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Robinson Cano's choice, and the surges of Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Johan Santana

 For today's entry, let's borrow the style of The Onion's Jackie Harvey. Not necessarily his hilarious ignorance (at least, not intentionally so). Just the way he introduces each topic the same way. Something like this...

Item! Robinson Cano will participate in the Home Run Derby next Monday, and the Yankees are not happy about it.

It's funny. George Steinbrenner has virtually nothing to do with running the Yankees anymore, yet when a story like this comes down the pike, you can see The Boss' imprint. This Yankees leadership, just as George would want it, has no use for extracurricular silliness like the Home Run Derby.

If you ran a statistical survey, you'd very likely discover that the high majority of HR Derby participants displayed no negative effect from their involvement. Yet as Long noted in Erik Boland's story, there was Bobby Abreu in 2005, and Josh Hamilton in 2008. And don't forget David Wright in 2006.

On Monday, I chatted with Wright about this very topic, telling him my 6-year-old son - planning to attend his first All-Star Game - was hoping that Wright would take part in the HR Derby. He smiled and said that, no, he wouldn't be in it this year.

"It's just a lot of work," Wright said. "You're running around, getting ready for the next round." That's because Wright finished second to Ryan Howard - a strong showing that only strengthens his desire to make his HR Derby history a one-and-done deal.

Cano seems excited about competing, so as Alex Rodriguez said, he should go for it. The Yankees have to show some faith in their young star.

The only argument that gets my goat is when people say that players "owe it" to Major League Baseball to participate. Puh-leeze. If you've been to the Home Run Derby, you know that it's a terrible, prolonged, live event, and that most fans are oblivious and certainly don't care who's competing, as long as a lot of balls leave the playing field.

If anyone owes anything to anybody, then MLB owes it to humanity to figure out a different activity for the day before the actual All-Star Game.

Item! Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Johan Santana all shined last night.

A-Rod now has 14 homers on the season. Sabathia's May swoon is ancient history. Santana now has two straight excellent starts, after generating discussion about his demise in a group of starts prior to that.

 We all want to dive into data mid-season, and look, we can't ignore it. Teams are obviously  impacted by the underperformance of highly compensated veterans. But we write off these highly compensated veterans with serious risk.attached. Better to wait for a full season to play out, at least, before rendering any serious judgment.

Good column by Anthony Rieber, tying in Santana with Cliff Lee.

Item! Mariano Rivera will skip the All-Star Game to rest his left side and right knee.

You're always going to be concerned about Rivera, 40, whenever he divulges aches and pains. But just to put this into some context, it should be pointed out that Rivera generally has no use for the All-Star Game.

Sure, he's been a good boy in recent years, and he has attended and pitch when selected. Yet if you go back far enough, you'll see that, in 1999, he didn't participate because he flew to Panama to deal with a contentious contractor who was building a new house for the Rivera family. And in 2001, he skipped the game to rest an ankle injury, even as he pitched in the final game before the break and the third game after the break.

By the way, i'm finally linking to this phenomenal New York Times video on Rivera, which NaOH linked here a few days ago. Just got around to watching it. Pretty awesome.

Item! Nick Swisher and Kevin Youkilis are in a tight battle for the final American League slot in the All-Star Game. Swisher is using Twitter to get votes, while Youkilis has Masschusetts Senator John Kerry helping, as well as a Red Sox alliance with the Reds (who are stumping for Joey Votto).

I say, it's all in good fun. What the heck. If I were Bud Selig, I'd be thrilled that people and teams were so passionate about this.

Item! Brett Gardner hit leadoff for a second straight game last night.

Gardner continues to improve his standing among the Yankees. Seriously, why would the Yankees go after Carl Crawford this winter when they have Gardner at a fraction of the price?

At this point, Gardner (.396 OBP) is a superior option at leadoff to Derek Jeter (.347 OBP). But is Jeter a superior option at second to Swisher (.375 OBP) or a healthy, productive Nick Johnson? The Yankees certainly are not prepared to lower Jeter in the order at this juncture, and as we mentioned earlier with veterans, Jeter probably deserves some more time to improve. 

In any case, I find it a very interesting discussion topic, and we continue to be impressed by Gardner, who was so unimpressive when he first showed up in the big leagues in 2008.

Item! Stephen Strasburg says he didn't deserve to be an All-Star, anyway.

Agreed, and more to the point, it shows that Strasburg will not be a last-minute replacement if more National League pitchers get injured. Why pick a guy who's uncomfortable being there? Go with Mike Pelfrey, instead. Or Livan Hernandez. Or Jaime Garcia. Et cetera.

Item! The Phillies need starting pitching, and if you read this Q and A session with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., you'll see him talk nonsensically about why the team had to trade Cliff Lee last winter.

On yesterday's live chat, the notion of "Trades of the Century" came up. I think that, right now, the Phillies' trade of Lee has to go down as the worst trade of the century, even worse than the Giants' 2003 trade for A.J. Pierzynski. Yes, I realize there's still time for those prospects the Phillies received from Seattle to blossom. But at least Giants GM Brian Sabean was trying to improve his club, however misguided the execution was. I still can't figure out what Amaro was trying to do.

 --Item! Jose Reyes looked good in his first game back.

You wonder whether it would make sense for him to skip the All-Star Game to heal his right side, so that he can switch-hit sooner. 

--In a good read, Tom Verducci offers his no-nonsense All-Star team.

--Sounds like it was terrifying out in Texas, as a fan injury stopped play for 16 minutes.

--One more Item! I've been meaning to thank JE for four days now for letting me steal his alternate Francisco Rodriguez nickname, "BB-Rod," which I used in my column Sunday. I saw JE at Saturday's Mets-Nationals game at Nationals Park, and how fitting that K-Rod saved an all-time meltdown for a Mets fan who never wanted him. :) 

--I'll check in tonight from Citi Field.

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