I was asked about my thoughts on Ichiro by a close and respected baseball friend of mine. I have the feeling I was asked about him because he read a recent Seattle Times article about Ichiro’s “fit” on the team in 2011 and his upcoming 18+ million dollar salary. I’ve never understood a lot of the angst towards Ichi. I don’t want to see him go anywhere. Start as a Mariner, finish as a Mariner. Be like Edgar Martinez.
He doesn’t speak English to the media (but he does speak the language; he’s not fooling anybody), he doesn’t dive for a ball like Griffey Jr. did, and sometimes he swings at balls 4 feet in front of the plate, but that’s not a big deal to me. If he was a .200 hitter maybe it would be. He has done far too many good things for this team for any of those 3 “reasons” I gave to really matter.
He’s different in many ways. But you know what he really is? Consistent! He’s great at what he does. Call him selfish if you want, but he is the most consistent thing this franchise will ever see from the leadoff spot. I honestly think Ichiro will be far more appreciated once he’s gone. I’m guilty of taking his consecutive 200-hit seasons in stride. It’s what is expected and somehow that becomes depreciated.
Batting leadoff is what he wants to do. I’ve wondered many times how many more RBI he would have IF he was the #3 hitter. Sure, he would have lost out on a few at-bats making the switch from first to third, and possibly put one of his 200-hit season in jeopardy, but my mind will always wonder “what if”. With somebody like Chone Figgins on the team (and likely for the foreseeable future?), wouldn’t it be cool to see them experiment with it in September?
The 2010 season has been lost for some time now. With the football season just about to start, many fans will send their attention elsewhere. Let’s say interim manager Daren (yes, only one -r) Brown announces tomorrow that he has decided to bat Ichiro third for the remainder of the season. Don’t you think even the casual fan would ask a buddy “how did Ichi do tonight?” if he missed the game? It would give us something to talk about. Even if it was only temporary.
HOWEVER, Ichiro has attempted to bat third before. Shocking, right? I honestly don’t ever remember this happening. Somehow, some way, back in 2004 when Bob Melvin was in his second (and final) season as the M’s skipper, he got Ichiro to sign off on the idea. How’d he do? You know I got the answers for ya! Here they are:
June 12th through June 23rd, 2004:
10 games: 10-37 (.270 AVG), 3 runs, 3 doubles, 2 RBI, 3 walks, 3 stolen bases.
P.S. – Randy Winn ledoff all 10 games. Rich Aurilia (ugh!), Jolbert Cabrera (whoa!) and Scott Spiezio (#@$!) batted second.