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Joey Gallo declined an invitation to participate in the Home Run Derby

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The annual All-Star Game festivities are just nine days away, which means we’re nine days closer to watching the best sluggers in professional baseball light up the Marlins’ home run machine during the Home Run Derby. Not everyone is prepared to take on reigning Derby champ Giancarlo Stanton, however. Rangers’ third baseman Joey Gallo reportedly declined his invitation to the home run contest, telling reporters that he didn’t feel he had earned the right to compete against more seasoned All-Stars.

“I don’t feel comfortable doing it right now in my career,” the slugger said, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. “I just want to put my head down and do what I need to do to get better. If I get a little more well-rounded as a hitter, I’d like to do it. But I’m not an All-Star and I respect that you should earn it. Others deserve it more than me.”

Entering Saturday, the 23-year-old infielder has racked up 21 home runs so far this season, blowing well past his previous single-season record of six home runs and ranking fifth among all major league batters in total homers. In fact, he hasn’t been able to anything but mash taters for the Rangers, dragging a .194 average and .301 on-base percentage through his first 279 PA. It’s this lack of well-roundedness that has likely precluded him from an All-Star nomination, though Grant points out that Derby selections aren’t limited to the pool of All-Stars.

Then again, some may argue that entering a competition against renowned slugger Giancarlo Stanton is a fool’s errand to begin with (unless, perhaps, your name begins with “Aaron” and ends with “Judge”). Through Friday’s games, 14 major league batters boast at least 20 home runs in 2017, including league-leader Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Justin Smoak, Eric Thames, and so on. At least one other contender has officially committed to the task so far: Twins’ third baseman Miguel Sano, who carries 18 home runs to Stanton’s 21 this year.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.