The 2013 baseball season is underway and you don’t know how you should feel about our beloved Seattle Mariners. Fear not, M’s fans. I’m not hear to tell you how you should feel (that’s no one’s place), but I can give you 11 reasons why you might be able to shed some cynicism and believe in this year’s team.
Without further delay…
11. Chone Figgins is gone.
Lest you think three years of vitriol directed towards the Mariners’ sometimes-third baseman was unwarranted, consider this:
In 2012, the team had a record of 75-87 (.451). Chone Figgins appeared in 67 games, during which time the Mariners plodded along at a 26-41 rate (.388). In the remaining 95 games, sans Figgins, the team played at an above-.500 clip, amassing a 49-46 total (.516). Damn near unbelievable.
The trend doesn’t end there, either. Over Figgins’ three-year tenure with the club, the M’s put together a less-than-impressive 203-283 win-loss sum (.418). With their diminutive Donkey from Shrek lookalike in the lineup, the team was just 123-186 (.398). Without him? Try five-plus percentage points higher, .451, at 80-97. So yeah, he actually did make a difference. In the worst way possible.
On top of all that, Figgy just wasn’t very likable, and at the end of the day, paying the guy $8.5 million to go away was worth it simply from a public relations standpoint. The public hated Figgins and now he’s gone. That’s good P.R. if I’ve ever seen it.
10. They get to play Houston 19 times this year.
Nineteen times!!! That’s like 19 games against a semi-pro squad!
I’m telling you right now, the American League Western Division champion will be the team that has the most victories over the Astros. This may as well be a presidential election, and Houston may as well be our Ohio. Swing state, all the way.
9. Felix Hernandez will make at least 30 starts.
That’s like 30 wins right there. A third of our triumphs are basically already counted for.
8. Every A.L. West team has its fair share of warts.
The Mariners may have some question marks at the back end of their rotation, as well as the ever-looming threat of a power outage in the lineup, but they certainly aren’t alone in showcasing a few blemishes on their pate.
Down in Los Angeles (better known to geography aficianados as “Anaheim”), the Angels are dealing with a revamped starting pitching staff that lost an ace (Zack Greinke) and a mainstay (Ervin Santana). Though Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson were obtained to fill the respective voids, one could easily infer that the overall quality of the rotation, one through five, has decreased.
In Oakland, the Athletics are comprised of the usual mish-mash of journeymen, up-and-comers, and no-names. If everything plays to perfection, the team will make a strong push around August, per usual. But as always, the A’s will be in wait-and-see mode until that time. A few key losses along the way and this team has just as good a chance to be out of the playoff picture as they do to be in it come late-summer.
The Rangers were most stricken by defections over the offseason, losing the heart of their order (Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli) and the soul of their team (Michael Young) to other ballclubs. Pitching is always a concern in Texas, and this year is no different. Relying heavily on a de facto ace in Matt Harrison and a soon-to-be-ace in Yu Darvish, the Rangers will need to keep all their arms healthy in order to stay at the top of the standings. An increased workload for Darvish, however, could very well land him on the disabled list by mid-year.
And then there’s Houston…yeah.
Point is, this division is by no means closed. The A’s were AL West champs a year ago, and they’re certainly no favorite to repeat. The Angels are considered the leaders in the clubhouse to finish first, but the same could have been said a year ago and they floundered. The Rangers have been to the World Series twice in the past three years, but they’re a completely different squad this season. The Astros are a punching bag who will serve as a season-long spoiler. And the Mariners are lying in the weeds, on the rise and with the ability to seize a golden opportunity if they so desire. It’s anyone’s race.
7. They have a real-life middle-of-the-order now.
The Mariners’ 2013 Opening Day lineup featured a 5-6-7-8 combo of Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager, Jesus Montero, and Dustin Ackley, in that order. This same quartet was counted on last season to fill out the heart of the team’s lineup, often batting in some arrangement of 2-3-4-5. The difference? The arrivals of Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales.
Morse and Morales may not be first-tier major league stars, but they are imposing figures in a lineup that has lacked exactly that for many years now. Each is capable of blasting 30-plus home runs, while neither should sacrifice much in the way of average as they supply that power — Morse is a career .295 batter, while Morales has hit at a .280 pace over his big league tenure.
The presence of the M’s M&M duo has taken a hefty dose of pressure off the likes of the aforementioned youngsters, Smoak, Seager, Montero, and Ackley. Rather than being asked to carry the lineup, these four can now simply focus on contributing. And as a bonus, the team as a whole should see an uptick in offensive production.
6. The bullpen is ridiculous.
Three guys who consistently flirt with triple digits on the radar gun.
A guy who would start for many teams in the league.
A hard-throwing lefty with a (figurative) chip on his shoulder.
A left-handed specialist who can pitch two innings, if needed.
A six-foot-eight-inch ex-starter who can throw in long relief, middle relief, or simply induce a ground ball if needed.
Stephen Pryor, Carter Capps, and Tom Wilhelmsen.
You might not know all the names yet. But you will.
5. They instituted $5 draft beer at Safeco Field.
Look. We all know this team won’t win every game. Heck, they might not win enough games to make the postseason. It’s a real possibility, and frankly, considered a likelihood at this point. So what do we do when they lose? Drink. And if you happen to be at a game and the team is losing (or, you know, winning — the outcome is kind of irrelevant), you can drink for cheaper than you drank last year.
I noticed a glaring absence at Safeco Field in 2012: cheap beer. Of course, when it comes to big league ballparks, the term “cheap beer” is entirely relative. But two years ago, the team offered more affordable options like Miller High Life and Busch Light for around $6 per pint (as opposed to around $8.75 per pint for your standard American domestic draft).
I made the omission known to my buddy Kevin Martinez, who also doubles as the team’s Vice President of Marketing. Kevin took that information, then went and did us all a solid.
Thanks to Kevin and his team, instead of $6 cheap beers on tap, we now have $5 cheap beers on tap. And that deal exists every day at the ballpark. There’s no special arrangement for this sort of thing. It’s every single day.
The $5 beers are sold at two locations in the stadium: at a new bar behind home plate, right next to the semi-hidden Mariners Hall of Fame; and at a stand right outside the entrance to the Hit It Here Cafe.
They’re not bar prices, they’re not happy hour prices, but for a professional sporting event, this is about as good as it gets. I can’t justify a $9 Bud Light. But I can damn well sip on a $5 High Life and not feel bad about it. In this instance at least, we can thank the organization for doing right by the fans.
4. Ichiro is gone.
We all love Ichiro. He’s a baseball icon, a Mariners legend, and a future Hall of Famer. To label him otherwise would be entirely unjust.
For all his greatness, however, Ichiro served as a symbol of the franchise’s decade-long struggles with ineptitude. Though he bridged the gap from the team’s success of the 116-win 2001 season, Ichiro was not so much a leader as he was an individual talent that existed amidst a backdrop of failure.
As time went by and the Mariners continued their losing ways, Ichiro’s presence became less of a boon and more of a burden on a roster desperate for dramatic turnover. A veritable statue both in right field and atop the batting order, the aging outfielder blocked younger players from reaching the majors (consider that over his playing career, the M’s traded away the likes of Adam Jones and Shin-Soo Choo), and arguably stunted the development of others (Casper Wells and Michael Saunders, to name two).
With Ichiro’s departure last summer, the M’s have finally absolved themselves of the man who had come to personify the organization’s lack of commitment to winning. Entering our first full year without such a stalwart along for the ride will allow the team to finally emerge from the long shadow Ichiro cast upon this entire ballclub.
3. They have players who actually want to be here.
Raul Ibanez is back, and that says a lot. Yeah, the cynics will say that this is just another futile attempt at rekindling the flame with one of Seattle’s favorite sons, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure, in the past the Mariners have been known to flirt with nostalgia, but the differences between Ibanez and, say, a Ken Griffey Jr. are two-fold. One, Ibanez is still a productive major leaguer, even at the ripe old age of 40. And two, Ibanez elected to play here not out of sentimentality, but because he knows he can make a difference with a team that, believe it or not, has playoff potential.
Mike Morse is back, and that says a lot, too. Shortly after being acquired from the Nationals over the offseason, Morse took to all forms of media (print, radio, social) and announced his unbridled enthusiasm for a return to the Pacific Northwest. It was a little surprising, seeing as how his career never really took off until after the lanky outfielder shed his Mariners uniform, but the giddiness and excitement seemed genuine and resonated with fans at the same time.
These are just two individuals, of course, but if you think back over the past decade, there aren’t too many guys you can name who were this eager to play for the M’s.
