Question No. 1: Should Mariners phenom Julio Rodriguez have participated in last Monday’s Home Run Derby, in which he wowed the country and staked his claim as a national sensation? An informal press-box survey produced an array of answers, but I think the right one is this — with the benefit of hindsight, no. 

Question No: 2: Is the reason Rodriguez has been scratched from the lineup in the past four games — the first three of which resulted in Mariners losses — due to his three rounds in the Derby? A lot less debate on this one. Absolutely.  

Question No. 3, and this is what might prompt wars in the comment section: Should anyone be assigned blame for Julio’s absence of late? That, like the answer to the first query, is also a no. 

Rodriguez’s herculean home-running the day before the All-Star Game last week was more than just an athletic spectacle. As the Dominican launched bombs into the Dodger Stadium stands, he was also launching his celebrity

His 32 home runs in the first round were eight more than any other player hit in any round of the tournament. Then he hit 31 in his next turn before falling to Juan Soto 19-18 in the championship round. 

As Ken Griffey Jr. snapped pictures of the 21-year-old, millions of viewers were thinking his successor in Seattle was announcing his presence to the baseball universe. Rodriguez earned $750,000 for placing second, which is more than his entire base salary. And he might have netted 10 or 20 or 30 times that amount in future endorsement money for his star-power demonstration. 


But …

The incessant full-throttle swinging clearly aggravated a minor left-wrist tweak he suffered one day earlier, when he slid into the leg of Rangers shortstop Marcus Semien on a stolen-base attempt. It might not have affected Rodriguez for the remainder of that game (he hit a double two at-bats later) — and it certainly didn’t affect him in the Derby. But the Mariners were without their best player in all three of their losses to the Astros in their first series after the All-Star break. 

So Monday I posed the question to M’s manager Scott Servias.

Was it a good idea for Julio to participate in the Home Run Derby? 

“It’s not for me to say whether it was a good idea or not,” Servais said. “If I was 21 years old, would I want to participate in the Home Run Derby with millions of people watching me with the greatest players in the world? Yes, I would want to do it. Again, a little setback coming out of it. We will deal with it. I’m not mad at Julio. I love Julio. We all love Julio.” 

Servais was clear that if it weren’t for the Derby, Rodriguez would have been playing after the All-Star break. But he was also clear that there was no real concern from him or the training staff about Rodriguez hurting himself in Los Angeles. Julio felt healthy. He communicated this to his skipper and his staff. And more than anything — he looked healthy. Extremely healthy. 

If Rodriguez was experiencing real pain last Monday, he wouldn’t have put on one of the all-time aggregate performances in Home Run Derby history. Soto might have been crowned champion, but the rookie won the day. 


Unfortunately, there is no real simulation for the Derby. It requires its participants — particularly those who make it to the finals — to take about three or four times the amount of swings they would in batting practice. And all these swings are all at full strength, putting the body through something it might not provide feedback for until a day or two later. That seems to be what happened with Rodriguez. It’s easy to point fingers in hindsight, but it’s doubtful any of the armchair quarterbacks were complaining when Julio was mesmerizing the millions of onlookers last Monday.

The Derby doesn’t have a history of spawning injuries. There was little reason to think it would have in Rodriguez’s case. 

Still, the Mariners haven’t made the playoffs in 21 years. And they are smack-dab in the middle of a wild-card race that could (and likely will) be decided by a game or two. Rodriguez might have gained national if not international acclaim last week. He might have helped spark the Friday sellout at T-Mobile Park and near-capacity crowds in the other two games vs. Houston. But if his absence cost this postseason-starved franchise a critical win, none of those dingers last week — at least not in my opinion — was worth it. 

Come on, though. Could this really have been predicted? The moment called for Rodriguez, and he delivered something beyond just about anybody’s expectations.

Asked about his injury Monday, Rodriguez said he and the organization were just trying to be “smart” and not risk further aggravation. Some might suggest the Mariners would have been smart to keep Rodriguez out of the Derby completely.

But Julio’s injury isn’t the result of the M’s being dumb. Truth is, it’s a lot closer to dumb luck.