Ichiro is not happy

DMZ · November 16, 2005 at 12:38 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Morosi, in the PI, provides a long article on the star’s discontent:

He was upset to see his teammates playing cards so frequently, and was dismayed that no coach or veteran scolded them for doing so.

Ummmm… as much as I don’t want to fuel the fire, isn’t Eddie the huge keep-the-club loose card-player?

Midway through the season, he felt as though his teammates had given up on the rest of the year.

Ichiro was watching the same games! Wooooo!

Then there’s a lot of clubhouse chemistry speculation, with many quotes from Madritsch, recently tossed overboard by the team. But discard that for a minute.

I would love to have a manager who plays every advantage, knows his stats, does tons of preparation, keeps his players happy and motivated, and works the press well.

But if I had to pick only one of those, it would be this: keeps his players happy and motivated. It doesn’t matter if you’re a genius if the players don’t listen. If they give up, it doesn’t matter if you can tell them that pitcher X likes to go to a fat, hittable change on 3-1 counts, because they’re not listening. It is the part of the job that all other jobs depend on.

Managers, by and large, are tools: some do well with veteran teams, some with young teams. Some are hard-asses, and produce quick results when taking over for a looser manager. Some are much more laid-back, and do well with teams after the hard-ass manager is fired when that act wears thin. Some managers are good with pitchers, and can juggle a bullpen of chainsaws, while others figure out how to shove all the best hitters into a lineup and not sacrifice too much defense.

Maybe this isn’t Hargrove’s ideal gig. I’m not sure what is, but maybe this isn’t the right fit.

And while I may quibble with some of the article’s statements, the simplest question here is: “Did the Mariners look like a motivated, well-prepared team last year?”


They didn’t look horrible, but they certainly were not a well-coached machine. Now yes — that’s a total subjective and unreasonable judgement, and I will be the first to admit that I have zippo backing for that. But there it is. Given time, maybe I’ll come up with some standards and look at some data, but for now, that’ s my opinion, worth what an opinion’s worth.

Plus…. if Ichiro’s unhappy with Hargrove, I’m unhappy with Hargrove.

Before I go, I also want to point out that this article is largely an example of restraint: rather than take what Ichiro said in criticism of the team and blow that up into a huge story, it’s pretty careful to say he hasn’t asked for a trade, his frustrations are rooted in x, and y, and z, and this is what we know, here’s what asking around turned up, and that’s it. That he even took the time to get more than one person to look at the article says something.

Updated: comments are closed, it’s been too much trouble. Email us with comments, complaints.


87 Responses to “Ichiro is not happy”

  1. Brian Rust on November 16th, 2005 12:36 pm

    Regardless of whether laying off the first pitch in the Silva game was good for Ichiro, the strategy was chosen because it was deemed good for the team. That’s the manager’s call to make, he made it, and I think that makes Ichiro’s decision even less excusable.

    Is Ichiro’s first pitch average down because he’s laying off? Or is it down because they’re throwing stuff he can’t effectively hit? Ichiro’s innate hitting ability isn’t the only factor. It’s his adjustment to how they’re throwing him, and I think this kind of adjustment is unusually difficult for him to make.

  2. Pilots Fan on November 16th, 2005 12:38 pm

    I agree with the “finally, somebody is hacked off about losing” crowd. Ichiro seems to be voicing his concerns in a respectful way. I have no problem with this. I do wish we would have heard some of this from Hargrove, though.

  3. JPWood on November 16th, 2005 12:42 pm

    Yeah, that’s right, Ichiro can’t adjust. That paltry .352 in his rookie season and the MLB hits record in 2004 are proof that pitchers have totally figured him out.

  4. Steve Thornton on November 16th, 2005 12:44 pm

    Team chemistry means nothing when you don’t have good players. The Mariners don’t have good players. They played lousy baseball not because of their attitude but because of their lack of skill. Full stop.