“Buying in” is a mantra preached across the street, more synonymous with our football team than the club inhabiting Safeco Field. Short of Pete Carroll positioning himself atop the steps of the first base dugout, however, Morse and Ibanez have single-handedly perpetuated a culture of “team” that has been sorely lacking on this squad for years. Instead of individuals with personal agendas floating through our ballpark before embarking elsewhere, it seems that these two acquisitions (re-acquisitions) alone have changed the mentality of the on-field product for the better.
2. They’re undefeated.
As of print time, the Mariners are 2-0 and by definition among the best teams in Major League Baseball. Though some curmudgeonly pundits will have you believe otherwise, that record and those two initial triumphs are not entirely inconsequential. Every win, any win, is a great thing.
1. They’re likable.
Yeah, I get it. As long as Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong head up this organization, there will always be at least two reasons to loathe the Seattle Mariners. Forget those guys. They happen to be a pair of flies on our glorious buffet spread. They’ll get theirs eventually, and their legacies will always outlive their own regimes. Beyond the dictatorship of two bumbling fools, there’s a lot of good permeating throughout this team.
When it comes to the on-field product, let’s face it, it’s tough to despise the Mariners. There’s no Figgins and no Ichiro. There are no Milton Bradleys, no Jack Custs, no Johjimas or Sexsons or Lopezes or any other albatrosses destined to drag this team through the mud for a season.
This team is young, it’s rejuvenated, it has the potential to be entertaining, to be successful, to be a joy to watch play. It’s filled with promise (Ackley, Seager, Montero, Saunders, Brandon Maurer, to name five) and production (Morse, Morales, Felix, to name three).
There are smiles in the clubhouse, there are players who seem to enjoy one another’s company, and there’s a sense of quiet confidence that can be felt by fans.
There aren’t jerks wearing SEATTLE across their chests. There aren’t any unwarranted, bloated contracts raising eyebrows and lowering hopes. There aren’t slap-hitting pansies trying to pick fights with their manager. There aren’t malcontents pouting on the bench. There aren’t egotists pulling up half-assed on fly balls, unwilling to sell out for their teammates.
For the first time in a long time, this team feels like it’s headed in the right direction. Whether that leads us to the promised land in 2013 remains to be seen. Without a doubt, though, it’s something we can all believe in. That belief alone should be reason for optimism.
Filed under: Mariners
I missed Fan Fest this year but got a chance to redeem myself today when I took the tour at Safeco Field with an old colleague of mine from Japan and his wife. If you haven’t taken the tour at Safeco Field I highly recommend it especially on one of these long cold winters day when spring seems so far off. My friend Shoji played baseball himself as a young man in Japan and is of course a huge band of Ichiro and was quite impressed with our stadium. Shoji and I felt at home on the field and in the dugout as pictured above like two young kids playing the game for the first time. Baseball is funny that way as it has a special way of making one forget about time and age as the smells and sights of the game takeover the imagination.
It’s funny how we take major-league baseball for granted here in Seattle, perhaps it’s all the losing season’s we have endured the past 10 years, but I was very proud to show off our stadium and talk about the Seattle Mariners and our shared history with a game that our two countries love. The tour even included a stop in the owner’s suite where I got the picture of the actual home plate from the Kingdome pictured here.
For nine bucks you get to go in the clubhouse, on to the field, media room and as a special treat I got to observe the construction going on in the outfield where the fences are finally being brought in. In a way our Mariners are under construction again too after an off-season of acquiring several key offensive tools that could just make this season a little more bearable. Since my friends were from Japan there was a special tour guide who himself was a Japanese baseball player who was interning with the Seattle Mariners and he provided us an excellent and fun tour.
We talked about baseball, Ichiro and the link between our two countries around this great game. It was fascinating for me to hear from y guests that during World War II Japanese people were not allowed to play the game of baseball, and as a matter of fact they were not even allowed to speak English. Being that we have a Japanese owner, and have been privileged to have several Japanese players here in Seattle including the great today’s tour was sort of a special moment for me. I guess one doesn’t fully realize how lucky we are to be in this great city and have a team until you get the perspective of a guest from out of town or in this case out of the country.
We bought a few souvenirs as the Ichiro stuff is on sale, had a good time and rekindled our old friendship, a friendship with each other built around our work in the Maritime Labor Movement and in our common love of the great game of baseball. Until today I really was not looking forward to this year in the way I have in the past, but I even began to think about going down to Peoria for spring training for a few games if I can get away from work. We will see about that, in the meantime for better or worse the Seattle Mariners are my home team and a bright an important part of my life as well as many others here in this city. Go Mariners! http://jeffsmariners.com
Hi Sports fans and greetings from New York City where I just returned from a day game at Yankee Stadium where the Bron Bombers prevailed 6-4 over the Tampa Bay Rays to win the series and stay on top of the tight AL East Division race on a beautiful day in the Bronx.
I know some of you are wondering what the heck this has to do with our Seattle Mariners who are down in Texas trying to win that series, well the truth is absolutely nothing….Of course the fact that I got to see A-Rod, Raul Ibanez and Ichiro play could be of interest for you die-hard Mariners fans who are still following baseball as the season winds-down and football becomes the main focus in Seattle.
Actually I’m on my way to Casablanca Morocco and decided to spend a couple of days in New York to catch a game and a few sites before heading over to the Middle east where Baseball, hot dogs and apple pie are not high on anyone’s list these days….Yikes!….
My experience today was wonderful though I think the new Yankee Stadium lacks some of the character of the old one, even though it was a pleasure to mingle with the fans and talk baseball wearing my Felix Hernandez commemorative T-shirt from his perfect game and my old-school Mariners hat as pictured above. The fans in New York have taken to Ichiro in a big way although I couldn’t get them involved in an I-CHI-RO chant when our former star came to the plate in the eighth inning outside of a handful sitting around me who were quite friendly to me as I guess the mariners are no threat to the Yankee dynasty…..go figure….
Part of the reason for my pilgrimage back to Yankee stadium was to honor my Grandfather Gordon “Dusty” Rhodes who played for the Yankees from 1929-32 as part of his eight year career in the “Show”. As you can see above I took a little photo of him with me and took this shot with the diamond in the background.Unlike in Seattle where baseball is still sort of new, the Yankees fans love tradition and history and upon hearing I was a relative of a former player my treatment by the local fans was very friendly despite my Mariners gear on!
Life is short and yo never know what could happen so I’m glad my Higher Power has allowed me to live 54 years and that baseball has been the one constant through it all. The reverence for the game and its glorious past were on full display today though sadly I wasn’t able to get into the area set aside with trophies and monuments to all the past greats despite my pleading with a young Yankees organization staffer. If you ever go make sure you come early to get into the sacred belly of Yankee stadium to see all the relics from the past.
Despite all this I’m still not sure if the Yankees are going to be my Bandwagon team for the playoffs this year or if I’m going to jump on the Oakland A’s caravan as we move into October where the real history is made. Go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com
The Mariners are making waves. The Mariners should make waves. For one, they are Mariners, who by definition are navigating ships through the ocean. But more importantly, the Mariners are not a very good baseball team, and should be making waves with their roster. Big ones. They have won seven games in a row. This is fantastic news, but let’s not fool ourselves. The Mariners roster is not the best. Change is welcome. These are not the big waves we were hoping for, but we’re hoping the small waves continue to wash away most of our recent memories of the Mariners experience.
Players have been sent down, called up, and traded. I’ve provided you with blurbs to help you put it all in perspective. Or to confuse you. We’ll see.
Ichiro – Ichiro is not on the Mariners. We’ve gone over this. The night he was traded, I wrote this sappy tribute. As I touched on near the end, Ichiro didn’t belong on the Mariners anymore. Gratefully, he asked to be traded, and spared all parties the potential awkwardness of this coming offseason. It’s now evident the Ichiro predicament has been draining on the entire organization. It would be absurd to credit the current winning streak to the absence of Ichiro, but it’s clear the youngsters are playing with some sense of renewal following the resolution of this tricky situation. Ichiro is on the Yankees now. Get with the program.
Brandon League – League was traded to the Dodgers for a pair of minor leaguers. He was one of the most frustrating closers the Mariners have had. He had a high-90’s sinker and a devastating splitter. And yet, we have Brandon League, former Mariners closer. League had great weapons. He was downright nasty for stretches of games, but then bad for other stretches. This is the hallmark of a temporary closer. Surf’s up, my tattooed dude.
Steve Delabar – Delabar was traded to Toronto, and is now a former substitute teacher in someone else’s bullpen. He was a hard throwing reliever who couldn’t figure out how to get same-handed hitters out. This is what’s called a reverse split. Put that in your back pocket. In short, Delabar’s slider was inconsistent. If Delabar improves his slider, he might one day be a pretty great reliever. But that’s not really our business anymore. He’s a Blue Jay, in Canada.
