to know everything it possibly can to better ensure owners spend money on pitching wisely. The union sees a scary scenario creeping closer, and an injury to Tanaka only exacerbates it: With elbow injuries so prevalent, and practically impossible to foresee, the idea of spending nine figures on a pitcher gets less appealing by the day. It's practically an invitation to collude.

Think of that: a labor war wrought by a body part.

At least there's still an explosion in information, even if the health reports are lagging. Billy Beane wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (h/t Chiburb), and said the development of Statcast has huge ramifications, both practical and theoretical.

In a new twist to the "old school vs. new school" debate in sports, technology-based roster-building and algorithm-driven decision-making thus will be the strongest propagators of the traditional virtues of teamwork and chemistry. (I should note here that these opinions are my own—and not those of my club, the Oakland Athletics, or Major League Baseball.)

Technology will create an equally drastic shift in front offices. Aspirants to the front office already are just one click away from decision makers, thanks to social media. It is not uncommon for a blogger's analysis post to show up in a general manager's Twitter feed—a level of proximity and access unheard of a decade ago. Many sports franchises are already hiring analysts based on their work in the public sphere; as social media become more targeted and efficient, the line between the "outsiders" and "insiders" will narrow.

Frank Thomas says that while he's somebody looked to as a steroid avenger, he says not going to use his Hall of Fame induction speech to blast away on contemporaries and otherwise crap on his own moment the way Ryne Sandberg did (my words, not his).

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