Jose Bautista isn't exactly known for a delicate approach around the baseball field. He grips and rips to the pull field with no remorse and spectacular results (you may remember Hawk Harrelson implying Bautista used corked bats in 2011), and he can be rather demonstrative when things don't go his way (you may remember John Danks calling him a "f---ing clown" for slamming his bat after popping up a pitch during the same series).
This being the case, Bautista showed a surprising amount of tact when discussing Jose Abreu's reluctance to participate in the Home Run Derby. Bautista is the captain of the AL's squad, and takes the task of choosing a team seriously. That means he has serious interest in Abreu (""It’s hard to not notice what he’s doing"), but Abreu doesn't share similar enthusiasm for the event, saying it doesn't mesh with his approach to hitting.
Nevertheless, Bautista is going to test the waters himself, and diplomatically:
"I don’t want to pick guys that don’t want to do it and I don’t want to force guys into doing it if they don’t feel like it or they’re uncomfortable or they have health issues," Bautista said. "I want to win this so I’m not going to pick anybody that’s going to be reserved in any way when they go out and pick up the bat." [...]
Even though his swing and approach have never been bothered by participation in a Derby, Bautista knows not everyone is the same. He just wants to extend the AL’s newest slugger the courtesy of an in-person invitation to gauge where he really stands.
"Of course I’d understand (if he doesn’t want to) but I want to hear it from him," Bautista said. "I don’t want to use sources for that type of decision because I don’t want to not invite him and he’s upset or disappointed if I didn’t talk to him first.
I'm not going to pretend I know what's best for Abreu, but I know what's best for me, and that's a Home Run Derby with Abreu in it.
I've had fluctuating interest in the Derby, mostly because it's an event that demands a spectacle, and the participants aren't always up to the task. But the captain format comes really close to getting optimal lineups. Last year, Robinson Cano picked Prince Fielder, Chris Davis, and, most importantly, Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes was the only Derby participant who wasn't an All-Star, but he ended up winning the whole thing, beating Bryce Harper (who was just as great) -- his 32nd homer and final of the night went 455 feet.
I can't say I watched the whole thing start to finish, because I don't really need to see Cano or Michael Cuddyer or David Wright hitting professional 390-foot homers. But the strong guys like Fielder, Pedro Alvarez command attention, and the Cespedes-Harper final lived up to the billing.
Cespedes is up for doing it again. So is Yasiel Puig, who hit the farthest homer I've ever witnessed in person.
Giancarlo Stanton would serve if asked, and Troy Tulowitzki would be an idiot not to ask him. Lump in Abreu with those three guys, and that's a Home Run Derby that requires three extra pairs of pants.
That just requires Abreu to summon some enthusiasm about the event. We'll see how well he weathers the peer pressure, because Bautista isn't the only guy who is intrigued by the power. Paul Konerko wants to see how small Abreu can make Target Field appear, and maybe he can wield some last-wish guilt on him:
Abreu has said he would participate in the event if he has to. Konerko can understand his teammate’s reservations but thinks Abreu would enjoy getting the opportunity to play in front of 40,000 spectators. And, Konerko said, you never know if you’ll get another opportunity.
"But it’s really a personal thing," Konerko said. "It would be fun to see. He has a lot of power, and the balls tend to jump a little more in those events. I’d like to see where he can hit some of them in that stadium."
I like the way Grant Brisbee went about selling it in creating his dream Derby lineups:
Giancarlo Stanton with a wig
Giancarlo Stanton in a funny hat
Giancarlo Stanton with glasses and fake mustache
Giancarlo Stanton wearing a Red Sox hat (to troll Twitter)
Giancarlo Stanton with a fake beard
Giancarlo Stanton with a Mission Impossible mask that makes him look like Chris Sale