Justin Smoak – He was recently sent down. What can be said about Smoak? There is still hope. The hope is not all gone. But we can be sure now that Smoak is not an All-Star first baseman. What we’re shooting for now is average. If Smoak can be a league average major leaguer, it would be a huge victory for the Mariners. One problem though. Smoak was the worst regular hitter in the American League before he was sent to Tacoma. No joke. Smoak has been about as average at baseball as you and I have. We don’t even play baseball. Speaking of not playing baseball…
Carlos Peguero – Peguero has been optioned to AAA as well. You’ll remember Peguero for swinging his bat often, and for not making contact almost exactly as often. He swings and swings and swings. You have to hand it to him. He’s persistent. But if you’re unfamiliar with how baseball works, this is not what you like to see from baseball players. You want to see them hit the ball when they swing. Peguero does not even meet the baseline requirement for making bat-to-ball contact. He is looking up at that baseline contact rate and his extension ladder is not long enough. Rocketship, Carlos. Rocketship.
Eric Thames – As we learned last night, Thames is a powerful left-handed outfielder. His muscles are really big, and he is perhaps the most powerful of our collection of young outfielders. He is new and exciting, and this is a little bit like playing with a new toy. He’s shiny, and hasn’t been scuffed and scratched, but after a while you realize he has about the same upside as the toys you already had.
Thames is like getting the final Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. In Michael Saunders, Casper Wells, and Franklin Gutierrez, the Mariners already had three Ninja Turtles. Each has their own unique color and weapon – their baseball skill set. Adding Thames completes the set. But in the end, they are just four masked turtles, trying to protect us from an army of foot soldiers. Who we really need is He-Man. Maybe we’ll get He-Man over winter break. Hey, we’ve been asking for him for years. You never know.
But let’s not minimize the addition of Thames. Ninja Turtles are awesome. Hi, Eric. Your nun-chucks are welcome here.
Stephen Pryor – You’ll remember Stephen Pryor for his 100-mph fastballs, and his striking likeness to the scariest bully at your high school. You habitually handed over your lunch to Stephen Pryor each day at noon, and then ran the other direction. After school, you had an appointment with the smelly corner of a dumpster. You did whatever Stephen said because, well, look at him. These days, you cheer gleefully for his 100-mph fastball, but flinch when they do one of those close-ups of his eyes.
Pryor was recalled from Tacoma to fill one of the bullpen slots vacated by Delabar and League. He hurt his groin covering first base in June, but was a big meanie to opposing hitters in his six appearances prior to that. Prior, Pryor. You knew it would come to this.
Carter Capps – If you haven’t heard of him, Capps is one of the top handful of reliever prospects in all of baseball. He’s even more highly regarded than Pryor. He is tall, long-limbed, and throws from a funny angle. So funny that minor league hitters have been chuckling uncomfortably to themselves on their way back to the dugout all season. He throws 100-mph from the funny angle and had nothing more to learn from striking out about 36 percent of the hitters he faced in the minors. That’s an astronomical amount. We’ll know more later, but we may eventually have two elite closers in one bullpen. Tom Wilhelmsen is not worried, but he might be a little jealous.
Mike Carp – Carp Fish! He’s a fish. It’s science. Carp is back. His play in the next couple of months will determine his future in Seattle. No pressure, Carp Fish. You’re going to need to show us some of your best flippy tricks.
RHP D.J. Mitchell, LHP Danny Farquhar, RHP Logan Bawcom, OF Leon Landry – These four players were acquired in the Ichiro and League trades. They are now scattered around the minor league system. I could regurgitate a number of scouting reports I’ve read, and feed you some statistics on these dudes, but honestly, you shouldn’t care. Please don’t seek out this information. The reports and numbers on these players are mostly uninteresting. None of these guys is the next Felix Hernandez or Mike Trout. These are players who may one day play a small role for the Mariners. We’ll let you know more if and when they actually matter.
Chone Figgins and Miguel Olivo – These players are still on the Mariners’ roster. We’re unclear why. There’s a tiny possibility one or both could be dealt to a desperate contender during the mystical August trade-via-waivers period. As an emergency injury replacement, for instance. Although, if you are a contender, and find yourself interested in Figgins or Olivo, even in an emergency, you might want to re-evaluate. At this moment, these are two of the most valueless players in the history of the Mariners. If you haven’t been following very long, there have been a lot of players like this. These two are among the very best at being the worst.
So there you have it. Waves have been made. The waves brought in some new pieces, washed out some old misfit parts, and couldn’t quite scrub away the most stubborn bits of seaweed. But hey, we’ll take what we can get. Seaweed can get pretty tangled.
Filed under: Mariners
Editor’s note: Seattle Sportsnet welcomes Peter Whitmore to the writing staff. Peter is a lifelong Seattle sports fan who adds years of passion to these pages. A journalism major in college, Peter’s talent and storytelling ability raises the bar for this website, and will provide an increase in exceptional content on a regular basis. Take a glance at Peter’s first piece and be sure to follow him on Twitter @MarinerMagic.
Ichiro is a New York Yankee. That sentence seems impossible. But here we are. As real as it undeniably is, it will always feel unreal. Ichiro, Seattle Mariners right fielder and intergalactic sports icon, is gone.
Here is a piece of his legacy, as this fan tells it:
My wife loves Ichiro. She is an academic and a romantic. She moved to Seattle in 2004 for graduate school at the UW. She loves baseball. She’s no baseball addict, but she truly appreciates the magic and nuance of baseball – enough that she can tolerate living with and loving an addict. She grew to love baseball and the Mariners by watching and admiring Ichiro. She loved the discipline of his routines. Was fascinated with the respect he had for his bat – his most revered tool of the trade. She marveled at the graceful control with which he patrolled the outfield. Ichiro was the lens through which she learned to love baseball. In many ways, he was her primary connection to the game.
So when I called her yesterday afternoon, in the middle of her day, to tell her Ichiro had been traded to the Yankees, she cried. She really did, I’m not messing around. Later, at home, she said simply, “I’m not ready for this,” and wept. This was her first baseball heartbreak. I can’t say I reacted the same way. I felt shocked and weird and kind of sick. I love Ichiro, too, but he was not even my favorite current Mariner. I felt awful because I knew how bad she felt. I knew that pain. Chambers, Griffey, Payton, Allen. And all the others in between. Every time it happens, you get a little more hardened to it. You get calluses. We live in a sporting world with very few happy endings. And this was not the happy ending my wife had envisioned for herself and Ichiro.
I had my own dream for Ichiro. When Ken Griffey Jr. returned to the Mariners in 2009, I dreamt that somehow, some way, that team would find itself in the World Series. My new favorite Mariner, King Felix, would lead the team through an improbable post-season run, and in Game 7, an ancient Griffey, in one final moment in the spotlight, would step to the plate as the winning run. You know the rest. The Mariners’ two most enduring and relevant superstars, Ichiro and Griffey, would hold up the World Championship trophy together. The photo would be immortal.
But the dream was just that. I knew it. You knew it. Even the Mariners knew it. Major League Baseball is played on a field, not in the fantasies of its fans. So Junior is gone. And so, now, quite suddenly, is Ichiro.
Ichiro, the real-life baseball player, was a fixture of Safeco Field. No player has played more games on that field. No Mariner has given fans more thrills in that ballpark. Junior, “The Kid,” left before The Safe was even a year old. The Big Unit never strode to the mound for the home team. Edgar’s brilliant career came to a close during Safeco’s honeymoon phase. It is impossible to picture the checkered green in right field without seeing Ichiro standing there, pulling at the laces of his glove, or crouched in one of his anatomy-defying stretches. There is no more indelible Safeco image.
Ichiro played with a measured flair. Each movement seemed rehearsed, calculated. Yet his talent for hitting and tracking and throwing a baseball was as rare and as raw and as electrifying as it comes. Make no mistake, Ichiro’s baseball talent was titanic.
During the ten years spanning 2001 to 2010, there were two names in cumulative and qualitative hitting prowess. There was Albert Pujols. And there was Ichiro. I don’t need to list the records and awards. No player can hold a candle to what those two accomplished during their decade of baseball mastery.
At his most masterful, Ichiro could conjure hits from thin air. He would make hits where none existed, commanding the ball with his bat into spaces only he knew about. He puzzled pitchers and confounded defenses. He would wave his bat, and before the shortstop knew it, Ichiro was past the bag, stripping off his batting gloves and elbow guard. He would lash doubles to the wall, yet somehow glide into third with a triple, standing up.
