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Bonds' presence looms over All-Star festivities

Fans of the Giants are preparing for their Barryfest this week in AT&T Park but there's not expected to be any official ceremonies by Major League Baseball to acknowledge Barry Bonds' quest for the home run record during Tuesday's All-Star Game. Unlike past games, where current players such as Cal Ripken or Tony Gwynn have been honored, the only Giant expected to get any big ceremony is legend Willie Mays.

Fates conspired against commissioner Bud Selig, who is still apparently trying to figure out if and when to attend Bonds' home run chase. Had the All-Star Game been anywhere but San Francisco, where there was a major ballot push by fans, it's doubtful Bonds would have even been in it. NL manager Tony La Russa insists he would have added Bonds anyway but I would have liked to have seen his decision if the game had not been Bonds' home park.

So with Bonds firmly in the starting lineup, Selig & Co. are probably just wishing he has his two or three at-bats and nothing major takes place. The problem is that most of the pregame hype will center on Bonds. I can't wait for Monday's news conference with AL manager Jim Leyland, who will probably grouch his way through a passionate defense of his former star.

Bonds was Leyland's star outfielder in the early '90s in Pittsburgh and Leyland loves him. If the Tigers were not a contender this year, many in baseball circles think Leyland would have pushed management in Detroit to get Bonds and let him play out his home run chase as the Tigers' DH. But last year's surprising run to the World Series quelled any thought of that.

Will Leyland get more questions about Bonds or his own pitcher, Justin Verlander? Should be interesting. So should Bonds' scheduled session with the national media.

il,14l,3p6 At least Bonds had the sense to beg off Monday's home run derby. He's apparently hosting a swank party for VIPs on the city's waterfront but said he was concerned about the wear on his 42-year-old legs from the contest. And he has a point there because it's now three rounds rather than two.

The Giants are the sixth consecutive all-star host to have a losing record at the break. That's bad news for Yankees fans, because the 2008 game will be a final-season send-off held in Yankee Stadium.

The game has been bad news in general for the National League, which hasn't won one since 1996 and has gone 0 for 4 since home-field advantage in the World Series became up for grabs to the winner in 2003.

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>Ichiro pushed Grover

I believe Mariners manager Mike Hargrove when he says he was burned out. Dealing with him last year and again this year after the Opening Day snowout fiasco in Cleveland, Hargrove seemed distant and had lost the enthusiasm he had as the manager of the great Indians teams of the mid-90s.

Still, I don't believe his sudden resignation last Sunday was all about burnout either. Not with his team on an eight-game winning streak. A more plausible reason is Hargrove is fed up with the players running the show because Ichiro Suzuki has always been closer to bench coach and new manager John McLaren and not so tight with Hargrove.

The story floating around baseball circles is that Hargrove found out Ichiro, whose contract runs out after this season, had told ownership it had to change managers before next year if it wanted him to negotiate a new deal. Ichiro first told Seattle reporters not to broach that topic when asked about any rift but then admitted he and Hargrove had come to an uneasy truce.

"At the beginning, there were complications between us," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "Since then, I've honestly expressed my feelings to him. He listened to them honorably and very gentleman-like. That's a strong memory I'll have."

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>Biggio may sit

Now that Craig Biggio has reached 3,000 hits, there's a good chance his playing time is going to be curtailed. Owner Drayton McLane is telling pals the team can make another charge like 2005 -- when it was once 15 games under .500 and still made the World Series -- but this team appears to be going nowhere.

With several young players needing full looks, it appears Chris Burke could be getting some of the 41-year-old Biggio's at-bats. Overshadowed by the 5-for-6 night that put him over 3,000, Biggio's chase had been a Bonds-like crawl. He entered the weekend batting .258, but was at .237 until a 12-for-24 run that ended Thursday.

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>Vizquel's bat going

Omar Vizquel's golden glove is as good as ever at age 40 but the Giants' shortstop has suddenly lost his bat speed and may not be able to fulfill his goal of playing through 2009. Perhaps because of offseason surgery to remove a sty in his right eye, Vizquel entered the weekend batting just .230. He hit .295 last year with 171 hits, his most since collecting 176 for the 2000 Indians.

By the end of the season, only Hall of Famers Honus Wagner and Luke Appling will have started more games at short after age 40 than Vizquel, who has won 11 Gold Gloves.

No one thinks about offense when talking about Vizquel but he's one of just four active players with at least 2,500 hits (the others are Biggio, Bonds, and Julio Franco). And he has more hits while playing shortstop over the last 50 years than anyone except Luis Aparicio.

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>Around the horn

* With a big lead in the AL East, the Red Sox are being ultra-careful with Curt Schilling. The team has already announced its rotation for the week after the break and Schilling, on the way back from shoulder tendinitis, is not a part of it. There's talk it might be early August before he takes the mound again.

* The Rockies have become impossible to figure. They sandwiched a 6-0 sweep of home games against the Yankees and Mets around a disastrous 1-9 road trip that saw All-Star closer Brian Fuentes blow four straight saves. It was the first double-whammy against two New York teams since the Milwaukee Braves blanked the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants in 1956.

* Fans watching the Indians-Tigers game Tuesday night on SportsTime Ohio missed Casey Blake's game-winning home run in the top of the 11th inning when technical trouble bounced the broadcast for about 10 minutes.

Poor babies. Now they know how we feel when we're blacked out of Tribe games because of the team's ill-conceived edicts on its "local" blackout zone that bans us from seeing any games except the Sunday nighter on ESPN or a Saturday game on Fox.

It happened again Wednesday when the ESPN broadcast here of Game Two of the series from Comerica Park was shelved for ESPNews -- even though it was a road game. Ridiculous.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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