On May 10th, I Praise Kenji Johjima
He came to Seattle from Japan. He filled an important gap. In a year where the Mariners have seen two kinds of holes — ones in the lineup, and ones down which promising careers have fallen — it’s nice to see a player cover over a void rather than create one.
Apropos of this, I think it’s time to revisit the issue of Kenji Johjima. We have always endorsed the signing, but with little save the weather going right these days, it might be fun to focus energy on the positive.
Perhaps this will, at the very least, put to rest the constant accusations of anti-homerism we get around here.
Potentially, we will remember Johjima as Bill Bavasi’s best all-around free agent signing. He’ll turn 30 next month, is signed to a reasonable deal, and plays a demanding position where talent is scarce. What’s not to like?
You recall his Seattle beginnings: two games, two home runs. The power numbers haven’t kept up that pace, certainly, but Johjima’s brought sock to a position that has been a consistent black hole for the Mariners. And his memorable first impression stuck with people.
30 days later, Joe had become a fan favorite. There are good reasons for this.
Kenji has put to rest many concerns, be they about his bat or the way he would communicate with pitchers. Misgivings about the offense he’d provide have been proven quickly proven unfounded.
At the last USSM Feed, I suggested that we’d be happy if Johjima gave us numbers comparable to Tadahito Iguchi‘s. “Ecstatic,” Derek quickly added. Given where Johjima is at this point in the season compared to where Iguchi was in his first year — and factoring in park effects, too, since Safeco’s a much tougher place to hit — the meter has to be edging closer toward ecstatic each day. [And by the way, why does Iguchi get a comically intricate pronunciation guide from ESPN, but Johjima gets “N/A”?]
Right now, it’s difficult to find cause for optimism. The team’s power hitters are hitting like arthritic pygmy marmosets and the ousted closer couldn’t get tough stains out.
It’s in Kenji Johjima, and Jose Lopez, and yes, in King Felix. It’s there, optimism, even if you have to look harder than you’d like. The same way you might, for example, look for a hidden meaning in the beginnings of 10 paragraphs.