At his most lethal, Ichiro could alter the course of a game from right field. Only the rare base-runner dared test him, but when one did, he bore witness to a throw launched from a weapon of science fiction.
At his most magnificent, Ichiro could dominate a baseball game with his bat and his legs and his glove and his arm — something almost unheard of for an athlete of his diminutive stature. His baseball results defied his body. He was as superstar as superstars get, and he was ours.
As with all superstars, Ichiro was not without his imperfections. There were the bizarrely-timed bunts. The insistence on speaking through an interpreter, long after mastering English. And his disinterest in vocally leading a young roster, however unfair that seemed.
But every superstar is imperfect. Jordan left basketball at the peak of his dominance. Bonds was a jerk, and tainted his legacy with illegal substances. Even Griffey was an introvert who couldn’t figure out what to say and when. Ichiro is an enigma. Maybe the mystery will someday be remembered as part of his appeal.
There’s no denying it was time. The circumstances of the Mariners’ young, pulseless roster dictated Ichiro’s exit — even if he was the one to make the call. If not now, then after the season. Ichiro did not fit anymore. The thrills were far fewer, and the position he occupied represented a chance to improve by some yet undetermined measure. On a better Mariners team, in another time, in some alternate Mariners universe, Ichiro could play out his career at Safeco, amid all the fanfare only Seattleites can deliver. His career could end with dignity. His eroding hitting skills would be a charming sideshow on a winning team, a fallen star playing out the string. But that was another dream.
And oh, the vocal haters. Those who in one breath desecrated a Hall of Famer at his most vulnerable, and in the next lauded the baby steps of inferior talents. The young Mariners were surely in need of love and nurturing. But for some reason, as the team plunged to great, irrelevant depths, some of us forgot Ichiro had to endure the fall, too. He had a front row seat.
And perhaps that is the great tragedy of the Ichiro story. A bigger tragedy than the historically bad offenses he played on. A bigger tragedy than not reaching the World Series during those initial glorious years. Maybe the greatest tragedy is that many of the fans to whom he was so loyal became so jaded by the team surrounding him that they mistook him for part of the mess.
Ichiro was never part of the mess. The mess distorted the Ichiro story. The distortion was unfitting of his talents and his respect for the game and this city. Somehow, Ichiro Suzuki, still beloved internationally, in the twilight of a legendary career, became a scapegoat in his own town. Lost in the shadows of over-analysis, cold numbers, and hollow media sound bites, was Ichiro, the baseball wizard.
In truth, Ichiro got old. Like every other great athlete before him. It’s sad, but it’s part of the poignant life-cycle of the professional athlete.
And so we must say goodbye to Ichiro.
A generation of Seattle boys and girls must say goodbye to the only baseball hero they’ve known, like I did to my heroes years ago.
My wife must say goodbye to Ichiro. Her wizard, her beloved baseball man, is gone.
As for me? I will look back on his career with astonishment, wonder, and regret. The Mariners failed Ichiro. They should have been better.
Thanks, Ichiro. For being exactly who you were.
You can follow Pete on Twitter, @MarinerMagic.
Filed under: Mariners
Top 11: Reasons The 2012 Mariners Are Worse Than Your First Sexual Experience (aka, Your Mariners Midseason Failure Analysis)
The 2012 Mariners have been an abomination. They are Paris Hilton acting, combined with Lindsay Lohan singing, mixed with Gilbert Gottfried speaking, blended together with any of the Real Housewives screaming (“You’re supposed to be my friend, Tamra!” Well, you’re a crazy bitch, Vicki.).
Think of the worst things you’ve ever been a part of, then make them more boring than they were at the time. Like, your first sexual experience, for example. That was horrendous, was it not? Trust me, it was. You may not want to believe it was…but I guarantee you, it was bad. Which isn’t to say that you haven’t corrected yourself in the bedroom as time has passed. Frankly, it’s not easy to take what you’ve learned in health class and put it to good use. A two-dimensional vagina looks nothing like a three-dimensional vagina. They don’t tell you that, though. You have to figure that out on your own. On the fly. As a kid.
Anyway, I digress.
My point here is that if you took your frighteningly awful first sexual experience and made it boring on top of what it already was, you’d have the 2012 Mariners. The M’s are the awkward clumsiness of teenage body parts clashing together as one, the requisite forced “I love yous” that follow, the feeling of regret, the saline of tears, and that fear of “OhmygoddidIgetherpregnant?!” – yeah, that fear is real – topped off with all the pizzazz of the Vanilla Sky plot. I hope that sounds as horrible to you as it does to me. Personally, I found “awkward clumsiness of teenage body parts clashing together as one” to be the most horrible line.
Let’s call this midseason report card what it really is: a failure analysis. Not only that, but let’s list out 11 of the reasons the team is failing. We can do this. It’s on par with belting a Hector Noesi 0-and-2 fastball right over the outfield wall. So much easier than it may seem.
11. Steve Delabar is not a Major League pitcher, yet has been tasked with pitching in Major League Baseball.
Not that it’s particularly fair to single out an average middle reliever, but let’s face facts here: the Mariners are the proud parents of a 16-year-old son, Steve, who they have naively handed a brand new BMW. Steve, in turn, has promptly rewarded his ‘rents for their stupidity by wrapping said BMW around a pole. This is essentially the relationship between the M’s and Delabar, who has been entrusted to throw in 29 of the team’s first 87 games this year.
Delabar is a great Triple-A pitcher. He throws fast. An upper-90s heater is nothing to mess with. But in the bigs, fast just doesn’t cut it. The man tosses a four-seam fastball that sits flatter than Renee Zellweger. Big league hitters are paid to unload on flat fastballs no matter how rapidly they may be approaching home plate. And if you look at Delabar’s numbers, the data reveals just how detrimental his Zellweger-ball has been to the club.
In his 29 appearances, Delabar has managed to piece together a .174 Batting Average Against, to go with a neat little 0.92 WHIP. He’s also struck out 41 hitters. Not bad by any means. But then you look at his ERA. And everything falls apart. Not unlike Tom Cruise in the aforementioned Vanilla Sky.
Despite his miniscule BAA, WHIP, and all those Ks he’s collected, Delabar owns a robust 4.45 ERA. Egads. When you dig a little deeper, you find that of the 29 hits he’s relinquished this year, 10 have gone for extra bases (that’s 35-percent, for you math majors out there), and eight (eight!!!) have gone into the stands for home runs. And get this: while Delabar has only been credited with 15 runs allowed, he’s let 17 men score on home runs alone! So not only is he hurting his own earned-run average, he’s directly impacting the respective ERAs of his teammates due to all those inherited baserunners.
Delabar should have been demoted long ago — and in fact he was, in June, before resurfacing with the Mariners in July — yet continues to languish in the big show. Is it time to send him down for good? Probably. Will the M’s do it? Unlikely.
10. Franklin Gutierrez and Mike Carp are fragile.
Okay, maybe not fragile, per se. But injured nonetheless. Though if anyone can think of a better adjective for Guti, I’d like to hear it. Fra-gee-lay. It’s Italian.
Both Gutierrez and Carp were being counted on to comprise two-thirds of the team’s outfield, while playing substantial roles for the 2012 M’s. Instead, both began the year on the disabled list…and both remain on the disabled list currently. For those of you keeping score at home, allow me to clarify that that’s two DL stints apiece. Each player made his not-so-triumphant return to action, only to see his season hit another roadblock with a second physical malady. Such is the life of a professional athlete.
By the time both players return (again) to the playing field, it will be far too late to salvage an all-but-lost season. But alas, there’s always next year…
9. Brandon League is crap.
Let me just go on record as saying I’ve always despised Brandon League. Even when he was moderately successful a year ago, it was tough to like the guy. I’ve chronicled my displeasure for his lack of testicular fortitude many times on these pages, so there’s really no need to elaborate. Let’s just say that he and I don’t see eye to eye where mental toughness is concerned.
With that said, you won’t find too many Brandon League fans anywhere these days. League has been absolutely abysmal, blowing six saves in 15 opportunities and standing idly by as he was given Rick Vaughn’s Major League II role of pitching in garbage-time situations. In less-tenuous moments, League has been slightly more tolerable than he was as a late-inning implosion-waiting-to-happen. Still, though, how valuable is a relief pitcher that can’t pitch when a win hangs in the balance?
According to the rest of Major League Baseball, that value is not perceived to be very high. Which is unfortunate. Because the Mariners would like to trade League, and yet there aren’t many suitors for his not-so-desirable skill set.
