It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so I thought I’d pick it back up as we wind our way towards the beginning of Spring Training. For the record, no specific date has been set for Pitchers & Catchers (that I’m aware of, anyway), but it appears the first game is on March 2nd. As we’ve gone over all of the good players of last year (again, for the record, there were only 6 of them), it’s time to start talking about some of the disasters (with an emphasis on those disasters who are looking to be a part of the 2012 squad).
I don’t like calling Ichiro a disaster, because he HAS done a tremendous amount of good for this organization (on teams that HAVE been disasters for the most part). And, if you just looked at the numbers (leaving out things like salary, the position he plays, and his prior 10-year history of dominating the Major Leagues), Ichiro’s 2011 wasn’t THAT bad.
.272/.310/.335; 22 doubles, 80 runs, 40 stolen bases (against 7 times caught stealing), and only 69 strikeouts. For a leadoff hitter, those numbers are pretty much the definition of what you want (granted, you probably want WAY more than 39 walks, but whatever).
The thing is, with Ichiro you can’t just take the numbers in a vacuum. You have to factor in the $18 million. You have to factor in the fact that he’s a right fielder who hit 5 homers and only 47 RBI (for what is traditionally a power position). AND, you have to double-down on that last point by reminding everyone that the Mariners didn’t have any power at any other positions to make up for the fact that their right fielder is a slap-hitting singles hitter. Finally, there’s the disgrace that 2011 was the first year where Ichiro failed to get 200 hits and bat over .300. You can be annoyed with his high salary or the fact that he’s blocking a position that should have someone with more juice in his bat, but as long as Ichiro is batting over .300 with his usual 200 hits, you REALLY can’t say shit. Ichiro was a straight baller for 10 straight years; 2011 betrayed his rapidly advancing age. And that’s a bad sign of things to come.
On the plus side, Ichiro is only under contract for one more season at his current rate. We JUST have to get through 2012 and then we can (hopefully) bow out of the Ichiro sweepstakes for 2013. I know it’s easier said than done, but I just wish the Mariners would be more like the Seahawks. Yeah, it would’ve been a crowd-pleasing move to re-sign Matt Hasselbeck (and, in my opinion anyway, it would’ve led to more wins in the short term), but the Seahawks saw an opportunity to go in another direction and they took it and ran. But, with the Mariners, it seems to be more difficult. So much about baseball is Who Can You Market? If you can’t necessarily put a winning product on the field, then you at least need some familiar & compelling names to advertise. There’s nothing worse for those fair-weather fans that teams covet than not only having a losing baseball team, but a losing baseball team full of players nobody recognizes.
Yeah, the Mariners have sucked for most of the years Ichiro has been in a Mariner uniform, but at least when some 80 year old widow turns on a game, she can still cheer on #51.
Part of me wants to believe that Ichiro will be able to turn it around in 2012. He’s done some seriously amazing things in his Major League career. But, I can’t ignore the fact that he’s 38 years old right now and he’s just suffered the worst season in his career. And you CAN’T blame injuries, because the dude played 161 games! He was just plain bad. Which is why I’m 75/25 thinking that he will be lucky to even replicate the numbers he had in 2011.
Not that I have any hopes whatsoever for the 2012 season. But, Jesus H. Christ is this ever going to be painful to watch. Here’s to Ichiro hanging up his spikes after next year. He’s already a lock for the Hall of Fame. Don’t blow your legacy by hanging on unnecessarily to try and get 3,000 hits! Nobody likes thinking about Wade Boggs and his Tampa Bay tenure … it makes literally every baseball fan uncomfortable.