As I sit here, the 2010 State Farm Home Run Derby is underway in Anaheim.
It's an event that someone came up with several years ago to create another big revenue stream for Major League Baseball during the All-Star Break. It's tied in with a charity - this year it's the Orange County area Boy's and Girl's Clubs of America - and is televised live on ESPN. Tickets aren't cheap, but still considerably less than the All-Star Game itself. It's kind of like the consolation game for fans who couldn't score game tickets.
Right now the leading home run hitter in the major leagues is Toronto's Jose Bautista with 24. Four players are tied for second place overall, including Washington's Adam Dunn. Bautista isn't participating in the Home Run Derby - the last AL slot went to Nick Swisher - but he's at least on the team. Dunn isn't on the team, and therefore can't be a participant.
To that I have to ask, why not? If the purpose of the day-before event is to showcase the game's big sluggers - and there's nothing on the line like home field advantage in the World Series - why should they limit it to just the players on the All-Star rosters?
There would be some added incentive for fans of particular teams to tune in on Monday night if your guy was in the contest. I really don't think there's much of an integrity issue at stake since, as noted before, there's really nothing on the line outside of the money to be donated by State Farm, which will be donated regardless of who the contestants are.
I have to think that fans across America would enjoy seeing Dunn launch a few. He'd be the biggest contestant in terms of physical size, and likely more entertaining than most of the other sluggers by personality alone.
There would have to be a caveat that participating in the home run derby would not satisfy any All-Star Game contract incentives, but that's probably not a deal-breaker.
It's the fan's game, right? I can't imagine the fans would find the inclusion of some additional participants particularly disconcerting.