MLB could change HR Derby rules

Updated: July 10, 2012, 9:30 PM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The booing of beleaguered Home Run Derby captain Robinson Cano finally had faded by Tuesday afternoon. But the aftermath could cause Major League Baseball to consider a new rule to include at least one hometown slugger in future Home Run Derbies, commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday.

The booing of Cano was inspired by his failure to pick Kansas City All-Star Billy Butler for the Derby after pledging earlier this month to include a Royal. Last year's National League captain, Prince Fielder, received similar treatment in Phoenix for not picking Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton.

So Selig conceded those displays of "hometown loyalty" could spark changes to head off similar outbursts in future Derbies.

"We'll talk about this [potential rule change]," Selig said during his annual session with the Baseball Writers Association of America. "While I understand [the feelings of fans in] Kansas City ... I felt very badly last night. I felt badly last year for Prince. This was tough."

When another questioner observed the heat -- and boos -- could even intensify next year with the game scheduled for Citi Field in New York, Selig again lamented Monday's episode.

"It won't be any worse than last night," he said. "You can only boo so loud. ... But let me just say, we'll think about that."

MLB Players Association executive director Michael Weiner, who addressed the writers after Selig, said the issue is more complicated than that and said a rule requiring hometown approval might not necessarily be in the event's best interests.

"If we move to something where there's a spot reserved for one of the home-team participants, that would probably generate a lot of excitement in the ballpark," Weiner told ESPN.com following his formal remarks. "But I don't know how the ESPN producers would have felt if Mark Trumbo or Jose Bautista or Prince Fielder were left out of the event instead of Billy Butler.

"So on the one hand, if the union and the commissioner's office want to continue the captains format, the last thing we want to do is say to a player who volunteers to participate in an event and volunteers to be a face of the event [that] he is setting himself up to be booed. We don't want that. ... It sort of defeats the purpose of having players select their peers to be on their team if you have these kinds of restrictions. So I don't know which way it goes. But there will be continued discussions. And I don't know what kind of aftereffect it will have."

Weiner expressed concerns that the treatment Cano and Fielder have received might deter players from volunteering to serve as captain for future Derbies. And that, he said, would be unfortunate because "the captains format, I think, has really energized the event."

Weiner also voiced concerns about scuttlebutt that ESPN might have "egged on" the booing by showing repeated shots, during the telecast, of Butler and his mother while Cano was hitting. Several of those shots were then shown on the stadium video board, prompting loud cheers followed by more vociferous booing of Cano.

So Weiner, who admitted he didn't see the telecast because he was in the stadium, said that discussions of any changes down the road need to include ESPN.

"I think that everybody -- both Major League Baseball and the players' association, but also ESPN, which broadcasts the event -- have to ... take a look at this dynamic and ask, 'Is this what we want?' " he said.

Weiner said he was confident that Cano, because he's a tough-minded guy who plays for the Yankees, "can take it." But that didn't alleviate his dismay over how Cano's Derby storyline had done a full 180-degree turn since last year.

"Robby can take it, but you guys saw the Derby last year," Weiner said. "What made it a really compelling story is that Robby was really excited, and he had his dad pitching to him, and he jumped into his arms afterward, and it was a big deal. It was a nice moment and a nice story, that a lot of people connected with. So the guy wanted to do it again this year. And he did, and he had his dad there again, and that should have been the focus.

"It's one thing to boo him when he first comes on the field and they first announce the team. It's another thing for the loudest cheers in the place to be when he fouls one back, and that prompts all the cheers. It was like the Royals just won the pennant."

Weiner acknowledged that fans should be allowed to express their frustration.

"They're entitled to do it," he said. "But we have to adjust. Fans pay their ticket. They're entitled to do what they want to do. But whether they got a little bit of a push [from broadcasters and talk shows], I just don't know."

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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