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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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July 12, 2008 9:38 PM

Ichiro turns down Home Run Derby

Posted by Geoff Baker

kc0712 016.jpg

This is a story I've written for tomorrow's paper, but since you've all been so patient watching the Mariners tonight, I thought I'd give you a sneak preview of what will be in tomorrow's Times.

Yes, Ichiro was indeed offered a chance to participate in next week's Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. He was approached earlier this week by MLB officials and said he'd get back to them on it. An MLB source revealed this, so I asked Ichiro -- through his interpreter, Ken Barron -- what was up.

"Yes, I was asked,'' he confirmed to me earlier today. "But because of my hamstring, I decided not to participate.''

That would be the hamstring he felt tightness in this week. Which caused him not to start that series finale in Oakland, though he entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Kenji Johjima in the eighth.

Ichiro approached both interim GM Lee Pelekoudas and manager Jim Riggleman for their input. Both had obviously been aware of the hamstring issue. Riggleman had even tried to get Ichiro to take a day off.

"It was discussed,'' Pelekoudas said. "I think it would have been nice for him to participate if he wanted to. You watch him in batting practice and he puts on a show.''

Riggleman agreed.

"I think he would have won the thing,'' he said.

Riggleman said he was approached several days ago, by an interpreter for Ichiro, and asked for his opinions about him participating.

"I didn't hear anything else about it and sort of forgot about the whole thing,'' Riggleman said. "Then, I was told just the other day that he wasn't going to do it.''

Ichiro still plans to play in the All-Star Game itself. He just won't be answering any of those questions we've long had about his power and ability to belt home runs at will. We know he can do it in BP. It would have been nice to see him try on a bigger stage, in front of a huge crowd with millions watching on TV. Though he did do it in last year's All Star game (an inside-the-parker, mind you). Remember, he's hit 36 singles in a row. Not every singles hitter gets a shot at winning a Home Run Derby. For now, fans will have to wait another year and cross their fingers. For him to first be invited. Then, to actually accept.

Watch our video tour of Kauffman Stadium above.

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Posted by Chris from Bothell

9:57 PM, Jul 12, 2008

Good, I officially have zero reason to tune in (with the sound muted so I don't have to endure Chris Berman's asinine "back back back back back" on every damned shot).

Would be nice if Ichiro turned on some of that famous batting practice power during an actual game. One of these days his legs will not let him get infield singles anymore, and if he wants to play for another 3 or 4 years after that he's going to need to make the conversion into the 25 HR / year player everyone makes it sound like he could be. Which would likely include striking out / flying out much more than he does.

Perhaps if we got another leadoff hitter (high OBP guy who can occasionally steal), perhaps Ichiro could convert into a true right fielder and silence thems that bemoan a singles hitter being at a power position.

Cue dismissive post from Mr. X and Anti-Ichiro League in 3...2...1...


Posted by Capo

10:21 PM, Jul 12, 2008

Chris Berman is a fat pompous ass......his act was entertaining 10 yrs ago, but no he's just an obnoxious fat ass.

Have you ever seen his blow up during a commercial?

As to Ichiro, who cares.....we go through this "Will he or won't he" every All Star game.

Posted by downonstrikes

11:48 PM, Jul 12, 2008

Just another embarrassment for the M's. We have nobody with overall star quality.

But it's best. We don't want to have his trade value go to zero should the hamstring pop at the home run derby.

Posted by ethan

11:52 PM, Jul 12, 2008're_with_me,_leather

maybe the all-star game can fit in a "GROUND OUT TO SECOND" contest. or perhaps a "FLY OUT TO RIGHT" derby.
the Mariners would sweep.

Posted by Dave from the coast

1:40 AM, Jul 13, 2008

First of all, I am totally disillusioned by Chris Berman. He comes on like an average-beer-drinking Joe who just happens to be an ESPN anchor. But he's actually a pompous, neurotic, ego-driven dimwit. I hope his little YouTube-posted rant blows him out of the water.

As far as Ichiro hitting HR's in practice...what kind of pitches is he hitting? Big-boy pitches or fungo pitches where the ball moves, say, 50 miles an hour? I personally don't think Ichiro can hit home runs consistently in a big-league situation, in a big-league GAME. If he coulda, he woulda, by now. Prove me wrong, Mr. Ichiro...

Posted by calim

1:52 AM, Jul 13, 2008

better concessions in Arizona? Geoff, you NEED to try Gate's BBQ before you leave. Then opine on the concessions.