    Ichiro ought to stick to playing baseball too. His ponderous “philosophy” is getting tired. It’s understandable that he’s unhappy with the current status of the club, because they suck, but his tight-ass prescription of total zen concentration doesn’t mean anything in America — if in fact it means anything in Japan. Unproven, to say the least. And we’re not in Japan.

    Playing cards doesn’t make you a bad baseball team. Having players named “Ryan Franklin”, “Willie Bloomquist”, “Dan Wilson”, and “Scott Spezio” does. Joel Pineiro would not magically become a great pitcher no matter how many hours of meditation he performed.

    Load up this team with good ballplayers, and then see how many complaints about chemistry you get. Likewise, win a few more ballgames and neither Ichiro nor Hargrove will be sniping at each other anymore.

    So we “load up” with what, Morris and Burnitz? Wait until we lose 100 games next year, then you’ll really hear people howl. Which is exactly what I think will happen. The chemistry comments won’t mean anything then, either.

  5. Jon Graves on November 16th, 2005 12:47 pm

    What #45 said.

  6. Jon Wells on November 16th, 2005 1:12 pm

    KJR 950 AM just announced that Ichiro will be interviewed on the air at 1:50 today — they’re billing it “Ichiro Speaks Out”.

  7. Sir Topham Hatt on November 16th, 2005 1:30 pm

    From Rototimes.com

    One MLB team executive indicated to the New York Post that the Mets want Ramon Hernandez (C) SD more than Bengie Molina or Japanese free agent Kenji Jojima to be their new starting catcher. Something that could potentially factor into a Hernandez pursuit is that Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson worked with Hernandez in Oakland from 1999-2003.

  8. ebbnflow on November 16th, 2005 1:31 pm

    Ichiro, significantly decreased his first pitch swinging ways this year. -Significantly-. Look at the following stats:

    2001 95AB 42H .442
    2002 93AB 39H .419
    2003 102AB 39H .392
    2004 114AB 52H .456
    2005 65AB 13H .200

    Notice the number of ABs where he put a ball in play on the first pitch? Almost 30 opportunities down from his lowest total in his MLB career. This seems to indicate that he -did- attempt to follow Hargrove’s mandate, to a point.

    And the returns were -not- impressive. Frankly, a more passive approach at the plate was not helping Ichiro’s production.

  9. Jon Wells on November 16th, 2005 1:32 pm

    Now KJR is saying that it’s Jon Paul Morosi from the P-I who will be on today and it will at 1:45. They sure made it sound the first time like it would be Ichiro himself who would be interviewed…

  10. Todd on November 16th, 2005 1:32 pm

    I am more in the camp that holds Hargrove responsible for trying to make Ichiro do something that makes Ichiro less productive. While Hargrove is the manager, I would rather have players disobey the manager if the manager is giving advice that would make that player worse. If Hargrove was a swing at the first pitch type of guy, would he make a Buhner, Sexson, or Martinez swing at pitch one, thus making them less likely to draw walks and diminishing their offensive productivity? Didn’t Molitor try making Ichiro take pitches, only to have Ichiro abandon it and produce 262 in 04?

  11. Brian Rust on November 16th, 2005 1:33 pm

    Thanks, Jon, for the KJR tip. Perhaps someone within the station’s signal can report for the rest of us.

    Really, this shouldn’t be about Ichiro, he’s only telling the public what’s going on within the team. I just hope this is not how his teammates find out about his feelings for the first time, which would be really poor leadership on his part.

    That being said, it would be verrrry interesting if he were the guest on Best Damn the night they show Guardado’s Vegas poker tournament. 🙂

  12. Deanna on November 16th, 2005 1:42 pm

    49 – I can’t seem to find these articles online… I can scan in the article from Number (I have the hard copy of the magazine) later tonight after work if you want. I haven’t seen the Tokyo Shinbun.

