Teammates Hate Ichiro, We Hate Teammates
In his second part of his rebuilding series, Geoff Baker writes about specific hostility towards Ichiro in the clubhouse during the early part of the season. Quoting the relevant portion:
And it was a clubhouse in need of some direction, given the problems engulfing it as the season came undone. When it came to Ichiro, who got off to a typically slow start in April and part of May, the internal turmoil nearly hit its boiling point.
“I just can’t believe the number of guys who really dislike him,” said one clubhouse insider. “It got to a point early on when I thought they were going to get together and go after him.”
The coaching staff and then-manager John McLaren intervened when one player was overheard talking â€” in reference to Ichiro â€” about wanting to “knock him out.” A team meeting was called to clear the air.
Now, you might wonder, what could Ichiro have done to foster such open anger? Clearly, he must have offended someone pretty severely.
Ichiro this year had to battle a midseason hamstring problem, and he was shifted from center field back to right because McLaren thought Ichiro was a better defender in the corner. While Ichiro is said to have recovered from his injury, his stolen-base totals dropped as the season progressed. He also did not get to some balls in the gap and the right-field corner at times, prompting more clubhouse complaints that he cared only about piling up hits instead of sitting out to heal properly.
Yep – the explanation given is that teammates want to “knock him out” because he plays when he’s less than 100% healthy. What a bastard. How could he possibly garner the respect of his teammates when he’s selfishly hurting the team by playing at a diminished level and keeping guys out of the line-up who could have helped the team win? If only he would learn how to be a clubhouse leader, such as Raul Ibanez, who would never struggle through pain, costing the team valuable runs in a playoff race while a ready replacement was waiting in the wings.
Oh, wait, that’s EXACTLY what Raul Ibanez did last year. You remember last year, right, where the team managed to stick in the race despite the fact that Ibanez had a .697 OPS the first four months of the season while playing absolutely brutal defense in left field. Remember last July, when he hit .184/.241/.262 as the team was trying to figure out if they were a legitimate enough contender to make a trade deadline acquisition, then later admitted that he had played through a painful shoulder problem that limited his power and affected his swing. Meanwhile, Adam Jones toiled in Tacoma, unable to get any playing time while Ibanez killed the team with some brutal performances.
Why was no one threatening to beat up Ibanez last year? Why is he a revered clubhouse leader while Ichiro is a selfish one dimensional egomaniac?
Because the stated reason is total crap. The players aren’t mad at Ichiro for playing hurt, even if that’s what they’ll state publicly. They’re mad at him because he’s Japanese, or he stretches by himself, or he wears funny clothing, or some other non-baseball reason. I’m not denying that they really do dislike Ichiro – this isn’t the first time this has come up – but I am calling BS on their reasoning. MLB players don’t get aggravated to violence because a guy won’t sit out when he’s hurt. Just the opposite, in fact, has been the case with Erik Bedard, where members of the team reportedly have no respect for him because he wouldn’t pitch with pain.
So, what is the real reason? It could be racially based (let’s be honest, MLB players aren’t the smartest crowd in the world), it could be personality based (“His shoes are pink – how gay!”), or it could be something else entirely. I have no idea, and I don’t pretend to know. But I do know this – I don’t care what a bunch of replacement level, washed up, overpaid and entitled career losers think about Ichiro’s efforts or value, and neither should the M’s front office. If Carlos Silva thinks Ichiro is selfish, then maybe Carlos Silva should look into being more selfish and pitching well enough to win a game once in a while.