Posted by bongo

2:36 AM, Jul 13, 2008

"fungo pitches where the ball moves, say, 50 miles an hour?" Have you ever watched the HR derby? Players bring their own BP pitchers to throw them meatballs. Several others including Alex Rodriguez (unless he changes his mind) and Manny Ramirez have also elected not to do the HR derby out of concern for injury or ruining their swing.

Posted by bpeto

8:30 AM, Jul 13, 2008


Ichiro news should at least prompt that. His star is fading as quickly as the team he plays for. He did not deserve an all-star vote this year and I doubt many fans will miss his presence in the ever-boring home run derby.

The best thing about baseball's all-star game is that it gives the world a week off from the game.

Posted by Bill

8:56 AM, Jul 13, 2008

That doesn't make sense: Why play in the game itself if he's worried about his hamstring? He could just as easliy injure his hamstring running around in the outfield or around the bases. Maybe he's just trying to keep the myth that he can actually hit home runs alive.

Posted by PayClayBennett

9:19 AM, Jul 13, 2008

he's a puss - this whole club is bunch of pusses. Morrow has quickly turned into a puss - that straight 98 mph fastball gets turned around just as fast - put some movement on it Brandon. Bottom line is you have to quit giving up games to bombs from guys like Kurt Suzuki, Emil Brown and David DeJesus.

It's extremely hard to watch this team....

Posted by M Dogg

9:21 AM, Jul 13, 2008

Call him whatever you like, but Ichiro is not the only big name skipping the derby:

Posted by Seth Cotner

9:29 AM, Jul 13, 2008

The below article is hillarious. Glad to see the half of the M's team is getting national recognition for all of the wrong reasons:

Some highlights:

AL LVP of the half year: Richie Sexson, Mariners

One of our general principles in life is not to pick on the unemployed. But considering that this particular unemployed guy will continue to be the 20th-highest-paid player in baseball (at $15.5 million) even though the Mariners just released him, we'll make an exception in Richie Sexson's case. Heck, they may have done this man a favor. Had he kept on going out there, he had a chance to become the first player in history to whiff 150 times without getting to 20 homers or 20 doubles. (He was on pace for 148 SO, 21 HR, 16 2B when the gong sounded.)

Sexson also gets extra LVP credit for being the only Mariner to openly defy an edict by his former GM, Bill Bavasi, that all players must stand at their lockers and explain to the media why they'd turned this season into such a debacle. And getting released for "body language" sealed his spot on the LVP medal stand.

Sighs of relief for: Edgar Renteria, Jose Vidro, Kenji Johjima, Robinson Cano.

AL Cy Yuk of the half year: Carlos Silva, Mariners

Picking against a pitcher (Livan Hernandez) who's on pace to become the first man in almost 30 years to give up 304 hits in a season was as tough a call as our Cy Yuk panel has ever made. But at least Livan wins a game now and then. In fact, four of his nine wins are against teams in first place.

So let's bestow this honor on a pitcher who raked in the biggest free-agent pitcher contract of the winter ($48 million for four years), who hasn't beaten an American League team since April 17 (0-10 in 13 starts), who is supposed to be a ground-ball specialist, but has still allowed his opponents to slug .491 against him in a pitchers' park, who helped get his manager and GM fired, who even directed a thinly veiled public rip at Ichiro Suzuki. True, there are still 3 long years left on Carlos Silva's contract. But he has sure positioned himself to rank as one of the massive free-agent busts of all time.

Sighs of relief for: Hernandez, Joe Blanton, Boof Bonser, Miguel Batista and that Phil Hughes/Ian Kennedy tag team.

Posted by Mr. X

9:39 AM, Jul 13, 2008


What a shame. No reason to ruin a perfectly good myth if you don't have to.

Of course "bongo" is correct, Ichiro would be able to use his own BP pitcher, and he may even do well, but he can't duplicate anything similar in a game situation. Games are the only things that matter, not meaningless exhibitions. I'm betting that Richie Sexson could hit .350 in batting practice. Until he can do it in a game, it doesn't matter, and neither does Ichiro's alleged power.

Of course, the "injured hamstring" would have an effect. How do you expect him to his multiple "inside the park" home runs with a bum hammy? I don't think those kids in the outfield would be able to throw him out at home. He may even be able to hit the first "infield inside the park" home run. I might have turned on the 70" bravia to see that one.