    Though, if you’re in Seattle or another city with a Kinokuniya/Asahiya/etc bookstore, they should still have Sports Graphic Number 640 in the sports magazine section since it’s the latest issue. It has Bobby Valentine on the cover surrounded by the word “圧勝” (victory). The unhappy Ichiro article is on page 100 or 102 IIRC, right after the obligatory Matsui article. (This is why I tend not to read the Ichiro/Matsui articles in general — every baseball magazine has them and most of the time I already know the contents)

  13. roger tang on November 16th, 2005 1:54 pm

    interesting table from ebbnflow.

    And the thing about Molitor was….he recognized when enforcing a new strategy at the plate was ineffective–and backed off.


  14. ebbnflow on November 16th, 2005 1:57 pm

    Definitely food for thought – I know those numbers definitely made me stop short and do the “Hm” thing too.

    Can’t take credit for it, though…it’s from the original article that Deeana’s referencing. And I’m coming by that information “second hand,” so to speak, so just passing it along…

  15. Smegmalicious on November 16th, 2005 1:58 pm

    This interview on KJR is ass. Sounds like they lied when they said they would have Ichiro.

  16. msb on November 16th, 2005 2:05 pm

    #65– depends on who said it; if it was Gros, he may have thought they did; if it was Puckett or Fain doing updates, they could just be flat wrong, as they often are.

  17. eponymous coward on November 16th, 2005 2:06 pm

    #20– Lou’s teams had losing streaks in Sept. the last few years, too. So did the World Series Champion Chicago White Sox this year. Dunno that it is relevant.

    Oh, I agree, small sample size, etc. Thus the qualifier.

    But yeah, Hargrove DID manage an Orioles team that finished a season 4-32, and he didn’t exactly help revive a moribund franchise. It’s a good question as to whther he’ll do that here.

  18. Jon Wells on November 16th, 2005 2:15 pm

    #65 yeah, it was Groz himself who made it sound like he was having Ichiro on the air “for the first time”… not much more in that interview than what was in the P-I.

  19. Smegmalicious on November 16th, 2005 2:33 pm

    One other thing…how do you guys think this would affect Jojima wanting to come to the Mariners?

  20. JPWood on November 16th, 2005 4:35 pm

    ebbnflow: thanks for the recap. the figures were in my head but not in my fingers.

    It’s easy to see how Ichiro following Hargrove’s “strategy” nearly the entire season, not just for one game, was a catastrophe. The difference between 2005 and 2001-2004 is just too flagrant to be anything but a willful attempt to go against nature. He played the Hargrove strategy and it didn’t work.

    End of experiment.

  21. Brian Rust on November 16th, 2005 4:47 pm

    That Hargrove’s direction is responsible for Ichiro’s first-pitch performance is ludicrous. Per ebbnflow’s numbers, Ichiro is 36 first-pitch balls-in-play short of his previous 4-year average. He also is 30 first-pitch hits short of his previous 4-year average. To make the case, one has to presume Ichiro was “passive” on pitches he would have hit .833 on, while putting into play pitches he actually hit .200 on. I don’t think even Ichiro could be that perversely selective, even if he wanted to be. Perhaps perhaps opposing pitchers deserve a little credit (blame) here.

  22. Captain Obvious on November 16th, 2005 4:52 pm

    Re: #69: I think the biggest star in Japan and a tremendous star in the US being unhappy with the M’s, and giving an interview regarding such unhappiness right before Jojima makes his call, would really help the Mariners land him.

  23. Shimanchu on November 16th, 2005 5:05 pm

    Thanks Deanna for the offer.

    I have not read the actual interview yet to be able to give my take on what he was saying. However, from the PI article, it appears that he is unhappy at what is going on in the clubhouse and hoping things will change. Johjima coming in would be a plus to show that the M’s are trying to be better. For Johjima, he could also take it as a sign that he might be able to make an impact on this coming year. I don’t see it as necessarily a bad thing. Ichiro’s talking about the past, and is in a way pleading for a better future.

  24. Jerry on November 16th, 2005 5:26 pm

    Ichiro to the Phillies for Bobby Abreu

  25. John in L.A. on November 16th, 2005 5:26 pm

    I don’t know what about Hargrove would inspire anyone to believe that he had any answers.

