Seattle Mariners: Homecomings aren’t always great

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 18: Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners smiles with Ken Griffey Jr. #24 during practice before the game against the New York Yankees on September 18, 2009 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 18: Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners smiles with Ken Griffey Jr. #24 during practice before the game against the New York Yankees on September 18, 2009 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /
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With our 2019 Mariners all-time draft in full swing, it got me thinking about two of the best Mariners in franchise history. While Ichiro and Ken Griffey, Jr. are legends, does anyone else agree that their second stints should never have happened?

Years from now by the fireside, Mariners fans will tell stories about what Griffey and Ichiro accomplished in the navy and teal. Your grandchildren will be enthralled by Griffey’s Spider-Man catch, four 40 homer seasons, and especially his two 50 home run seasons! Shortly after that, they’ll beg you to recall your whereabouts when Ichiro set a single-season hit total at 262 or winning MVP and ROY the same year.

Management should have left it at that. Instead, Griffey and Ichiro were both signed to second stints in 2009 and 2018 respectively. While many fans seemed thrilled about their returns, they failed to see through the pageantry of these signings.

It didn’t help that at the time of their signings, Ichiro’s rookie season was 17 years prior and Griffey’s 20. Due to how much time passed, neither player was close to the level they were at during their first stints. And when both were signed, it seemed like a statement that the Mariners didn’t take themselves seriously. Nothing against Griffey or Ichiro as players, but a team that doesn’t win much should focus on future youth versus past-prime superstars. The team was stuck in utter nostalgia.

For those of you who are Rocky fans, do you remember when an older Apollo wants to fight the new phenom boxer in the fourth film? And an older Rocky tells him, “That ain’t us no more.” Well in that scenario, Apollo was the Mariners while Rocky represented reality and Father time. And to point towards Rocky’s logic, how exactly did either player’s second stint work out? Griffey hit .184 in 2010, and retired midseason.

Meanwhile, Ichiro only reached nine hits through 15 games before he “retired” and joined the front office. In 2019, Ichiro has returned to the playing field with an opportunity to make the Mariners’ extended 28-man roster for their trip to Japan. Thankfully, this will likely be Ichiro’s last hurrah and will officially send him into retirement following Seattle’s series with the A’s.

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Were Griffey and Ichiro two of the best Mariners in team history? If you disagree, go and follow a new team. Was there anything wrong with the team wanting two icons to end their careers with who they started and shined with? Not at all and more power to them. But when hearing Ichiro’s and Griffey’s names mentioned during our all-time Mariners draft, my mind can’t help but resort to their second stints instead of the classic firsts.

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