Two other American League stars, Byron Buxton and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., also have a claim to the King of Swing crowns. Guerrero turned in an utterly legendary 2019 showdown with eventual champion Pete Alonso, whereas Buxton has been raking this season.
The thing these players have in common? They all ultimately turned down an invite to this year’s event.Each has their own reasons to do so, and they’re all valid. Here’s a look at them on a case-by-case basis.
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Aaron JudgeThe first to reject the Derby has the simplest reason: Been there, done that.
“Nope. No need, I already did it once,” Judge said to the New York Post in June. “I’m all good with that.”
Judge, who settled his contract with the Yankees before heading into arbitration this year and will be a free agent after this season, is undoubtedly also protecting his investment in a contract year. While it would be fun to see him return, as a participant and winner before, he seems content with his one crown as he chases more prestigious hardware this season.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Guerrero hit 91 home runs in 2019 in a runner-up performance against Pete Alonso, and gave the MLB world one of its most fun showings of all time. He will not, however, be making a return in 2022.
Guerrero, who has been battling a wrist injury this season, cited that as the reason he doesn’t want to take more hacks this year.
“I don’t want to take a chance that my wrist gets hurt again and it gets bad and I won’t be able to help the team win, which is what we’re trying to do here,” he said per The Athletic two weeks ago.
The Blue Jays are currently tied with the Mariners for the final Wild Card spot in the American League, so every game counts. If Guerrero had a flare-up and had to miss any time as a result of the derby, it would be a disservice to his team and the league at large.
The most complex case on this list, Buxton has an incredibly compelling case. He does something amazing seemingly every time he’s at the plate, and he’s tied with Alonso for sixth in the league with 23 homers. Buxton, however, will be at nearly 70 games at the break, the most he’s played in a first half since 2019 — which was nearly immediately derailed by injury at the beginning of August.
It stands to reason Buxton has no intention of comprising his health in any way whatsoever, particularly with what felt like a close call with his knee earlier this season. As the Twins try to find their way in a tightly contested AL Central, Buxton will be essential for the back half. Darren Wolfson confirmed Buxton was asked and declined.