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
To suck or not to suck: The facts:
One of the big debates within the 12th man is whether or not the Hawks should tank games to obtain a higher draft choice, or if they should trade the house to move up in the draft should they win too many games. … [visit site to read more]
Yesterday, the Seattle Seahawks traded wide receiver Deion Branch to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round pick. Not a conditional late-round pick or garbage compensation, but a fourth-round pick.
What a coup for General Manager John Schneider and Seattle’s front office.
When the Deion Branch-to-New England rumors first started, it was assumed Seattle would receive no more than a late-round pick in any trade. Considering Randy Moss was just acquired by the Minnesota Vikings for a third-round pick, anything more than a sixth- or seventh-round pick would be ludicrous; Moss dwarves Branch in career accomplishments, late-career potential, physical size, overall skills.
Seattle’s incentive to trade Branch was to get the younger receivers more opportunity to play. Branch hasn’t been dominating or overly effective, so his exit only means players like Deon Butler and Golden Tate will receive additional opportunities on the field.
Like Houshmandzadeh’s departure, this deal is like addition by subtraction for the Seahawks.
In any trade for Deion Branch, it was obvious Seattle was going to try and recoup third- and fourth-round picks lost when the team acquired Charlie Whitehurst and Marshawn Lynch in separate deals.
When the rumors first started, a fourth-round pick or higher seemed ridiculous. The best the team could possibly hope for would be a conditional late-round pick that could become a fourth- or fifth-round pick based on player performance.
To obtain a fourth-round pick, it was assumed the Seahawks would undoubtedly need to include one of their own late-round picks with Deion Branch to make any deal attractive.
Instead, Seattle waited for a deal they wanted, in no rush to move Deion Branch without adequate compensation. When New England cooled on Branch, it was reported that the Seahawks were reaching out to other potential trading partners.
The Seattle Seahawks and John Schneider played this scenario like a genius.
The fourth-round pick won’t compensate for the first-round pick lost several years ago when Seattle acquired Branch, but these are separate deals. They cannot be compared with each other; Seattle probably overpaid to add a proven receiver to a competing playoff team, and New England slightly overpaid for much-needed veteran leadership and depth at the position.
I wish Deion Branch the best of luck in New England. In Seattle, he was often the recipient of harsh criticism – some warranted, some not.
In Seattle, he rarely impressed in the box score and never dominated opposing players, but Branch had never done that in his career prior to arriving in the Northwest.
In New England, he never started sixteen games in one season or compiled 1,000 receiving yards. He never caught double-digit touchdowns or over 100 passes in a single season. But he was a proven winner, excelled when games mattered most, and was a decent acquisition for the Seahawks when they were a real competitor in the NFC every season.
Markets change. Value changes. Players depreciate as they get older, just like any other asset. Seattle wasn’t going to get a first-round pick or anything close in return for Deion Branch. They did get a fourth-round pick, however, and kudos to John Schneider and the front office for pulling off such a magnificent deal for a franchise desperately needing draft stock.
Even though they’re separate deals, I suppose one could say the Seahawks swapped Deion Branch in exchange for running back Marshawn Lynch (both acquired for fourth-round picks). Lynch is only 24 years old and a former first-round pick – drafted the same year Branch was traded to Seattle.
Of course, you should never compare separate deals. But if wounds from 2007 have yet to heal, feel free to pretend the Seahawks never acquired Deion Branch and drafted Marshawn Lynch.
Tags: Deion Branch, Deon Butler, football, Golden Tate, John Schneider, Marshawn Lynch, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, nfl, NFL Draft, Opinion, Randy Moss, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, trade, wide receiver
ESPN.com reports that Deion Branch has been traded back to the Patriots for a 4th round pick.
I cannot believe New England gave up such a high pick for him. Branch is in the twilight of his career and proven to be injury prone. On the other hand, there was not a nicer guy in the locker room. His radio show was hillarious, and he just seemed like a nice guy.
Too bad nice guys don’t win football games.
Good Luck Branch and thanks for the 4th round, New England.
If you haven’t heard by now, there are several trade rumors involving the Seattle Seahawks and wide receiver Deion Branch.
The rumors surfaced following speculation from the Boston Herald, and continue today — although recent reports suggest any trade talks are preliminary and nothing more.