A year ago, the story was much different. League was a top-notch closer who was flat-out getting the job done. The franchise could have flipped the hard-throwing right-hander for a bounty of prospects. Instead, they held onto their asset in hopes of God-knows-what. And twelve months later, here we sit with a fistful of Enron stock.
Perhaps that’s the greatest tragedy in the entire Brandon League saga. The Mariners didn’t have to be burdened by League’s presence. They chose to be. They had the opportunity to sell their investment at its peak value, and they politely declined. That is such a Marinery Mariner thing to do.
8. Hector Noesi needs to learn how to pitch.
Somewhere around age 13 or 14, I learned that as a pitcher, when you get ahead in a count 0-2, you should never throw the ensuing pitch anywhere near the middle of the plate. Hector Noesi, apparently, did not learn what I learned.
In reality, it’s fairly common knowledge to most baseball players that 0-2 pitches are best served away from the strike zone. As a hitter you learn to expect a “waste pitch” 0-2, yet you still remain extremely defensive and vigilant with a lone strike standing between you and bitter disappointment (leading to an increased likelihood of you, the hitter, putting the ball in play if it is remotely close to the zone). As a pitcher, you want to deliver a ball that’s near-unhittable, while potentially baiting your bat-swinging foil into chasing a pitch outside his coverage area. It’s a tactic familiar to most, but foreign to a guy like Noesi.
Noesi is one of those pitchers who scouts would say has great “stuff.” What is “stuff,” exactly? Basically, “stuff” amounts to a pitcher’s ability to combine a lively fastball with a decent supplementary repertoire. “Stuff,” as it turns out, often equates to talent. Which is to say that Hector Noesi is quite talented. At least in his physical ability to manipulate a baseball.
Where Noesi is not quite as talented comes in his ability to either a) learn, b) remember, or c) execute. He either hasn’t learned to hurl 0-2 pitches away from the batter’s preferred locale, doesn’t remember he needs to do that, or simply can’t execute such a simple task.
To better assist him in learning, remembering, or executing, the M’s recently demoted Noesi to Triple-A Tacoma. The fact that the 25-year-old native of the Dominican Republic managed to last in the team’s starting rotation through June can either be attributed to Noesi’s vast array of “stuff,” or more likely, a testament to the team’s perennial suckitude.
Either way, had Noesi remained a big leaguer for the duration of the year, he would have been hard-pressed to avoid Jamie Moyer’s single-season team record of 44 home runs allowed. With 20 souvenirs deposited into the seats at the hands of the righty, Noesi was in danger of setting all kinds of marks in longball futility.
But wait, there’s more.
Getting back to that point about 0-2 counts, it should be noted that one-fifth of all the homers Noesi has allowed have come when he was ahead 0-and-2. Twenty-percent wouldn’t seem like such a drastic number, until you figure that home runs on 0-2 counts almost never happen. Seriously. Google “home runs allowed on 0-2 counts.” The first search result that appears? An article on Hector Noesi. I kid you not. He is that synonymous with this statistical anomaly.
Let’s hope that somewhere down the line Noesi figures it out. When it comes to being a big league starter, he has a little work to do. At the very least, though, he’s got the right “stuff.”
Yes, that was a very dumb New Kids on the Block reference. You’re welcome.
7. The offensive exploits of Brendan Ryan and Justin Smoak are sadly disappointing.
Brendan Ryan hasnever hit, so this comes as no surprise. Were he to fall haphazardly from a canoe, there’s no guarantee he’d hit water. That’s how bad of a hitter he is. So bad that I’m resorting to cliches to describe him.
Justin Smoak, on the other hand, was supposed to be a hitter. He was once an über-prospect with a potential All-Star bat on his shoulder. Instead, he’s been nothing short of a complete disappointment during his near-two-year stint in Seattle.
Though no hitter in the Mariners’ lineup is particularly adept at putting bat on ball, Smoak and Ryan have been dismally bad in their offensive efforts this season. While Ryan’s defensive prowess warrants playing him most days, one has to wonder how long any team can continue trotting out a sub-.200 hitter, no matter how fancy his glovework may be.
With Smoak, the failure is more evident. From each side of the plate, the switch-hitting first baseman displays a long, loopy uppercut that isn’t conducive to line drive balls in play. Sure, it may be easy to send Smoak to Triple-A to work on his approach, but why not put hitting coach Chris Chambliss to work and fix the physical nature of an all-but-broken swing? That’s what hitting coaches are paid to do, is it not?
By contrast, there is nothing that will conquer Ryan’s demons in the batter’s box. He’s not a big league hitter. Thankfully for him, though, he’s an above-average big league defender. Essentially, he’s the white Rey Ordoñez.
Should two of the M’s regulars continue to hover around the Mendoza Line all season long, it’s no wonder this team will find itself in the cellar yet again.
6. Jesus Montero is slower than…
He is the ultimate liability on the basepaths. Honestly, I have never seen a slower 22-year-old that wasn’t morbidly obese. This guy would get lapped at a retirement home. They should give him a Rascal scooter to ride around the diamond. You have to wonder if his legs are okay, or if he was once stricken by polio. I’m guessing he may qualify for the Special Olympics. It takes him an hour to run 30 minutes on a treadmill. If he got caught on second base during a rain delay, he’d drown. His 40 time is measured by a sundial. Vultures circle his home run trot.
Okay. You get the picture. Jesus is slllllloooooowwwww.
5. Why is Chone Figgins still here?
Chone Figgins may in fact be the luckiest man on the planet. He is making $9 million to be an ineffective super-sub. He really should be playing in someone’s farm system, if not a slow-pitch softball league somewhere. He is the most reviled sports figure Seattle has ever had the privilege of hosting. And yet he continues to fester on the Mariners’ bench like a gangrenous rash on the bedridden underside of a man so disgustingly fat he must be removed via forklift from his decrepit home.
There are so many things wrong with Figgins’ mere presence that I barely know where to start.
Why, for one, did this organization ever think they could resurrect this tiny little flea’s career by batting him leadoff? What on earth has Figgins done in the past few years to warrant a move atop the lineup? And did anyone not see the impending backfire? It was bound to happen. This is Chone Flippin’ Figgins! He’s terrible!
Two, where did this team get off trying to tell us that Figgins, and not Kyle Seager, would be our third baseman to start the year? Seager has emerged as one of 2012′s pleasant surprises — and he wasn’t even supposed to be a starter! His time in the lineup is due in part to a slew of outfield injuries, as well as Figgins’ own impotence. Were it not for extraneous factors, we wouldn’t have even known what Seager was capable of this season.
Three, when Miguel Olivo returned from the disabled list, why did the team not seize the opportunity to release Figgins? Why, instead, did they send their current best-hitter-du-jour, Casper Wells, to Triple-A? Wells did not need to go to Triple-A. He simply went because someone found some reason to keep Figgins on the roster.
Not only has Figgins been a bust himself, his staying power has impacted or was destined to impact the development of others, such as Seager and Wells. With each passing day that Figgins remains a Mariner, he’s taking chances away from a younger player who could benefit from service time at the big league level. There’s no longer any excuse for keeping him around. Cut Figgins. It should have been done months ago. This is getting ridiculous.
4. Miguel Olivo is toast.
Miguel Olivo seems like a pretty decent guy. He tries hard, he hustles, he’s scrappy, and in interviews he appears to be quite pleasant. As a baseball player, however, Olivo is probably not cut out to play at the major league level any longer. And that’s the unfortunate reality of this situation.
Olivo is just 33 years of age, but he may be the most ancient 33-year-old on the earth’s surface. Maybe it’s just me, but the guy seems to move around with all the spryness of an older Jesus Montero. He’s also balding to a severe degree, and on top of that is a grandfather. Really. He’s a 33-year-old grandpa.
When Olivo isn’t putting children on his knee, rocking himself to sleep in a La-Z-Boy, or drinking Metamucil, he’s batting an anorexic .201 and letting roughly every other pitch find its way between his loins. Olivo is not so much a backstop as he is a gatewayto the backstop. He has a problem catching. Which is quite the dilemma, since his job title calls for him to, you know, catch.
Perhaps if Olivo was some sort of defensive saint like the apostle Brendan Ryan, the Mariners could find excuses for keeping him in the lineup each day. Alas, his defense is just as vomit-inducing as his Ryan-esque batting average. So why does he retain duties as the team’s primary catcher? That’s a great effing question that no one seems to have the answer to.
I like Olivo as a person. I’d like it even more if we could bid him adieu and wish him well as he rode off into the sunset. Presumably in an Oldsmobile.
3. The decision to replace Dustin Ackley as leadoff hitter is the SINGLE WORST DECISION the organization has made this year.
