I’ve been putting this off for a while now because I keep expecting the notion to be obsolete. My natural reaction to that question is: “Of COURSE he’s not done! He’s Ichiro! Ichiro will never die!”
Every time Ichiro hits a little bump in his road, we all gather around the Internet and ponder his imminent demise. Maybe THIS is the year he doesn’t get 200 hits. If not this year, SURELY next year. And so on and so forth.
And then he snaps out of whatever 5 or 10-game funk he’s been in and everything’s hunky dory.
Except this time, it’s not just a little week or 2-week blip. This has been going on for a solid month and a week! The man batted only .210 in the month of May; traditionally the man’s BEST month. So far in June, he’s got just five hits in 34 at bats. I know we say this with every subsequent Ichiro hit drought, but “this is the longest I’ve ever seen the man struggle at the plate.”
And yet, a sick part of me wonders. Is Ichiro just doing this on purpose? Is he giving himself the ultimate hurdle in his quest for 200 hits? What was it, two years ago when he started the season on the DL, then blew the gates off of 200? Maybe this is Ichiro – having conquered all challenges in his life – setting himself up for the ultimate redemptive moment.
See, that’s sick because I know that CAN’T be true. And yet, Ichiro has been nothing short of amazing throughout his career; seemingly able to do anything and put the ball anywhere he pleases.
We all knew this day would come. I’m not necessarily saying THIS is the day – he could turn around and hit .400 for the rest of the season starting tonight and it wouldn’t shock me. But, someday, Ichiro WILL be a .250 hitter (or worse). Someday, some team (probably the Mariners) won’t just be TALKING about moving Ichiro down in the order, they’ll just flat-out do it. Ichiro will end his career, chugging on his last legs towards 3,000 hits, in the 9-hole.
But, what if that day IS today? What if THIS is it? It’s not unheard of for a guy to go from capable to washed-up in a blink of an eye (just like it’s not unheard of for a guy to go from slouch to stud on his way up the ladder of success). If that’s true, then not only do we have an aged veteran whose pride will be hurt if you mess with his game and his routine of starting everyday, but we also have a guy who’s going to make $18 million next year.
If Ichiro is done, then that means we’ve got one and a half years of suck for a shitload of money.
For as bad as he’s been the last five weeks, I don’t think he’s done. He may not bat .300 at season’s end, he may fall short of 200 hits, but I think there’s still enough season for him to approach both. Nevertheless, this is getting worrisome. Before the start of the season, I don’t think there was a Seattle fan alive who doubted Ichiro’s ability to get to 3,000 hits in the Major Leagues. Now? Unless that Ichi-Meter starts spinning real soon, I’m sorry to say I have my doubts.
Ichiro still has all the slack in the world with this fanbase, but that doesn’t mean we plan on waiting around forever. We need hits out of our most expensive player! We need the Ichiro of old to return. And if he’s injured (which I’m starting to believe there’s SOMETHING physically wrong with him), he needs to sit and he needs to get better. For the good of the team.