Ian Rapoport, a beat writer for the Boston Herald who covers the New England Patriots, fueled speculation earlier this morning via Twitter:
Patriots always in discussions with teams. Considering they lost a WR, that’s a focus. 1 team on preliminary talks is Seahawks
Rapoport followed up his initial report on The Boston Herald with an article published today:
But it may be time to add another familiar face to the discussion. The Patriots have been having preliminary talks with the Seahawks concerning former Pats receiver Deion Branch, I’m told.
At this point, the talks are not close and nothing is imminent. It’s more exploratory than anything. But there is no doubt that, within the team, this would be celebrated.
The Branch-to-the-Patriots discussions have been kicking around for a while, with Branch even saying he’d welcome a return recently.
“I still love Coach Belichick,” Branch told the Herald in February, “and if the opportunity presents itself to come back, I would love to be there.”
Before Pete Carroll joined the Seahawks, I couldn’t stand him. As a die-hard Husky fan and University of Washington alumnus, I cringed when Southern California’s former head coach came to town.
Of course, some of it could have been obvious hatred towards the best; it is easy to hate the Yankees, Lakers, or other dynasties because of their success.
Watching Pete Carroll parade up and down the field commending his players for big plays made against your favorite football team definitely added salt to the wound. I learned to hate Pete Carroll, and I’m sure several other Seahawks fans would agree with me.
Apparently, some professional players feel the same way.
John Boyle of the Everett Herald published a nice interview with running back Marshawn Lynch, who the Seahawks traded for last Tuesday. Lynch played football at the University of California, another Pac-10 school and Southern California rival.
Lynch wasn’t the biggest fan of Pete Carroll in college:
“I couldn’t stand him. I couldn’t stand him, man. Straight up, I couldn’t stand him. He was one of the only coaches you’d see running up and down the field like he was playing in the game. Running up, jumping, high-fiving his players. They’re over there dogging us, and you’re just sitting there watching them have all this fun, like, ‘Man, what is he doing? Run me to that sideline so I can hit one time.’ But man, I just always thought he was a fun guy, somebody that likes to have fun and win, which is something he’s had a career of doing—winning. . . I could probably get used to it a little better now that I’m on the same side.”
It is definitely a different story when your guy is doing the high-fiving. It took awhile to get used to, but it isn’t so bad being on the same side.
According to Jay Glazer via Twitter, the Seahawks have acquired running back Marshawn Lynch from the Buffalo Bills.
Breaking news: I’m reporting seattle has traded for bills rb marshawn lynch for 4th in 2011 and cond pick 2012. Great move for ‘hawks
Jason La Canfora, Adam Schefter, and several other media sources are reporting a similar deal. The Seattle Seahawks have not officially confirmed the trade.
According to other reports, Julius Jones will be released to make room for Marshawn Lynch on the 53-man roster.
UPDATE: According to Adam Schefter, Buffalo will receive a 2011 fourth-round pick and a 2012 conditional pick. The conditional pick is believed to be a sixth-round pick that could become a fifth-round pick based on Marshawn Lynch’s performance.
After the disaster in St. Louis, a lot of fans would like to see Charlie Whitehurst on the field a lot more.
Matt Hasselbeck, the current starting quarterback, has been mostly ineffective through the first quarter of the season. At 35 years old and with a contract that expires at the end of the season, critics will point out that Hasselbeck is obviously not a part of the team’s future. With Hasselbeck on the field, it could be argued the team’s long-term growth is inhibited.
Regardless of your opinion, Matt Hasselbeck is still the starting quarterback. But I’m still glad Charlie Whitehurst is a part of the football team.
No matter how good or bad Whitehurst may end up, it is hard to argue his potential. He possesses excellent size, mobility, and a strong arm. As a football prospect, his tangible assets are superb.
Whitehurst’s intangibles are difficult to assess, but I’m happy his potential is in Seattle.
Before the Seahawks traded for Whitehurst, they were competing against other franchises for his services. One of the teams also interested in Whitehurst was the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals, who played in Super Bowl not even two years ago, had just lost Kurt Warner to retirement. Unsure about the future of former first-round pick Matt Leinart, Arizona was exploring different options at quarterback.
When the Seahawks pulled the trigger and acquired Charlie Whitehurst, most fans questioned the decision. The consensus was that Seattle overpaid for an unproven quarterback, sending a second- and third-round picks to San Diego for a player tendered at the third-round level.
What fans don’t know, however, is what the market was for Charlie Whitehurst. And four weeks into the season, it is obvious that other teams, including the Arizona Cardinals, were probably hoping to land him as well.
