Ichiro puts on a show and reportedly won't go

The Mariners didn't even play, but between a stunning performance in the All-Star Game and reports that he'll sign a contract extension, Ichiro gave the Northwest plenty to celebrate.
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The Mariners didn't even play, but between a stunning performance in the All-Star Game and reports that he'll sign a contract extension, Ichiro gave the Northwest plenty to celebrate.

Ichiro Suzuki earned most-valuable-player honors at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Tuesday, July 10, and that was only the evening's second-most-valuable news for Seattle Mariners partisans. With three hits, including the summer classic's first-ever inside-the-park home run, Ich basically owned San Francisco's AT&T Park [videos] until he was lifted in the fifth inning. But the big story for M's fans was a report by The Seattle Times, then other media outlets, before the game that Ichiro soon will sign a five-year deal worth up to $100 million that will keep him in Seattle. That would solidify a lineup that could dominate the American League. Just as Ichiro figured favorably in the game's first at-bat, M's closer J.J. Putz almost provided the appropriate bookend. Putz got two quick outs and would have had the third had an easy play at second base been made. But the usually steady redhead gave up a cheap single and a home run before another A.L. reliever brought it to a 5-4 conclusion. The American League extended a decade-long dominance of the All-Star Game, the winning league of which earns home-field advantage in the World Series at season's end. It was a better-than-usual spectacle, on and off the field. Willie Mays was justifiably feted as perhaps the best player ever. Barry Bonds, also of the San Francisco Giants, was temporarily forgiven the "body-building" excesses that surely will catch up with him. Ichiro brought a sporting presence to the venerable exhibition. The center fielder led off the game for the visiting American League contingent, skipping one through the right side on a 1-0 pitch (he'd die at second when Yankee Derek Jeter grounded into a double play). Even during Ichiro's first at-bat, one could imagine that the other Seattle Mariner on the team would figure in the final pitch, this if only Putz were brought in to close the game for the A.L. The scenario was foreshadowed by A.L. field boss Jim Leyland when asked by game announcers toward the end of the third inning. Leyland's Detroit Tigers are slated for games at Safeco Field when the season resumes Thursday, July 12. The manager joked that he wouldn't mind using Putz "for five innings" of the all-star game, the better to fatigue the M's excellent closer. Leyland was certain that he'd use Putz to end it in the ninth if it came to that. After Ken Griffey Jr. drove in an early run to make it 1-0 National League, Ichiro dunked his second single, to left this time. Griffey was fooled on Ichiro's fifth-inning carom clout to right, which gave the Mariner a leg home run and his team a 2-1 lead. During the post-game ceremony, a street-clothes-clad Ichiro commanded what was left of the world TV audience, answering (through an interpreter) a few questions as he accepted his MVP award. He also received a new hybrid auto, which, for what it's worth, bears no resemblance to the red pickup truck Ichiro's former mentor, Mike Hargrove, recently used as his Seattle getaway vehicle. Fans no doubt are relieved that, whatever he drives, their ongoing MVP won't be taking it too far beyond the Seattle city limits anytime soon.


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