Monday, July 23, 2012

NUMBER ONE SON: Ichiro announced himself to the baseball world early in his ersatz-rookie season, gunning down Oakland's Terrence Long as Long tried to go from first to third on a single to right field. He laid down hit after hit after hundreds of hits, infuriating pitchers and purists alike by chopping balls into the grass and taking his base before the first bounce came down; by slapping balls weakly but where-they-ain't; by being two steps toward first base before the bat head was through the zone. Ichiro never hit more than enough home runs to prove that he could do it if he wanted, and he never walked more than enough to prove that he could do it if forced to do it by pitches around the ears (but not in the dirt -- Ichiro would hit singles off the bounce). But he also put the lie to the old saw that you can't steal first.  And when he lined up next to Mike Cameron, there wasn't a patch of grass to the right of left-center where a batter could bet on a double or a Texas-league single. In his prime, he confounded PECOTA, irritated old baseball writers, and gave the most glorious, inscrutable, possibly poorly translated, possibly fucking-with-you quotes in baseball.

Ichiro did everything the way that a professional should do everything. He knew his body, understood his limitations, maximized his strengths. He stayed in impossible shape, followed the same pre-game stretching routine every day of every season, had the same pre-at-bat routine (bat between the legs, adjust the glove flaps, bat up like a flagpole, adjust the right sleeve) every at bat of every day of every season.

I am sad, tremendously sad, that Ichiro will not be a Mariner ever again.  But he can't help these Mariners (no one can), and he deserves another shot at a World Series.  Despite his impending Yankeedom, I wish him the best.  And I will always remember those floating catches in right, the did-he-just infield hits, the numbers 116 and 258 and 262, and Terrence Long confusedly sliding into David Bell's waiting tag, a warm-to-the-touch missile from Ichiro welcoming him to almost-but-not-quite-third.  Ichiro: now a Yankee; ever a Mariner. 


  1. There are times that I will send an email to a co-blogger and make a request on some topic, and times I know I don't have to.  Thanks. This is great.

    And I found the Terrence Long video.

  2. Mr. Cosmo9:43 PM

    The Terrance Long throw is still a top-5 defensive play ever.
    I'm intrigued by Isaac's comment that Ichiro drove purists insane.  Say a little more, please.
    Also -- serious question -- in today's advanced-stat-conscious world, does Ichiro win the MVP his first year?  Not that one stat is the be-all, but Giambi (who he narrowly beat) had an OPS 300 points higher, and Alex R. hit 52 HRs, had a higher OBP, and played gold glove-caliber SS.

  3. Sean McDonell10:50 PM

    I thought of you immediately after I heard the news.

  4. Joseph J. Finn11:08 PM

    OK, now I can actually like Ichiro a little more that he's no longer a Mariner.  (Why yes, I'm still bitter over 2000 ALDS.  Oh, and get this; that series had just about the world's worst announcing slate over the series: Skip Caray, Joe Morgan, Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, Thom Brenneman and Bob Brenly.  It's like a display case of pallid pablum and just plain wrongess in announcing.)

  5. There has been a vocal portion of Mariner fandom that questioned Ichiro's commitment to the team.  He often seemed to care more for his individual accomplishments than the success of the team as a whole.  By requesting this trade, he solved what could have been an impossible dilemma.  The Mariners desperately needed his spot in the lineup to evaluate talent and would have a horrible time letting him go at the end of the season.  This way, the way is cleared for the team to move forward and he gets another opportunity to play in the playoffs.  Although it might kill me to see the Yankees win again, I wish him all the success in the world.  Thank you Ichiro...

  6. Isaac spaceman mobile12:05 AM

    A few hours later, I am getting more sad. Wow, WAY more sad.

  7. Great post, Isaac - thanks. While my mom would never forgive me if I rooted for the Yankees, I will be very happy for Ichiro if he finally wins a World Series.

  8. lauri2:07 AM

    I join you in your sadness, Isaac. My brain knows this is the right move for the Mariners and Ichiro, but it really hurts.

  9. Robin6:19 AM

    What will happen to Ichiroll, the sushi place at Safeco Field?

  10. Gleemonex11:45 AM

    That was beautiful -- just a beautiful piece of baseball writing. 

    As a Yankee fan since the craptacular early 90s, i welcome Ichiro with open arms (as weird as it was to see him in the uniform yesterday ... whoa). I've always liked him, even when I hated him in the moment. Y'all know what I mean. 

    And on another note, remember this? hahahalolololomg!!!11

  11. isaac_spaceman11:53 AM

    Maybe "purists" was the wrong word.  There were always sportswriters (mostly, not entirely, of the old-crusty variety) who thought that Ichiro's hits were less meaningful and more lucky because they were IF singles or weak slaps through the gaps, instead of line drives.  That he did it again and again and again seemed to harden them in their positions rather than convincing them that they were wrong.  Also, he is pretty much the exact opposite of the old-scout position that Michael Lewis reductively described in Moneyball, the "looks great in his uniform" guy.  Ichiro looks like a kid in his uniform, and sometimes people just want to see big sluggers with giant forearms in right field, guys who will strike out a lot and muscle the ball down the power alleys. 

    As Jim says below, there also were also a lot of people, including a lot of Mariners fans, who thought that Ichiro should have been a more vocal leader, should have been quicker off the bench in fights, should have been less concerned with his own performance and more of a team player.  I confess that I do not even understand the logic behind this position.  We know, from statistics, that Ichiro's performance was basically the same both over his career and in particular years no matter what the situation (up, down, tied; my recollection is that he actually was a little better with men on, at least before his decline phase began a couple of years ago), so I guess he should have gotten worse when they were way ahead or way behind?  Or he should have showed up at camp grossly out of shape and really sucked (like his most persistent critic, vocal clubhouse leader Carlos Silva) instead of following his usual stretching routine and being one of the best-performing players on the team year in and year out?   

  12. isaac_spaceman12:01 PM

    Also, I do not disagree with the position that Ichiro should not have won the MVP in 2001.  Giambi and Rodgriguez definitely were better (that was one of the two years where A-Rod was robbed).  There also were two other Mariners (Boone and Edgar) who had better years that year.  I actually think Boone was the MVP that year -- he was both the best offensive and the best defensive 2B in the majors. 

  13. Mr. Cosmo12:53 PM

    Awesome.  Thanks.  As someone who grew up idolizing Willie "ET" McGee, I never totally understood the "doesn't look like a ballplayer" -- of course, that doesn't mean i still don't have a small man-crush on Josh Hamilton.

  14. Watchman3:25 PM

    Douglass Wallop, please pick up the white courtesy phone.  Douglass Wallop please.