Hargrove Dismisses A Theory

Sunday, July 15, 2007

It was nine days from the shocking announcement that Mike Hargrove was resigning as manager of the Seattle Mariners to the first news reports last Monday that the team was on the verge of signing center fielder Ichiro Suzuki to a contract extension. Ichiro was 2 1/2 months from free agency.

For those who had been digging around in search of a secret reason behind Hargrove's sudden departure -- as opposed to his stated reason of a simple case of burnout -- the Ichiro contract was proof there was more to the story. Clearly, the theory went, the Mariners forced Hargrove out to appease their star player, and once that was done, Ichiro was ready to sign.

"I think conspiracy theories have replaced baseball as our national pastime," Hargrove said with a laugh on Friday.

Hargrove was speaking from behind the wheel of his brand new red Ford F-150 pickup truck, which he bought after his resignation. He and his wife, Sharon, are driving it on a cross-country excursion that began in Seattle, wound through wine country in Northern California and -- after a stop this weekend in Bakersfield, Calif., where his son, Andy, plays for the Mariners' Class A High Desert team -- will take them home to Cleveland.

"There's nothing to that," Hargrove said about the speculation regarding Ichiro. Ownership had "been in negotiations with him for a long time. And while I wasn't privy to it, at no time did anyone come to me and even hint at the fact Ichiro might have said this or that.

"If [a demand to push Hargrove out] had been a factor, they would've had to fire me. I wouldn't have resigned. My Texas redneck blood would've come out real quick. The fact is, I resigned for the reasons I said."

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