After Whitehurst signed a contract with the Seahawks, the Cardinals moved on. Instead of bringing in an unproven quarterback with loads of potential, they acquired free agent Derek Anderson, who had been moderately successful but eventually lost his job in Cleveland.
Anderson came to Arizona to compete with Matt Leinart, who was ultimately released before the season started. Named the starter and heir-apparent to Kurt Warner, Anderson had large shoes to fill in the desert.
Despite having tons of weapons around him, it is hard to argue Kurt Warner’s talent. In his final two years with Arizona, Warner averaged 4,168 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions per season.
Through four games this season, Derek Anderson is on pace to throw for only 2,576 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. That is, of course, assuming he starts every game and isn’t replaced by one of Arizona’s other quarterbacks.
Without a capable quarterback, the Arizona Cardinals are 2-2 and looking more incompetent than ever. The hopeless Cardinals, the winless 49ers, and the inexperienced Rams make for a weak division that even Seattle can compete in.
It is uncertain whether Charlie Whitehurst will ever develop into a good starting quarterback in the National Football League. But right now, his potential is greater than anything throwing the football in Arizona.
The Seahawks may have overpaid to obtain Whitehurst, but if it means the Cardinals won’t have a competent starting quarterback anytime soon, it was worth it.
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Charlie Whitehurst, David Anderson, football, Kurt Warner, M, Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Leinart, National Football League, nfl, Opinion, quarterback, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, trade
Through the offseason and into the regular season, Seattle’s new front office has been quite difficult to figure out, to say the least.
When Tim Ruskell was in town, his moves were sometimes predictable. Predictable isn’t a great trait for a general manager, but Ruskell was egotistical and very disciplined in his philosophy on building a football team.
Ruskell wanted to obtain players who had won before. He wanted determined players with experience against the best competition, a team-first attitude, and a relentless work ethic. Most importantly, the player had to be of high character, a stand-up citizen, and well-behaved off the field.
Ruskell’s philosophy landed players like Deion Branch, Patrick Kerney, and Julius Jones. In the NFL Draft, Ruskell opted for experienced, “safe” picks like Kelly Jennings, Lawrence Jackson, and Aaron Curry.
We knew what to expect when Tim Ruskell was in charge. The new regime, however, is still somewhat mysterious.
We had no idea what to expect in last April’s draft. Some people thought John Schneider would submit to Pete Carroll and favor players from Southern California and the Pac-10 Conference. Others assumed the Seahawks would significantly reach for a quarterback like Jimmy Clausen or Tim Tebow.
Those who were eventually correct with their predictions will tell you even they weren’t certain what was going to happen.
As the offseason progressed and training camp opened, it was obvious the Seahawks were seeking a big-time playmaker at wide receiver. The team pursued Brandon Marshall, but was eventually outbid by the Miami Dolphins.
When the San Diego Chargers began fielding offers for Vincent Jackson, the Seahawks quietly joined several other franchises in pursuit of the disgruntled wide receiver. Jackson was holding out for a new contract and refused to play without one; the assumption was that San Diego would be willing to part with him for adequate compensation. Desperate for a big, physical wide receiver and obvious playmaker, the Seahawks showed serious interest.
The team was given permission by San Diego to discuss contract details with Vincent Jackson and his agents. One would have to assume the Seahawks had at least lightly discussed trade compensation with the Chargers as well.
Landing Jackson, while still possible but quite unlikely, would have been a huge acquisition for Seattle’s new front office. If Tim Ruskell were running the show, however, the Seahawks would have never even considered trading for Jackson.
Though he is a talented player, Jackson has a questionable off-field record. He is already facing a suspension this season for his second DUI, and investing so much in a repeat offender would be a huge gamble.
Schneider and Carroll were apparently willing to take a chance on Jackson. Until, that is, Braylon Edwards was arrested and charged with DUI earlier this week.
According to John Clayton, the Seahawks decided not to pursue Vincent Jackson any further when they found out about Edwards’ DUI. Because of Jackson’s two previous DUI charges, the team apparently decided they’re unwilling to take a chance.
It seems awkward Seattle would become indecisive following the news about Braylon Edwards. Without any additional knowledge of the situation, I have to assume that ownership stepped in and prevented any further pursuit of Vincent Jackson. Acquiring a player like Jackson would be wonderful on Sundays, but could quickly become a public relations nightmare for the franchise.