    It was a painfully mediocore hire to begin with and nothing since has given me any reason to think he will have anything to do with a Mariner rebirth. The day they hired him I lost hope.

    My Mariner watching was down probably 80% last year… not just because they were losing, but because I saw no reason to hope they were progressing.

    I was not in the clubhouse, but what Ichiro describes was exactly how I felt.

    If individual accomplishment was the only thing keeping him motivated to play…. individual accomplishment was the only thing keeping me motivated to watch.

    I’ve said this before, but Hargrove reminds me of no one so much as Dave Wannestadt. And as a Dolphins fan I can tell you that there is a world of difference between watching a losing team coached by Dave W. and watching a losing team coached by Nick Saban. With the latter you at least feel that you are moving in the right direction.

    I don’t care if Ichiro does the exact opposite of anything Hargrove tells him to do. I wish the bullpen coach would have last year. (though I can’t say if it got better, I quit watching halfway through the season.)

  26. DrNaka on November 16th, 2005 5:29 pm


    It is not Tokyo Shinbun but Chu-Spo but both from Kyodo.
    You can find part1 to 3 here:

  27. Ralph Malph on November 16th, 2005 5:30 pm

    Let’s actually look at the August 8 game and see what happened on first pitches, followed by the result of the AB:

    Inning 1:
    Ichiro ball (out)
    Bloomquist strike looking (out)
    Ibanez strike looking (out)

    Inning 2:

    Sexson strike swinging K
    Beltre swings (lines out)
    Reed strike looking (out)

    Inning 3:

    Morse swings (grounds out)
    Snelling strike looking (HR)
    Torrealba swings (grounds out)
    Ichiro swings (fouls out to SS)

    Inning 4:

    Bloomquist strike looking (grounds out)
    Ibanez ball
    Sexson strike looking (doubles)
    Beltre strike looking (infield hit)
    Reed strike looking (single RBI)
    Morse strike looking (DP)

    Inning 5:

    Snelling ball (walks)
    Torrealba strike looking (grounds out)
    Ichiro swings (flies out)
    Bloomquist strike looking (doubles)
    Ibanez strike looking (K)

    Inning 6:

    Sexson strike looking (K)
    Beltre strike looking (grounds out)
    Reed strike looking (K)

    Inning 7:

    Morse strike looking (K)
    Snelling strike looking (single)
    Torrealba ball (DP)

    Inning 8:

    Ichiro ball (single)
    Bloomquist ball (single)

    Crain relieves

    Sexson ball (pops out, Bloomquist to 2B?)
    Beltre intentional walk
    Reed ball (BB)
    Morse strike looking (BB RBI)

    To summarize,

    Ichiro swung at the first pitch twice, making an out each time, and took 2 first pitches for balls.
    Bloomquist took the first pitch 4 times, 3 for strikes.
    Ibanez took Silva’s first pitch all 3 times, 2 for strikes.
    Sexson swung and missed once and took 2 first strikes.
    Beltre swung at the first pitch once (making an out) and took 2 strikes.
    Reed took 3 first strikes.
    Morse swung at the first pitch once (making an out) and took 2 strikes.
    Snelling took 2 strikes and

  28. John in L.A. on November 16th, 2005 5:31 pm

    And while I agree that card-playing isn’t necessarily the hallmark of losers… people that are losing as badly as the Mariners should try something else, in my opinion. It doesn’t look good.

    And in particular I would think that a rookie (and an under-performing one at that) might be wise to at least start off with a serious approach and not provide quotes arguing with Ichiro until such time as he has earned some privilege points. I’m looking at you, Mr. Reed.

  29. DrNaka on November 16th, 2005 6:32 pm

    As for August 8th game:

    “Hargrove then demanded the team not to swing on the first pitch.

    Ichiro did not hear it because he was not in dugout but in clubhouse to change clothes. …In the next at bat Ichiro was out on the 1st pitch, with a fly to right.

    Coming back Hargrove scolded Ichiro for swinging at the 1st pitch.”

