The State Farm Home Run Derby is one of sports' great opening acts, and the climax of next Monday's All-Star Workout Day activities will be suitably star-studded.
Andre Ethier removed himself from consideration earlier this weekend, reasoning that he is still too banged-up even a month after ending a stint on the disabled list.When the Dodgers' outfielder went on the DL in mid-May with a fractured little finger, he was the NL's Triple Crown leader with a .393 average accompanying 11 home runs and 38 RBIs. Seven weeks later, Ethier is batting .321 and has added merely two homers and 10 RBIs. The State Farm Home Run Derby, part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day, will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the U.S. beginning at 8 p.m. ET on July 12 at Angel Stadium. It also will feature pitch-by-pitch coverage on MLB.com, with Twitter integration for live expert and fan involvement. Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau was asked about his interest in joining the Derby a few days ago, and has struggled with his answer since. "I know what's best for me and taking a day off is that. I still may switch, but right now, I'm leaning toward, 'No,'" Morneau said. "It's a hard decision anyway because you grew up watching the Derby on TV and having a derby in your backyard. It's something you always dream of doing, but for the second half and the benefit of the team, you have to look at both sides of it. I'm sure it'll be fun and it'd be great to go in it, but I want to be good in the second half and feel as good as I can." The reluctance of some of the more logical Derby candidates to step up to the plate in Angel Stadium is apt given Orange County's already unique role in All-Star sideshow history. Prior to the rocketing popularity of the Home Run Derby, pregame day festivities included a skills competition among select All-Stars with events such as catchers' throwing accuracy and speed racing around the bases. In the throwing-relays competition on the day prior to the 1989 All-Star Game in Anaheim Stadium, Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin tore the medial collateral ligament in his right elbow. Larkin, who at the time led the Majors with a .342 average, missed the rest of the season. Soon thereafter, the skills competition was off the bill. The poster boy for the possible impairing effects of stepping up in the Derby is the host team's Bobby Abreu, who was still with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2005 when he put on a show that brought the house down in Detroit's Comerica Park. But Abreu, who had 18 homers at the break, hit only six more the rest of that season and hasn't topped 20 since. Which could bring us to Mauer and his power drain in the aftermath of his emergence as a 2009 Derby contestant. Or it could all be a coincidence. Mauer was one of six of last summer's eight Derby swingers whose second-half production waned; only Fielder (22 homers before the break, 24 after) and Howard (22, 23) stepped it up. The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau de Sport, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.