Yes. It really is. And I don’t have much else to say. Why you would demote a guy doing a great job for one performing below-average is beyond my comprehension level.
The Mariners have stunted Ackley’s growth by replacing him atop the batting order with Ichiro. Ichiro won’t (or at least, shouldn’t) be on this team next year. Ackley has the talent and ability to be the face of this franchise within the next five years.You interrupted his development to fulfill the selfish needs of a 38-year-old outfielder who has no future with your team.
This is just unbelievable.
The Mariners, more often than not, exhibit the dumbest Goddamn behavior. Serenity now…
2. This team can’t hit at home.
Blame the fences. Blame the marine layer. Blame the batter’s eye in center field. Blame whatever you like.
The fences don’t need to be moved in. The weather doesn’t need to be controlled. The roof doesn’t need to be closed. The backdrop doesn’t need to be altered.
The players. The players need to get better. And that’s just the fact of the matter. Better players equal better results. And these players are not good enough. Period.
1. Trusting Jack Zduriencik is becoming increasingly more difficult to do.
This is Year Four of the Jack Zduriencik era. In three-and-a-half seasons, the Mariners have posted a 249-324 record (.435 winning percentage) with Zduriencik at the helm. They are on pace to lose between 90 and 100 games yet again this season. The farm system is coming along, but so far hasn’t produced much of note for the big league club. In Jack We Trust, as a result, is starting to lose its luster.
The disclaimer here is that Zduriencik may or may not be handcuffed by his bosses, the notorious duo of team president Chuck Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln. Armstrong and Lincoln have cast a shadow over this franchise for years, and to think that they have no impact on the current state of the team would be incredibly naive. Their roles have been discussed ad nauseam, both on this website and in other forums, so no need to digress. The fact is, when evaluating someone like Jack Zduriencik, one must carefully consider the impact of the men responsible for overseeing the entire operation. Fair or unfair, however, it’s time we placed some blame at the general manager’s doorstep.
When Zduriencik came aboard in 2009, the cupboard, as the saying goes, was bare. The farm system was depleted. The talent on the big league roster was minimal. The present was disappointing. The future was bleak.
What Jack Z. was tasked with at the time was rebuilding an entire organization, top to bottom. There’s nothing easy about that. He adequately got the job done in certain areas, pulling off a signature deal by offloading J.J. Putz, Sean Green, Jeremy Reed, and Luis Valbuena in exchange for Franklin Gutierrez, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas, and a couple minor leaguers.
While Putz has reemerged in Arizona as a closer, he is nowhere near the pitcher he was when he was in Seattle. Green and Reed have essentially become irrelevant, and though Valbuena reached the bigs with Cleveland, his impact has been minimal.
Gutierrez, Carp, and Vargas have all played significant roles with the Mariners since their arrival. Though none of the trio has really approached stardom, no one can argue that all three have been relatively solid and met, if not exceeded, expectations.
The Putz deal, as it will forever be known, has become Zduriencik’s hallmark for the past three-plus years. When supporters of the Z movement want to call out the man’s penchant for unearthing talent, they point to this deal as the one that stands above the rest.
There have been other deals that have seemingly worked in the Mariners’ favor during Zduriencik’s tenure. The trade of Doug Fister and David Pauley (who the Mariners re-signed to a minor league deal on July 12th) to Detroit for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin, and Francisco Martinez. The heist of Cliff Lee from Philadelphia in exchange for three seemingly irrelevant prospects. The swap of Michael Pineda and Jose Campos for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.
But there have been a handful of duds, as well.
Sending pitcher Brandon Morrow to Toronto for Brandon League and minor league outfielder Johermyn Chavez has had its up and downs; Morrow’s development as a Blue Jay, though, would indicate the Canucks got the better end of the deal.
Pawning Cliff Lee off on Texas for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, and Josh Lueke hasn’t worked out nearly as planned. Smoak, as we all know, hasn’t developed the way anyone thought he would. Beavan appears to be, at most, an okay back-of-the-rotation starter. And Lueke, though his stay was brief, might be the biggest surprise of the deal thus far, as he netted the team catcher John Jaso in a subsequent trade this past offseason.
Signing Chone Figgins to a multi-year contract has certainly been a bust. Dealing Carlos Silva and cash for Milton Bradley was a complete disaster. A real sadist might bring up the fact that the M’s let 2012 All-Stars Bryan LaHair and R.A. Dickey go before they really developed. And then there are the moves that weren’t made.
The biggest failures of the Zduriencik era, in my mind, are those transactions that never occurred. This organization has a knack for holding onto players after their peak value has elapsed. League, as mentioned above, is one of those players. The same could be said for Erik Bedard and David Aardsma, two additional pitchers who the M’s relinquished for pennies on the dollar. The lack of foresight to perceive a player’s decline has been an obstacle the Mariners’ front office must overcome.
Additionally, there appears to be a certain aversion to risk among the Zduriencik regime. The players the team tends to acquire are those who many onlookers would say are “safe.” They possess low risk, and in turn offer a lower reward. They are not flashy. They are not potential superstars. They’re simply destined to become adequate major leaguers, at best, that get the job done on a day-to-day basis.
Perhaps the three most recent examples of this can be found in the team’s high first round draft picks: Dustin Ackley in 2009, Danny Hultzen in 2011, and Mike Zunino in 2012. Though the jury is still out on all three of these guys, it’s been deemed by the speculative gallery that none possesses quite the same sizzle as other players in their respective draft classes. Ackley and Hultzen were taken with the second overall picks in their drafts; Zunino was selected third overall. If any of these players fails to provide either a) measurable impact with the Mariners or b) an equitable return on the trade market, you can expect Zduriencik and Co. to lose their jobs sooner rather than later. With such an emphasis on the farm system during the Zduriencik era, such lofty draft picks must produce — and produce at a high level — for the current management group to be successful.
I want to believe in Jack Zduriencik. I want to trust the movement. But what have Jack and his cohorts given us to be happy about since 2009? There isn’t much, and with another 90-plus-loss season on the horizon, time, unfortunately, is running out for the organization.
Filed under: Mariners, Top 11
The Mariners won for the third game in a row tonight handing the reeling Twins their eleventh loss in a row with this 5-4 result in front of 36,263 chilly fans at Target Field in Minnesota. Tonight’s comeback win was especially sweet considering Michael Pineda did not have his best stuff after not pitching in 10 days. The Big kid’s fastball never broke 91 mph and he just looked less animated than usual,conversely Twins starter Kevin Slowey was brilliant through 5 2/3 innings. Pineda only managed to get in four innings of work tonight allowing two runs on six hits before walking off the mound for the last time in 2011. Pineda has had a good rookie year and he looks like a guy we may have around for a long time.
Slowey came into this game with an 0-6 record on the year and it looked like he was going to finally get a win in 2011 but thanks to Dave Sims, who began jinxing Slowley’s chance for a no-hitter by mentioning it in the fourth inning, our boys managed to get to Slowey in the sixth inning with two outs. Ichiro had the Mariners first hit of the night on a grounder up the middle to that he managed to beat out which opened the floodgates for the Mariners. Ichiro’s single was followed by back-to-back doubles off the bats of Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley to tie this one up at 2-2.
The Mariners once again rallied with two-outs in the seventh to score three runs thanks to clutch hits by Trayvon Robinson and Ichiro giving the Mariners a 5-3 lead heading to the bottom of the seventh. Eric Wedge used five different relievers tonight to finish this game off and they all had some rough moments with the exception of Cesar Jimenez who went an inning and a third allowing only 1 hit and no runs. Jimenez pitched his first Major League game in 2006 and fittingly got his first win in the Show tonight.
After such a rough season it is nice to see the Mariners finishing strong and hopefully they can complete the sweep of the Twins tomorrow morning. Manager Eric Wedge is trying to give everyone a chance to play these days which is nice but I am hoping that coming out of Spring Training next year we could have a set lineup based on competition in camp. Also I heard today that there is a good chance the Mariners may open the season in Japan in their series with Oakland. This sounds like a fun and interesting idea, and who knows maybe the majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi will even finally attend a game after all these years1 Go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com
First of all, let me start by saying that I’m Asian. Half-Japanese, in fact. And if there’s anything I know about Asians, it’s that we tend to be a little proud and a little selfish. I realize that this is what sensitive people call “stereotyping.” Frankly, I don’t care.
I, for one, fall under the umbrella of proud and selfish at times. I’m not going to lie to you. It is what it is. The guy driving 50 miles per hour in the fast lane on the highway? He falls under that category, too. And if you want yet another example of the proud and selfish Asian man, look no further than Ichiro Suzuki.