Seattle’s front office is still unpredictable; without any established patterns or obvious preferences, their next move is a mystery. For now, we can only hope for the best every Sunday.
Just don’t assume the obvious will happen on the following Monday.
Tags: Brandon Marshall, Braylon Edwards, DUI, football, Free agent, John Clayton, John Schneider, nfl, NFL Draft, Paul Allen, Pete Carroll, Rumors, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, Tim Ruskell, trade, vincent jackson, wide receiver
On Saturday, the Seahawks trimmed their roster down to 53 players. As it turns out, the initial cuts were only the beginning for John Schneider and the Seattle Seahawks.
On Sunday, the Seahawks continued to churn and trim their roster, cutting several veterans and signing players released by other teams around the league.
Here is a quick list of who the Seahawks released yesterday:
Jordan Babineaux had been with the Seahawks since 2004 after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent. For most of his career, Babineaux excelled as the third cornerback in nickel packages; his ability to make timely plays earned him the nickname Big Play Babs. Last season, Babineaux started all 16 games for the Seahawks as a safety. He will be remembered most for the game-saving tackle made on Tony Romo following a fumbled snap in the 2007 NFL Playoffs.
Kevin Ellison, who played for Pete Carroll at the University of Southern California, was acquired by the Seahawks after being released by the San Diego Chargers following an off-field indiscretion. As a rookie in 2009, Ellison started 9 games at safety for the Chargers. Ellison is a former sixth-round pick who most expected to be cut the day before.
Julius Jones is definitely not a fan favorite, but he has lasted several years in Seattle despite regime turnover and fan criticism. Jones started 24 games for the Seahawks in two seasons after leaving Dallas as a free agent in 2007. In Seattle, Jones rushed for 1,361 yards and averaged just over 4.0 yards per carry. Nothing is confirmed yet, but several reports say Jones will be released. If he is on the roster after Monday, his base salary of $2.45 million in 2010 becomes guaranteed.
Owen Schmitt, the Runaway Beer Truck, was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 draft by Seattle. Known to prefer a smash-mouth brand of football, Schmitt will probably be remembered most for striking his own head with a helmet prior to a game last season. Schmitt has only started twice in two seasons and never lived up to his potential as a fullback in the NFL.
Steve Vallos was selected in the seventh round of the 2007 draft by Seattle. In two seasons with the team, Vallos has started 8 games and proved his value with impressive versatility on the offensive line. He looked capable while starting in place of injured Chris Spencer and also played elsewhere along the interior offensive line.
Kevin Vickerson was acquired as part of the deal that also sent LenDale White to Seattle last April. Vickerson looked decent as a nose tackle during the preseason, capable of backing up starter Colin Cole. The Seahawks obviously considered Vickerson expendable and will look to add depth elsewhere.
Mansfield Wrotto spent most of the exhibition season starting at left tackle in place of injured Russell Okung and keeping Matt Hasselbeck upright. As a reward, the Seahawks sent Wrotto packing as more questions continue to develop regarding the offensive line. Wrotto was originally a fourth-round selection in 2007 – Seattle used the pick acquired from the Darrell Jackson trade to draft him – and has started 5 games in three seasons. Prior to playing tackle in several exhibition games, Wrotto spent most of his time as an offensive guard.
In addition to a number of cuts, the Seahawks also added a handful of players. More additions are expected as the Seahawks continue to change the 53-man roster less than a week before the season opener.
Tags: 53-man roster, Big Play Babs, cut, Darrell Jackson, Evan Dietrich-Smith, football, John Schneider, Jordan Babineaux, Julius Jones, Junior Siavii, Kevin Ellison, Kevin Vickerson, LenDale White, Mansfield Wrotto, Michael Robinson, Nate Ness, National Football League, News, nfl, NFL Draft, Owen Schmitt, Pete Carroll, Runaway Beer Truck, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, Steve Vallos, trade
A trade still seems unlikely, but Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, and Arizona Cardinals have all made offers to acquire T.J. Houshmandzadeh from Seattle.
Regardless of the report, most analysts are still reporting a trade won’t happen; it will be too difficult to move Houshmandzadeh’s $7 million guaranteed salary.
If you’re optimistic, however, it is a good sign that teams have made offers (if the report is accurate). If the Seahawks are truly committed to dumping Housh, trading him would be the best route. By releasing him, the Seahawks are on the hook for millions of dollars and lose their leading receiver from 2009 without compensation.