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Gary Sanchez deserves to be in the Home Run Derby

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Not everyone is thrilled with Gary’s inclusion in the Home Run Derby, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be there.

Texas Rangers v New York Yankees Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

You sit on a humble fishing boat in the middle of the Norwegian Sea. The nets are down and the haddock are biting. You take a minute to grab a puff of a cigar when you notice a dark shadow in the water. The surface of the sea begins to bubble as the long, dark tentacles of a mysterious sea beast take hold of your humble little ship and pull you down into the frigid waters. The mayhem consumes you. So does the beast.

That sea creature is Gary Sanchez. Your little fishing boat is the back end of the 2016 season.

Gary, the resident Yankee catcher-slash-Kraken, took the league by storm after his debut last August. Every day seemed to bring a new monster shot as he found his way to 20 home runs in 53 games and put up an impressive .657 slugging percentage. The baseball community was in disbelief. The future was bright and the Yankees were fun again.

Fast forward to 2017 and things got off to a rocky start. After being sidelined for nearly a month with a bicep injury, Gary struggled upon return. Through the end of May, he was batting .264/.356/.418 with only four homers. Come June (and right after this article on his loss of power was published), things started to turn around for El Gary and proved once and for all that he reads Pinstripe Alley.

Over the last month, Gary has improved to .294/.382/.528. Most importantly, he found his power again, adding nine homers to his resume. Now entering the All-Star Break, he sits at 13 dingers in 53 games which was enough to earn him a nod into the Home Run Derby. The world found out about his invitation to the event via an announcement video alongside his teammate and current king of dingers, Aaron Judge.

The decision to include El Gary was not without controversy. Logan Morrison, who did not receive an invitation, had some things to say. "Gary shouldn't be there. Gary's a great player, but he shouldn't be in the Home Run Derby,” snarled Morrison before adding a very modest, "I remember when I had 14 home runs. That was a month and a half ago." After that quote that he maybe stole from an 80’s teen movie villain, he then went on to take some (probably accurate) digs at the media for their coverage—or lack thereof—of the Rays.

Gary responded through his translator to this personal attack in a very don’t-bring-me-into-this fashion: "It's an honor to participate in the event. It's not my fault he didn't get selected." The Kraken wins this war of words by managing to address the comment, shut it down, and not take the bait to fight fire with fire. Which brings us to the crux of the matter. Why Gary?

Ostensibly, Morrison’s comments were spurred simply by the tally of home runs this season. Gary has 13 home runs, Morrison has 24. That’s a fact. But, that ignores the other fact that Morrison has 100 more plate appearances this season than Gary. Given that he’s been on a tear since recuperating from his injury, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that in a full, healthy 2017 season, Gary outpaces Morrison and currently sits near the top of the home run leaderboard. And, in fact, since the last Home Run Derby, he has.

So why is it that Gary becomes the source of Morrison’s ire? Why didn’t he have the same issues with Charlie Blackmon who only has five more homers than Gary in 158 more plate appearances this year? Because he is in the National League. Though his comments are masked as a revolt against the league decision makers, they’re really more self-serving than that.

However, while it’s easy to take issue with the way Morrison chose to complain about the league’s decision, he’s not wrong about his own non-inclusion in the Home Run Derby. He is putting up the best power numbers of his career and is currently tied for third in the American League for home runs with Mike Moustakas. They sit behind George Springer and the only mythical creature larger than a Kraken, Aaron Judge. But, what Gary has that Morrison doesn’t is a storyline.

Major League Baseball has one goal for the All-Star Break: drive ratings. It’s the only reason that the Home Run Derby even exists. Even though Morrison has the numbers, Gary has the appeal. A young, exciting player who squeezed the life out of the league with his giant Kraken tentacles last year, only to stumble and return to form is a good story. Add in the fact that he’s entering this dinger skirmish against his teammate and the most marketable player on the planet in Judge and this becomes a perfect storm.

This also creates a continuous storyline for the second half of the season. Everyone knows that the Yankees have young talent and last year, Gary Sanchez was a household name. But all of this has been overshadowed this year by the tallest tree in the forest, Aaron Judge. Pitting these two against each other in the Home Run Derby brings Gary back into the spotlight and has the possibility to create a new “M&M Boys” scenario in baseball’s biggest market. The only difference here is that Didi Gregorius wasn’t around to give Mantle and Maris cool emojis.

The truth is, putting Gary Sanchez in the Home Run Derby is great for him, for the Yankees, and for baseball. It’s a shame that it comes at the expense of Logan Morrison. He shouldn’t have to see his strong season pushed to the wayside. But, that also doesn’t diminish Gary’s accomplishments and potential for star power.

In all fairness to Logan Morrison, this is the risk you take when you go fishing with a Kraken lurking in the water.