Ichiro is a bad teammate. There’s no getting around it. The man plays a team sport in selfish fashion. You can say what you want about his talent level, his ability, his meticulousness, his craft, but at the end of the day, he’s more concerned about Ichiro Suzuki than he is about the team he plays for.
I’ve played baseball my whole life. I’ve watched baseball my whole life. I enjoy baseball. Baseball makes me happy. Watching Ichiro play the game of baseball frustrates and upsets me. Both as a fan of the game, and as someone who shares an ethnic background with the Mariners’ right fielder.
One of the things that really bugs me about my people, those of Asian descent, is that they tend to love Ichiro because he’s a successful Japanese major leaguer. That’s great and all, but expand your horizons. Ichiro may be skilled, but he rarely gives the game his all. He lays up on fly balls, swings at pitches that he should be taking, bunts at the dumbest times, and generally focuses on what’s best for No. 51, rather than the twenty-four other individuals who he shares a clubhouse with.
On top of that, excuses are constantly made for Ichiro. He’s representing an entire country, they say. The M’s are already out of contention, they argue. Personal records mean something, too, they cry. But you know what? Excuses are bullshit.
If Ichiro was on my team, I’d kick him off. If you can’t rely on your teammates, who can you rely on? I certainly wouldn’t feel safe trusting Ichiro to have my back in a situation that called for it. That’s the unfortunate part about his selfishness. It exposes the weakness of his character. How can you trust somebody that so blatantly worries more about himself than about those around him? How can you put your faith in that person? Not just in baseball, but in any walk of life. That’s how Ichiro comes across to me, as a fan, and I’d wager that many of his teammates feel the same way, even if they’d never say it.
It’s not that I don’t like Ichiro. I don’t know him, so honestly, who am I to judge? All I can do is call it as I see it. And what I see now, and what I’ve seen over the years, is a person who would rather do right by his own self than by those he works with, those who call him a teammate. There is zero selflessness there.
Fact is, this wouldn’t be a problem if Ichiro was self-employed, if he played golf, tennis, or owned his own business. Who cares at that point, right? No one else is depending on him under that scenario. Ichiro could do as he pleases if his work didn’t demand any level of professional accountability.
But that’s not the line of work he’s chosen. And as a result, everyone pays for Ichiro’s narcissism.
The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs in a decade, not since Ichiro’s rookie year. While the man, himself, has piled up the individual accolades, the team has suffered in his midst. The organization has paid Ichiro millions of dollars to be a figurehead for a franchise immersed in suckitude. Congrats, Ich. You’re the best of the worst.
Additionally, while fans have been treated to eleven seasons of Ichiro bobbleheads, they haven’t yet been able to redeem a postseason ticket. How the f**k are we supposed to feel about that? Our mantles can’t hold all these figurines. Put an end to that garbage and give us some memories. No more of this material BS. We want to be able to tell our grandkids that we were there — WE WERE F**KING THERE — when the team won it all. Instead, all we’ll have to bequeath unto future generations are these piece of sh*t dolls with the big, springy noggins.
And then there’s the whole Ichiro conundrum, which to me isn’t a conundrum at all.
Ichiro, my man, my brother, my compadre, go home. Your heart isn’t in this game the way it needs to be. You’re too proud. You’re too selfish. You’re going 50 in the fast lane. Retire. Go back to Japan. Do right by your teammates for once. Let us move on without you. Let us evolve. Let us celebrate as a fan base. Let us pay witness to guys who get their jerseys dirty, who go balls to the wall on every play, who seemingly care more about the name on the front of the uniform than the one on the back.
Ichiro, it’s time. You need to leave.
Filed under: Mariners
*Editor’s note: Welcome to our first installment of Writer X, a column written by anonymous contributors for your reading pleasure. Periodically, we will be presenting you work from accomplished scribes behind the guise of the mysterious Writer X. The idea here is that we give our talented journalists the freedom to say what they want about who they want without fear of retribution. Were they to pen these thoughts under their own names, they could face serious repercussions. Writer X, however, is perfectly immune to it all. Enjoy the candor.
Obviously, the Mariners blow homeless guys again this year.
Yeah, sure, they made the first half interesting. But they did it with ungodly pitching that was wholly unsustainable. This has been a familiar refrain over the last few seasons.
In fact, since 2001, the offense has sustained major deficits, especially in the power categories. It seems like every year this team is constructed weirdly. Like, building a house on the side of a hill or not having a stripper pole inside Oskar’s Kitchen (free plug). You know why that is?
No, I’m not kidding. When Ichiro first came to the U.S. he was a marvel. His skills were so unique and different. He had blinding speed, played the cavernous right field in Safeco with ease, and possessed a sniper rifle arm. We all marveled at some of the amazing things he did because we hadn’t ever seen these things before. That doesn’t tell the whole story, however.
While these amazing things were certainly good, they masked major problems that Ichiro presented to the Mariners.
First, Ichiro is not a right fielder. At least not in the context of Major League Baseball.
Every team that is consistently successful needs places to put power hitters. Right field is one of those traditional positions of power. Ichiro’s career season average for home runs is nine. That wouldn’t be average at any position on the diamond; it especially hurts from one of your power positions.
Ichiro has created such a tremendous void of power hitting that the Mariners are forced every year to try and create power from non-traditional positions (ex. Miguel Olivo at catcher this year). Sadly, they’re not very good at this.
When the likes of Richie Sexson is the best you can do in free agency, you’re up sh*t creek. It creates a lineup issue every year. Though arguably, this issue could be negated by moving positions.
With the exception of the 2008 season, Ichiro has more or less refused to play center field, a position ideally suited for his speed, arm, and bat. While this point has been beaten to death, the fact that this selfish decision is somehow verboten to talk about is bullshit.
And that brings me to his refusal to bat anything but leadoff.
Another dictum that has come down from whomever, it’s clear that Ichiro is not a leadoff hitter. In his career, he has one season with an on-base percentage over .400. ONE. That was in 2004, when he won the AL batting title with a .372 batting average. That season, he still only reached base at a .414 clip, a minimal difference when taking his average into account. His inability or disinterest in taking walks should make him a natural fit in the two-hole, where his slap hits could so some good.
Ichiro’s insistence on miscasting himself in both lineup and position has forced the Mariners to try and place pieces around him. In essence, they’ve been forced to cope with him. This has created needs for forced free agent signings (see Everett, Carl, et al), while simultaneously blocking power prospects from getting consistent corner outfield play at the big league level.
All by himself, Ichiro has altered the natural course of development of the team and roster. The Mariners, meanwhile, have suffered greatly throughout.
Ichiro’s greatness lies in the periphery of the debt his very presence creates. With his particular skills, demands, and inflexibility, he has crippled the Mariners over the course of his career. Unfortunately, relief will only come when he retires.
Oh, and f**k you, Figgins.
Filed under: Mariners
After a much deserved rest the Seattle Mariners will resume play tonight against the visiting Texas Rangers as our boys try to get back on track. While the players and coaches have been resting, I have noticed that the local Blogosphere has been operating non-stop with various forms of proclamations on what Jack Zduriencik should do as the trade deadline approach. I have read everything from calls to trade Brandon League to trading Ichiro and Felix Hernandez. Also there seems to be the usual half-baked theories on how we will land Prince Fielder and then everything will be wonderful at last.
Of course Jack Z. is playing his cards close to his vest and is probably hoping everyone quits talking about the “Big deal” so he can pursue something more mundane and practical considering the financial constraints the club has due to several huge contracts ie: Ichiro, Felix and Figgins. Let me just say that any thoughts of trading Ichiro should be dismissed right away as no team in their right mind will want to pay him the remainder of the 18 million he is due this year or the full amount next year. In all likelihood Ichiro will finish out his career here as the window for trading him closed a few years back when he was still producing big numbers. As far as trading Felix goes that would be suicide for Jack Z. and he knows it. And why in the world would we trade Brandon League when he is having such a great year?
So basically unless we find some team crazy enough to pick-up Chone Figgins and his 9 million dollar salary for the next two and a half years, I don’t see anything on the horizon to give us fans much to cheer about in the next few weeks as far as a trade goes. Of course there is still the Erik Bedard option looming if he can get well soon enough for another team to offer something besides another prospect for him in which case this wanna be GM would trade Bedard. Both Jack Wilson and Jack Cust are expendable but I doubt we will be able to get much for either of them at this point in their careers.
No, I have a feeling we pretty much are going to stay the course and continue with the “Rebuilding Plan” as the local fans continue their migration over to watch the Sounders play or simply go biking or kayaking this summer. There is the possibility that our current offense will come back to life and allow us to remain competitive the rest of the way, but if not the Mariners brass have plenty of gimmicks left to try and distract the casual fans from the reality of a mediocre team in order to try and get them into the stands.
