I have been avoiding writing this for quite some time. I didn’t really know what to say because I hadn’t fully developed an opinion the the Ichiro situation just yet. Jay Buhner has made his opinion quite clear, Ichiro has no place on this team if his contract is going to absorb a significant portion of the teams future payroll. He is absolutely correct. The cat is out of the bag, Ichiro is in rapid decline and his production no longer warrants an everyday position in the lineup. The disease of decline was swift and vengeful, striking our Japanese import abruptly and without prejudice last season. Ichiro not only failed to reach his regular 200-hit plateau, but failed to put up anything even resembling an Ichiro-like season.
Regrettably, the chronicle is no different this season. Ichiro has done little to justify his every day appearance in the lineup, yet it has been annotated publicly that the team is interested in bringing Ichiro back next season. While there is a small chance that this is some sort of ploy to drive up his admittedly affordable price tag, a more likely scenario is as transparent as it appears. The Mariners are interested in bringing Ichiro back, but are they interested for the right reasons.
Are the Mariners interested because they believe that Ichiro can be a useful player going forward, or are they interested because they are afraid of the backlash of letting the former face of the franchise walk away? Ichiro has done nothing to display a usefulness to this team, and history tells us that the latter holds more truth than the former.
If it holds true, if the Mariners plan to bring back Ichrio for reasons other than on the field production, then Buhner has hit the nail on the head. He’s correct, and vomiting would be an acceptable reaction. The organization understandably is a little miffed with the Mariners’ Hall of Famer, and have probably reached out to Buhner privately. Regardless, Buhner says it himself, he is a fan first, and a fan rather unhappy with this team.
A team often concerned with appeasing past deeds and players of former glory than doing what is necessary in order to win. Buhner’s words are about more than just Ichiro however. There seems to be plenty of excuses floating around right now. Excuses for why Miguel Olivo and Chone Figgins are still members of this team. Excuses for why nothing has done with Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley. Excuses for why Casper Wells didn’t play the first half of the season. Excuses for literally everything you can think of.
If the Mariners do sign Ichiro and he falters for the next 2-3 years, there will be an defense for that. The Mariners have become a smart organization, but they are still one for their excuses. The Mariners have to learn when it is time to cut loses, when it is time to move on. Chone Figgins is already dragging this team down with his albatross contract, poor performance, and insisted roster spot. The team refuses to cut him, and he doesn’t even have a history with the franchise. So imagine how hard it is going to be to cut ties with Ichiro, former face of this franchise. I hadn’t developed an opinion of Ichiro before now, but it’s time to cut ties. At first I believed that bringing the former MVP back would be suitable in a bench role, or perhaps a platoon. But there are younger, higher upside options to be trotted out there, the organization owes it to themselves to see what they have going forward. Clinging to the past is not going to put us anywhere near Texas or the top of the Wild Card. These aren’t easy words to swallow, Ichiro still has a massive following here in the Pacific Northwest and many will be sad to see him walk away. I myself am I huge fan of Ichiro. But Ichiro of 20o1 and Ichiro of 2004, not Ichiro of 2011 and 2012. No career last forever, Griffey has kindly reminded us of that, so if not now…when?