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There’s a push to get Ichiro into the 2018 Home Run Derby

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Mariners manager Scott Servais made an off-hand joke in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday, suggesting that Ichiro Suzuki should participate in the Home Run Derby. But fans ran with the idea and it’s now a topic that reporters have had to cover leading into Wednesday evening’s game between the Mariners and Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Servais said, “We started a campaign the other day, and maybe you guys can help. I know a lot of today’s players don’t want to get in the home run hitting contest. I think Ichiro would be a great addition to the home run hitting contest at the All-Star Game. He takes BP every day and he is launching balls. It’s really fun to watch. That would draw a lot of fans.”

Suzuki, of course, understood that Servais was kidding. Per MLB.com’s Greg Johns, Suzuki said, “I thought our skipper didn’t like to tell jokes, but I guess he does. That’s the funniest thing he’s said in the first half of the year.”

Suzuki, 44, struggled to open the season, so he decided to hang up his spikes — at least for the season — and join the Mariners’ front office as a Special Assistant to the Chairman. As Servais mentioned, Suzuki still takes on-field batting practice with the team, and he hasn’t ruled out coming back to play next year. He said, “Right now, I’m not a player. I’m going to be back, but right now, I think it’s just a joke, to be honest with you.” He continued, “I think if somebody like me entered, it would kind of harm the game. I’m not a player and with the long, great history MLB has, I don’t think it would be good for [the game]. But it’s fun and I’m happy it’s come up. It’s fun to have conversations like that. So I’m definitely happy about it.”

Though his power is the stuff of legend, Suzuki never hit more than 15 home runs in a season and reached double-digit home runs just three times in 18 seasons. He has never participated in the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby. However, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports, Suzuki was invited to the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium in 2008, but didn’t go because he injured his finger.

When asked if he could choose a pitcher to throw to him if he participated in the Derby, Suzuki answered with Mark Buehrle, per Divish. Indeed, in 70 plate appearances against Buehrle, Ichiro hit .409, though he had only three extra-base hits, including one home run.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will be held on July 16 at Nationals Park as part of the All-Star Game festivities. While Suzuki didn’t outright decline participating, it doesn’t seem like we’re going to see him in the Derby. We’re also not going to see Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, or Mike Trout in the Derby.

Major League Baseball to launch an elite league for high schoolers

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This morning Major League Baseball announced a new elite league for high school baseball players who are likely to be drafted. It’s called the Prospect Development Pipeline League. It’ll start next summer and it’ll invite 80 of the best current high school juniors to play in a league in Florida from June through early July, culminating in an All-Star Game during MLB’s All-Star week.

The idea behind the league: to combat the current system in which a couple of pay-to-play, for-profit showcase leagues dominate the pre-draft season. Major League Baseball, schools and a lot of players’ parents have criticized this system because it favors rich kids who can afford to play in them. Major League Baseball is also likely quite keen on having greater control over the training, health and physical monitoring of prospects.

As Jeff Passan notes in his report about this, there will be a component of the program which involves live data-tracking of players during games and drills. Major League Baseball has become increasingly interested in such things but is limited in how much it can do in this regard due to labor agreements. There is no such impediment with high schoolers. Your mileage will vary when it comes to how you feel about that, I presume.