On deck first is the 10-year celebration of the 2001 116 win team starting this weekend. While I certainly enjoyed 2001 it also ended on a bitter note in NY where we lost to the Yankees and thus never made it to the World Series. I still remember hearing Frank Sinatra belting out “NY NY” over the loudspeakers after we lost that final game and really have no desire to relive that whole nightmare. But rest assure the PR hacks will omit that part of the story as they continue to look for ways to whitewash this past decade of futility.
I guess I sound a bit negative after all these years of watching this debacle unfold and truth be known I actually watched a few minutes of soccer this week as I try to become more like my bike riding neighbors here in Fremont. Feel free to chime-in with any thoughts on potential trades as I’m sure you can’t be any more absurd than what is currently floating around the Blogosphere. Go M’S! http://jeffsmariners.com
Well as you may guess by reading this post I did not make it to Buenos Aires this week, in fact after being on stand-by for a couple days I was informed by my boss not to bother trying to fly down there due to the volcanic ash spewing from a volcano in Chile. So like a good sailor I followed orders and rolled with the punches and went back to focusing on our second place Seattle Mariners. I actually even went to the game Monday and watched the game Tuesday night as the Halos took care of our boys. But unlike years past I had a hunch that the Mariners would take advantage of the Rangers loss and come through with a win tonight. And alas it was a fine game indeed with Erik Bedard dueling away with Ervin Santana till the bottom of the seventh when the Mariners drew first blood on a fluke 2-run RBI single by Carlos Peguero bouncing one off the bag at second to score Ichiro and Figgins.
Yes you read that right our top of the order guys (I know Figgins was batting 8th) set the table for our newest cleanup hitter Carlos Peguero. In fact both Ichiro and Figgins had a couple of knocks tonight signaling what could indeed be a major turn of events for the Mariners. As you recall it was only last Friday that manager Eric Wedge decided to give Ichiro a day off to collect himself, and since returning Ichiro has collected 10 hits including a pair of doubles tonight. As for the ailing and much maligned Chone Figgins, tonight’s lead-off double in the 7th looked exactly like the one he hit Monday night and perhaps indeed our top of the order is back. As a matter of fact after watching Brendan Ryan struggling in the two hole I wouldn’t be surprised to see Figgins moved back up there in short order if he continues to hit the ball.
Greg Halman added a mammoth home run in the bottom of the eighth to dead center to make up for the run that David Pauley allowed in the top half of the frame giving Brandon League all the breathing room he would need to get another save in the ninth. We lost this series just like the last one in Detroit but for some odd reason it feels like we won them by both just by avoiding being swept. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that the Texas Rangers have been sputtering along lately allowing us to be a meager one game out of first place!
As we all know this season was supposed to be about letting the young guys play as part of our rebuilding project and any thought of contending was dismissed as foolish by all the scribes in the mainstream media and blogosphere. Well somehow Eric Wedge has managed to not only give guys like Halman, Carp, Peguero and now Dustin Ackley(called-up tonight) a shot in the bigs, but Wedge and crew have also figured out a way to play winning baseball much to the delight of us fans. Everything seems to be turned upside down this year and you can throw logic out the window (much to the dismay of the stat-geeks) and either get onboard the good ship Mariners or continue to sit on dock and wait for some future incarnation of this ship to appear. As for me I’m going to roll with the punches and enjoy this voyage for all it is worth as you never know when the volcano is going to blow! Go M’s http://jeffsmariners.com
Today is a day to look back and remember and honor those lost in the tragedy of 9-11 2001. The photo to the left shows the Seattle Mariners in a spontaneous showing of love for their country with an American flag raised at Safeco field. That day changed the world as we knew it and things have never been the same.
Things have never been the same for baseball in Seattle since the 116 win season in 2010 either, and today was more of the same as the Rainiers lost 5-1 at Safeco, while the parent club lost 7-4 in Anaheim.
The Rainiers were never able to get anything going today against former Mariner 37 year-old Brett Tomko who went 6 scoreless innings in front of a crowd(?) of 983 fans. As a result the Rainiers must win tomorrow at Safeco against the pesky Sacramento River Cats or their season is over.
Meanwhile down in Anaheim the Mariners were unable to get it done for their Ace Felix Hernandez who now goes to 11-11, and may very well be out of the hunt for the Cy Young award. As usual the Mariners offense could not produce any offense until it was too late, scoring 4 runs in the last two innings after Hernandez had already been pulled by manager Daren Brown.
On the bright side Ichiro still looks like he is on pace to get 200 hits this year as he spanked a 3-run homer in the 8th and had a chance to do the same in the 9th with 2-on but lined-out to end the game.
Another nice development as of late has been the play of Chone Figgins who not only got a couple of hits tonight, but continues to show some real flair in the field and on the bases. While this day like most of the rest of the season will be another to shove back in to our already overflowing holding tanks of misery, it does seem that there is a nucleus of players between the Rainiers and Mariners that could be part of an improved club in 2012. This offseason may not be as busy as last year’s but with perhaps a couple of free agents from other teams we may be able to compete next year. Notice I said “compete” not win, yes folks I am breaking through my denial and realize we are still a few years away from a playoff team no matter what happens this winter.
Anyway I know most of you are already switching gears to football given the state of the baseball in the NW, so if you happen to be downtown after the Seahawks game Sunday and are still hungry for action, walk over to Safeco and cheer on the Rainiers at 7pm.
In closing I hope everyone takes time to once again honor those who died on Sept. 11 2001 and the servicemen and women who fought in or are still fighting the subsequent conflicts abroad , whether you supported the decision to fight them or not. I particularly want to salute my nephew Eric Lawson who served twice in Iraq with the Air Force, as well as all the Merchant Mariners who are entrusted with carrying the nation’s war goods in times of conflict.http://jeffsmariners.com
Tagged: 9-11 2001 American Flag Safeco field, Brett Tomko, Eric Lawson, Ichiro, Mariners, Merchant Mariners, Rainiers
David Ortiz won the home run derby down in Anaheim tonight beating out an impressive field of mashers including Hanley Ramirez also from the Dominican Republic who finished second. Ortiz otherwise known as “Big Papi” had a slow start this year and there was even talk in the media that he wouldn’t stay on the roster for the rest of the campaign. But unlike Ken Griffey Jr, Ortiz was given a chance to redeem himself which he has, and tonight he showed the whole world that he still has what it takes to carry a team on his broad shoulders. Ortiz is a gentle-giant type of guy with a warm smile and a huge heart to go along with his powerful swing. It is worth mentioning that Corey Hart from the Brewers hit 13 dingers in the first round of the competition before fading in the second round.
It was nice to see the players with their children out on the field tonight as they put on a show of raw power, timing, and graceful swings before the All-Star game on Tuesday. The All-Star game was first played in 1933 in Chicago and the National League holds a 40-38-2 lead overall despite the fact that the American League has won 12 of the last 13 games. The All-Star game brings all the best players together for one game in a celebration of our National pastime. It is also a time to reflect on the games past great players and take a break from the grind of a long season.
In light of the dismal season the Mariners are having in 2010 it was a bit painful to see Cliff Lee suited up along with Adrian Beltre who is having a great year for the Red Sox. Another former Mariner Arthur Rhodes now with the Reds is getting his first start in the mid-summer classic at the age of 40 which is a wonderful story. And just as I was beginning to feel sorry for myself and our languishing Mariners, Bobby Valentine mentioned Ichiro and that he should be in the home run derby! Also right after the camera panned on the great HOFer Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan mentioned the possibility of Ken Griffey Jr. showing up and how past greats were voted on to the team in their last seasons. But alas Griffey is gone but not forgotten by those that follow this game from around the country, which made watching Lee and Beltre a little more palatable.
Ichiro will be our sole representative on the AL squad this year and will be batting in his familiar spot as lead-off hitter. Ichiro was named the MVP in a memorable All-Star game in 2007 when he hit the only inside the park home run in the history of the annual game. Ken Griffey Jr. was MVP himself way back in 1993, and Randy Johnson was the starting pitcher back in 1997 while he was in his prime pitching for the Mariners.
So this game which will decide the home-field advantage for this year World Series may not be all about our beautiful section of this country, but it will be a fun and great tribute to the game and its best players. Yes the Mariners are still in the cellar of the AL West, but for one night it is time to put all of our misery aside and enjoy this wonderful game, and try to remember it is indeed just a game. Http://jeffsmariners.com
Tagged: All-Star game, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Home Run derby, Ichiro, Ken Griffey Jr.