Other than Chase Utley, the list of this year's Home Run Derby participants (brought to you by State Farm!) is a who's who of who's who? I mean, baseball diehards (the same people who passionately dislike everything about the All-Star Game from the selection process to the importance of the outcome) will recognize every name and cite with encyclopedic precision their favorite Fantasy Baseball moment of each player participating. But for the casual fan (the type the networks are trying to convince to watch), the names Lance Berkman, Josh Hamilton, Dan Uggla and Grady Sizemore have about as much collective draw as Mike Greenberg did hosting the
What the contest needs is something interesting to bring back some of the juice that was lost when Divorcée-Rod™ (trademark pending) backed out because he didn't want it to F up his swing (No big whooop. It's not like you're the biggest player on the team hosting the game in Yankee Stadium's last season ever. I'm sure Mick and Babe would've backed out too, pussy.). With "The Rod" on the sideline, the Derby needs something big (or little) to add a little freak show quality to the event. In the same way the Dunk Contest upped the ante with Spud Webb and Nate Robinson when the best athletes started pulling out of the contest, the Home Run Contest would be much more entertaining if you added people who can do things they aren't supposed to be able to. Dustin Pedroia is that guy.
At 5'7" and about a buck 60 soaking wet, Dustin Pedroia is smaller than many of the bat boys and ball girls in most stadiums. When you see him on the field standing next to guys like Mike Lowell or A-Rod, it's just comical. He's small but on a Major League ball field his lack of size is exacerbated tenfold. But for all his failings in growth, the little shit can hit. In the last month, only 9 players in the Majors had a higher slugging percentage than Pedroia (50 ABs or more). For the season he's got more extra base hits than Vlad, has a higher slugging percentage than many 3-4 hitters (Ibanez, Beltre, Abreu, Tejada and Jack Cust, just to name a few) and swings like he's trying to hit the ball through the wall every time he takes a cut. In fact, baseball TV guys are contractually obligated to mention how hard he swings every time he steps to the plate (oh, they're not? well then why the fuck do the insist on saying it every fucking time he steps to the plate...? Ohhhhh, right... because all national baseball broadcasters are assholes. Well I guess that makes sense.). When you break the numbers right down, Pedroia is about as qualified as anyone else invited to the game.
But beyond the qualifications there are two reasons why Pedroia should be in the event. The first was alluded to earlier: it would be great to watch. Assuming he doesn't just tank and hit warning track flies all day, it would be a fantastic advertisement for the Derby. No one gives a shit if Josh Hamilton or Dan Uggla hits a dozen home runs and no one will talk about it after the next day (in the same way no one gave a shit when Fred Jones won the dunk contest a couple years ago). But if Pedroia were to make a run in the contest or even just hit a couple shots out, a 5'7" miniature baseball player who swings like a beer league softball player is a great watch. And watchability is the core ingredient to the Home Run Derby. The second reason Pedroia would be a great selection is probably even a better one: he can win.
Pedroia wouldn't have to change a thing about his swing to hit a bunch of BP balls out. With the amount of scrutiny recently placed on "changing swings for the home run derby" and the correlation to reduced production in the second half of the season, players are now reticent to swing for the fences in the Home Run Derby for fear that they will tweak their swings and screw everything up. Dustin Pedroia does not have that fear. He also has a great Yankee stadium swing. He's a dead pull upper cut contact hitter. Unlike the other big home run hitters, he doesn't swing and miss and always makes good contact. He's got half the strikeouts of most other guys (and 1/3 the amount that Dan Uggla has presently) so unlike the other dudes he's much more likely to hit the ball squarely when he swings hard. He may not have the power but he's got the consistency.
At the end of the day, if Uggla or Utley or Hamilton wins the Home Run Derby, it'll be another name in the annals of the Derby and a footnote in the resume of those dudes (or perhaps the lead note in Uggla's resume) and whoever planned to watch the Derby before the participants were announced will still watch. If a 5'7" little piece of shit with a 6'5", 330lb swing is announced a competitor, people who had no interest will watch the sideshow, Pedroia will compete his ass off and with a little luck the most improbable home run derby champ in history will beat the big fellas. I'll take that over the entry of yet another former juicing meatstick any day.