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Ichiro is Not the Problem
Posted by Jason Thornbury at 6/20/2008 11:41:00 AM
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As the postmortems on the Mariners season filter out of the national media, there are bound to be more like this one, which, after describing some of the team's problems, scapegoats Ichiro Suzuki as some kind of albatross hanging around the team's neck. The Mariners have many problems. Ichiro Suzuki is not one of them. Let's look at the allegations:

1. Ichiro is a "self-centered, numbers-driven player."

Ichiro admits he sets personal goals to motivate himself -- because, for the last five years, he hasn't had postseason contention to motivate him. After the 2005 season, Ichiro ripped the team for that very thing -- that he was tired of being motivated by personal goals rather than the playoffs. He said his teammates gave up on the year midway through the season. He questioned their preparation and commitment, specifically criticizing their failure to even warm up before the season finale. "We lost that game without spirit. What's worse, 35,000 fans came to see it, spending their money," he said.

That's a selfish player? Said former teammate Bobby Madritsch:

"If anybody were to call Ichiro a selfish person, I'd love for them to tell that to my face. What I see in Ichiro is beyond unselfish. He has one goal. Win. He was doing whatever he could to help the team out."

Said a Mariners scout: "Ichiro? Intense? He's the most intense player since Pete Rose or Ty Cobb."

2. Ichiro resisted the leadership of former manager Mike Hargrove.

Coming off his record 262-hit season in 2004, Ichiro was instructed by the newly hired Hargrove to take more pitches. That year, 2005, Ichiro looked at a career-high 79.8 percent of first pitches. Ichiro probably did "resist" Hargrove -- because he knew more about his own hitting than Hargrove did. And if he "resisted," he certainly didn't defy Hargove -- he set a career high in the very task Hargrove demanded.

3. Just-fired manager John McLaren was "yielding to Ichiro’s desire to play right field instead of center."

This is carefully worded sentence that insinuates McLaren gave in to Ichiro to make him happy. Does Ichiro "desire" to play right field? Yeah, highly likely. It's less running for him (especially this year given the state of the corner OF) and saves wear and tear on his legs -- it prolongs his career. Did he ask, demand or passively agressively seek to play right field? Well, there's no evidence for that, the accusation isn't sourced in the article, and McLaren said it was his idea and his alone. So, how does that amount to "yielding"?

4. Ichiro refuses to move runners at expense of his batting average.

An unsourced allegation that is difficult to refute with anything other than anecdotal information. But would you rather have your best hitter moving a runner over with a groundout or a base hit? His average with a runner on first is .316, less than his .331 career average and significantly less than his .371 average with a runner on second. That doesn't necessarily prove anything, but maybe he does indeed sacrifice his average to move the runner over.

5. Ichiro refuses to steal bases at the possible risk of his success rate.

Which is better: 60 stolen bases at a 50-percent rate or 40 stolen bases at an 80-percent rate? There's no point in running just to run. Ichiro knows this, which is why he attempts more steals per times on base in "high leverage" situations than "medium" or "low" leverage situations -- 23.1 percent to 18.1 and 9.8, respectively.

6. Ichiro refuses to dive for balls in the gaps.

As Ichiro has said many times, he can dive for balls and run into walls, but making one out isn't usually more important than staying healthy for a full season. When it is more important, he makes the catch. Case in point, a few weeks ago when he knocked himself woozy running full steam into the center field wall making a catch few other outfielders in baseball would have made. Does Ichiro get to enough balls? In the last two years, no outfielder has made more outs than Ichiro. The closest to Ichiro's 622 is Aaron Rowand at 581. Ichiro is getting to more than his share of fly balls.

What I'm getting at here is, doesn't Ichiro do enough? The guy bangs out 200-plus hits every year, steals 30-plus bags, plays Gold Glove defense, owns a team record for consecutive games played, what else do you want?


I have no complaints with Ichiro, but he is on the decline (even if you have a fantasy crush on him). Since I have him in two of my four leagues (I had him in three but traded him to a Mariners fan for J. Santana), I see his stats everyday. He is still a stud, but he is no longer the stud of studs. Also, he plays a position with so much talent among fplayers. This, in itself, weakens his value a little compared to less rich positions (e.g., ss (Hanley) or 2b (Utley) or c (Soto)).
Posted by jhermann at 6/20/2008 12:07:00 PM
There are a lot of problems with the shipwreck Mariner, 2008. Ichiro Suzuki isn't one of them.
Posted by spianow at 6/20/2008 12:19:00 PM
Agree with everything you wrote.
Posted by bscwik at 6/20/2008 1:49:00 PM
I live in seattle and see Ichiro almost everyday and the Mariners should trade him. They will never win with him.
Posted by carybrister at 6/20/2008 4:48:00 PM
I live in Washington and also watch the Mariners on a fairly regular basis. I both agree and disagree with you carybrister. I disagree with you saying the Mariners will never win him... it's that the Mariners aren't winning despite him. My slight agreement comes from the wording... because I don't think the team seems like it will be in a position to contend again until after Ichiro's best days are behind him. It's all in how you interpret things.

Ichiro isn't the issue with this team right now. He does what he's paid to do - play stellar defense, get hits, and terrorize the basebaths. It's Sexson, Beltre, Bedard, etc etc etc. Players that were brought in at great expense (in either contracts or prospects) that aren't performing anywhere near expectations that have this team in the dumps right now and the future looks pretty bleak as well.

I think the M's ought to move him purely out of respect for him as a player - he wants to win and he's not going to be able to do that in Seattle any time soon. He might not be an MVP caliber player anymore, but he's got quite a bit left in his tank and could really help a team making a playoff push.
Posted by gjewells at 6/20/2008 6:06:00 PM
They won 116 games with him in 2001. They won 93 games with him in both 2002 and 2003. Why will they "never with him"?
Posted by Jason Thornbury at 6/20/2008 7:22:00 PM
I am a Mariner fan that lives in NJ (I have the MLB package), so let me give you another perspective from the 'other' coast...

I've been listening to Softy on KJR the last few days and I agree with everything he has been saying: this ALL starts at the top, i.e. Howard Lincoln. They got off to a good start by firing Bavasi, who has been a complete disaster from day one; and firing McLaren, whose decision making since he became manager, was really shaky. But it started with Lincoln who, from the days of Pinella asking for 'one more bat', would never make that extra move to put the team over the top...when they actually had a team worth winning! This lineup is one of the worst put together lineups ever, where 1 thru 9 all have the same approach at the plate: swing and then swing somemore.

Then they give a crap-load of money to VERY mediocre pitchers the last few years (i.e.: Washburn, Batista, Silva, Weaver, etc etc), when they are releasing cheaper guys who were either their equal or better! (i.e.: Ryan Franklin, Piniero, Campanilo, Baek). And don't even get me started on the trades....Through the years this organization has almost ALWAYS gotten the short end of that stick (Soriano for Horacio Ramirez; Asdrubal Cabrera for Perez; hell, Jason Varitek and Derrek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb for crying out loud!).

Heads have been chopped...but the one that really needs to go is Howard Lincoln
Posted by seahawk32 at 6/20/2008 9:36:00 PM

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