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.