Posted by Eburg T

9:41 AM, Jul 13, 2008

For now, fans will have to wait another year and cross their fingers. For him to first be invited. Then, to actually accept.

Or, we can not give a crap about the Home Run Derby. Just putting that out there as an alternate possibility.

Posted by Chuck

9:48 AM, Jul 13, 2008

The only way we are going to get what we want is to hope the Mariners lose. Why? Because we wanted Boovasi and Johnny Mack gone. Why? because we wanted Sexon gone. Why? Because we wanted the team imploded and rebuilt. Why? So we can be the worse team in baseball and get the number one draft pick. we're pathetic!

Posted by wag the dog

10:16 AM, Jul 13, 2008

A singles hitter from one of the worst teams in baseball is not participating in the HR derby? What a bummer. The All-Star game is threatening to become as irrelevant as the Mariners.

Geoff, are you hearing anything about GM candidates? I know that won't do anything until the off season, but I'm wondering if their thinking on the matter is starting to become apparent?

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

10:45 AM, Jul 13, 2008

Ichiro is avoiding a national embarrassment by declining the home run derby. It's one thing to jack a few in batting practice in a near empty stadium. It's another to take 100 pitches in a grueling battle of endurance and hitting for power in a competition being watched by millions.

Ichiro can't compete because of his hamstring but he can run the bases and play defense in the All-Star game at center field. Don't buy it. Ichiro is a smart man, he's protecting his reputation.

Posted by Faceplant

10:55 AM, Jul 13, 2008

"It's another to take 100 pitches in a grueling battle of endurance and hitting for power in a competition being watched by millions."

Because clearly Ichiro can't handle pressure, and has no indurance.

Christ, you people are ridiculous. Get a life.

Posted by Nat

10:56 AM, Jul 13, 2008

Chris from Bothell- you called it :)

Posted by Faceplant

11:02 AM, Jul 13, 2008

And by the way, there are VERY few people who actually think Ichiro can hit for consistent power against real pitching in the big leagues. But nobody in the HR derby is hitting off of real pitching. It's an exhibition, one that many a power hitter has also declined to participate in.

But don't let that stop you from throwing up your strawmen.

That said, I have little doubt that if Ichiro had agreed to participate we'd here Resin, and X telling us all how Ichiro, being a singles hitter, was making a mockery of the game by entering a power hitting competition.

Posted by Faceplant

11:05 AM, Jul 13, 2008

"Would be nice if Ichiro turned on some of that famous batting practice power during an actual game. One of these days his legs will not let him get infield singles anymore, and if he wants to play for another 3 or 4 years after that he's going to need to make the conversion into the 25 HR / year player everyone makes it sound like he could be. Which would likely include striking out / flying out much more than he does"

I don't buy that. Speed ages extremely well. Power, and patience generally doesn't. And if Ichiro could hit for consistent power he would be doing it. I think he has SOME untapped power in his bat, but I doubt it's anywhere near 25 HR's. 15 maybe 20 at the most.

Posted by meagain

6:09 PM, Jul 13, 2008

A couple of points:

Anyone could have cued Chris in Bothell up immediately on an Ichiro post. Just as readily as he cues up those who disagree with him. Doesn't negate anyone's point, just because it's predictable.

And: the All Star Home Run Contest is an exhibition, and every one of the hitters is hitting batting practice pitching. Right field in Yankee Stadium is a short porch. I would like to have seen Ichiro participate, and if he has a sore hammy I'm glad he didn't. The guy seems to know his body, and what stresses it and what doesn't, pretty well. Not even Chris in Bothell criticizes his endurance, as far as I can recall.

I have a question, Chris. You're the GM. What righhtfielder or centerfielder, that you have a prayer of getting, would you trade Ichiro for straight up? Damon? Crisp? Phooey. He's one of the tops in the game at his position and hitting leadoff, and it would take a smart exec to get equal value for him. If current M's management can do that, and make the team younger and better in the process, I'm all for it. I'll believe it when I see it.

Oh, and Chris...please don't hold your breath. I did that for a Sexson trade and almost killed myself.

Posted by tjp

6:50 PM, Jul 13, 2008

Ichiro turns down HR Derby?
Thats BIG of him, since he only has 3 so far and is not known for hitting them.

Posted by hugh

12:45 AM, Jul 14, 2008

I'm tired of hearing about how Ichiro is secretly the greatest home run hitter to have ever played the game this time every year.

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