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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

July 13, 2009 at 7:51 PM

Brandon Inge wins the “Double Down The Left-Field Line Derby”

Unfortunately, it’s a Home Run Derby, and the Tigers’ third baseman was completely shut out. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Prince Fielder actually won it with a grand total of 23 homers in three rounds. I think Josh Hamilton did that in his sleep last year at Yankee Stadium. I watched most of it with half an eye, because I was pounding out stories, but this was the biggest snoozer of a Home Run Derby in a long time. Not even Albert Pujols could save it. He hit just 11 homers and didn’t make it out of the second round. There always seems to be someone to save the Derby with a dazzling display of power — Hamilton last year (now THAT was a display), Bobby Abreu one year, Cal Ripken Jr. one year, Ken Griffey Jr. many years. Fielder had a few moments — he hit one 503 feet — but he never really caught fire. I’d be interested to hear what those of you who watched on TV thought.

Inge, by the way, shouldn’t feel too badly. I vividly remember in 2003, at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, when the Mariners’ Bret Boone was similarly blanked in the Home Run Derby. For Boone, who loved to exude a cocky persona — he called himself “The Boone” — it was quite a comedown.

Boone had brought Dave Valle, then a Mariners’ broadcaster, to be his personal pitcher. Valle also wound up throwing to Garret Anderson — and Anderson won the Derby. Apparently, Valle gave Anderson his good stuff. Or his bad stuff, I guess.

“I feel terrible, man,” Valle told me that night (I called up the story on the internet). “He’s the reason I’m here, and he got shut out. He told me I’m going to have to take a bus home.”

Boone sheepishly met the media after failing to hit a single ball out of U.S. Cellular Field in 10 swings.

“He stinks,” Boone said of Valle with mock outrage. “That guy … without a doubt, it wasn’t me; it was definitely David. He’s in trouble with me. He’ll never come again. He pitches good to the lefties, though.”

Here’s more from the story I wrote that night:

Let the record show that Boone was kidding. He did a lot of kidding after his whiffs, which included a rare swing-and-miss on his third cut. A world-class razzer, Boone knows he’s going to take some serious razzing from teammates.

“I don’t even want to check voice mail,” he said. “I’m sure I don’t have to wait until Thursday (when the Mariners resume their season in Kansas City). Alex (Rodriguez) was getting on me doing the commentating (for ESPN). I looked at him and said, ‘Now I know why you’re commenting. You’re terrible at this, too. It’s like a different sport.’ ”

Boone was the first player to be blanked since Anaheim’s Troy Glaus at Safeco Field in 2001. Boone was in that competition as well, hitting three home runs, and he got all over Glaus. What goes around …

“My worst nightmare. A couple years ago, Troy Glaus hit zero,” Boone said. “I was just making fun of him. Everything comes back to bite you.”

Boone grudgingly admitted the fault was not with the thrower.

“Some guys you click with, and some guys you don’t,” Boone said. “He threw good. Put ’em right there. I got a lot of hits, though. I was, like, 8 for 10. A couple of doubles right down the line.”

And the ignominious swing and miss?

“He threw me a changeup,” Boone joked. “I just went, ‘Ah, come on.’ No one swings and misses.”

Said Valle: “I didn’t really want to look at him (after the miss). I just looked straight down.”

For Boone, the Home Run Derby had begun with Ichiro ceremonially delivering his bat.

“I can’t even say it was fun,” he sighed. “I’ll tell you what else: Ichiro brought me my bat up there, and he brought me the wrong one.”

After six misses, Boone turned toward Ichiro, watching from the sideline.

“I said, ‘What about this bat? It’s not working,’ ” he said. “Me and him were talking about it beforehand and decided he was going to deliver my bat. He told me after I didn’t hit one, ‘Bad luck.’ ”

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