  30. Mat on November 16th, 2005 6:49 pm

    If Hargrove is telling the team to watch the first pitch against Carlos Silva, well, he needs better advance scouts or he needs to listen to his advance scouts. Silva is nothing if not a strike-throwing machine. Even some pitching machines appear to be less consistent at throwing strikes.

    In that particular game, Silva threw 93 pitches–71 for strikes. Waiting around for Silva to get behind in the count is not good baseball. Oh yeah, Silva’s BB/9 was the lowest for qualifing pitchers since 1900. If anything, the way to beat him is to swing early in the count, because you know he’s going to be throwing strikes.

  31. ebbnflow on November 16th, 2005 6:54 pm

    70 – Glad to be of service. Definitely have to defer all credit to the DrNaka and the people he “runs” with – again, just passing on numbers that may help to provide a rounder picture on the proceedings.

    71 – Good point on the improbability of 30-odd ABs of Ichiro in “restraint” mode being the -entire- reason for his performance drop. I’ve made no claims that this is the entire reason behind the guy’s down year. Pitchers could have approached him differently ~ I’m definitely not discounting that.

    However, the point is that he -was- taking more pitches. The drop is too precipitous to say that his approach hadn’t changed. It -did-. And with Hargrove’s directive to take pitches having come to light, I think it’s pretty evident that the man did make some concessions in the pitch selection arena, despite some of the claims leveled regarding Ichiro’s supposed disregard for his manager’s requests.

    And here’s something to ponder. With Hargrove telling Ichiro, indirectly or otherwise, that he needs to not swing away directly upon stepping to the plate…would it be possible that this changes Ichiro’s whole mindset? I mean, he goes up there with the understanding that he ~really should take a pitch~. And then the pitch gets thrown, and it’s a pitch that he can -do some things with-, but in the back of his mind, that “no swing” mantra is echoing… Think that’d throw his timing off just a teeny bit? Swing a little later…hesitate…maybe not get the head of the bat out just so?

    This is baseball, after all. It’s all about split seconds and reaction times and, yes, I’ll say it; inches… Hesitating could very well throw all of these things out of whack.

    To my mind, this runs parallel with Ichiro’s thoughts on aggression at the plate. He succeeds when he goes up there ready to “make things” happen – and why he is not enamoured with, as he put it in the Thiel piece, “Having a positive feeling at the plate. Like being up on a 3-1 count and hoping for a walk, and the next pitch is a ball. Or, with the same count, you think you’re going to crush it. It’s that positive feeling. You still may walk. Those two examples have the same result, but one is so positive.”

    He acquieced with Hargrove’s request and this affected his performance. That’s my take.

  32. Smegmalicious on November 16th, 2005 7:47 pm

    I just don’t see why Hargrove or ANYONE would mess with what Ichiro was doing AT ALL after the season he had. When you break the single season hits record I think you’ve earned some damned leeway!

  33. Nikku on November 16th, 2005 8:15 pm

    There’s a Kinokuniya in Seattle? I never realized they existed outside of Japan.

  34. Deanna on November 16th, 2005 10:33 pm

    You ARE joking about Kinokuniya, I hope? There’s five in the US alone, and several all over Asia…

  35. Nikku on November 17th, 2005 1:43 am

    Not joking. I’ve only seen them in Osaka and Kyoto so just assumed they were only in Japan.

  36. Deanna on November 17th, 2005 2:35 am

    Nope… We even have Book-Offs over here! (Sadly none in Seattle, though)

    Anyway, I scanned in the Ichiro article and put it up on Marinerds with thumbnails and a bonus picture of Kenji Johjima looking all sad with his crutches. I’ll go double-post this to the highest thread as well incase this one disappears off the front page by tomorrow:

    That Ichiro Article

  37. DrNaka on November 17th, 2005 3:25 am


    The shop in Seattle is
    Seattle Store
    525 South Weller St., Seattle, WA 98104, U.S.A. 206-587-2477

    Hope it helps.