Ichiro returns to fetid odor of Silva suggestions

DMZ · March 27, 2009 at 8:04 am · Filed Under Mariners 

With the return of our Japanese contingent, Baker at the Times finally got to ask Ichiro about last year’s chemistry questions. Ichiro: Time to act like “professionals” is the result, a long piece including much Ichiro-ness.

But I want to take a second and question the premise of this:

There’s been a whole lot said since Ichiro was last here and he had to be asked for a response to all of it. Doesn’t matter whether it makes us feel uncomfortable asking, or whether the timing would have been better two months ago. Ichiro wasn’t here two months ago. He was here today.

Wait:

he had to be asked for a response to all of it.

Does he? What happens if he isn’t?

Now, this is a fine follow-up, in which a story which was built, briefly caught fire, and was rekindled this spring is continued.

But at the heart of this is the fundamental disagreement I’ve had with the whole thing: that it must be reported, and followed. The whole thing operates on the premise that it’s important, which I obviously disagree with, and moreover that it was a cause of rather than result of the team’s poor fortunes last year. We’ve talked about that a lot: clearly Geoff believes that this was a key factor in last year’s failure, and it’s been something he’s talked about over and over (and included his reasons, so I’ll refer you there).

What you get then is this:
* Clubhouse chemistry is an important factor in a team’s success
* Therefore, clubhouse chemistry is an important story to cover
* Therefore, there’s a need to report stories which allege clubhouse factions, threats of violence averted by clubhouse * meetings, etc, even if that means using and protecting blind sources, and itself creates controversy
* When clubhouse chemistry is an ongoing controversy and topic of discussion, further stories following up on it are called for

Which made this exchange stand out

After asking me for specifics about what Riggleman had said about the other players, he then immediately asked if I had any specific examples of what he could do differently to make the situation better.

Since he seemed to be waiting for an answer to his question, I shrugged and said: “Talk to them?” (Refering, of course, to anyone with a beef). [sic]

Not really my place to be telling anyone in that clubhouse how to go about their business, but he was asking and someone had to fill the void, so I put it out there. Once I did, Ichiro finally did answer the initial question., but he was asking and someone had to fill the void, so I put it out there. Once I did, Ichiro finally did answer the initial question.

Wait, what?

Not really my place to be telling anyone in that clubhouse how to go about their business

This is where it all led. It is, by this logic, okay to judge that chemistry is bad, to advance the opinion that chemistry is important, use that to justify covering and later actively building a story from blind sourcing (later found to be of particularly dubious quality), creating a nationally-covered controversy about Ichiro’s safety in the M’s clubhouse, cover it through spring training again as a possible risk to this year’s team and so on.

Since he seemed to be waiting for an answer to his question, I shrugged and said: “Talk to them?”

I don’t want to get into the absurdity of that response, since obviously Geoff wasn’t prepared to offer a cogent analysis. I want to get into what went into that response:

In all of the reporting done on this, in all of the interviews named and unnamed, nothing came up?

Really? At no point in talking to Carlos Silva about what a jerk Ichiro was did the question “what do you want him to do?” come up? Or Putz? Or, assuming there were additional sources, those guys?

And if that was it, if the only thing Silva wanted was for the cool guy to come over and talk to him more often — doesn’t that destroy the premise of the whole thing, from start to finish? If the people who are complaining so long and so vociferously have complaints so trivial that they don’t even have a way to be resolved, there’s no reason this should ever have been a story unless it was one about what a moron the complainer was.

If someone’s leaving their towels lying around, that’s a specific complaint that can be covered and addressed. And maybe there’s even a harm we can address.

That’s not what’s going on here. Again, Silva and Putz and whoever else might have been in on this were anti-Ichiro for no reported reason, their complaints unaddressable. And yet the stories written weren’t “Carlos Silva is a jerk” but “Ichiro selfish”.

And we still don’t have an answer to the question of what Ichiro is supposed to do to heal a rift that may not exist now and which he never created.

I cannot wait for the season to start in the hopes that we can get past this.

Comments

54 Responses to “Ichiro returns to fetid odor of Silva suggestions”

  1. Mere Tantalisers on March 27th, 2009 8:12 am

    While I agree with you that the story has garnered far more attention than it deserves I also think that given all the criticism leveled at Ichiro by former and current teammates it is only fair to give him a chance to respond. Now, Baker presses him harder than he should have but the thing I regret the most is that this interview happened now and not a year ago when the beast first reared its head.

    Really, Ichiro’s response sums up what virtually everyone with a head on their shoulders had been thinking; they are MLB payers, they are professionals, they are all there because they play the game at the highest level each in their own ways, and that leadership is not an assumed role or an appointed role (certainly not by the media).

    I really hope this is the death rattle of that particular storyline, and am encouraged by what Drayer reported about Griffey sticking up for ichiro in a passive way.

  2. Joe C on March 27th, 2009 8:14 am

    Geoff Baker is bad for clubhouse chemistry.

  3. tgf on March 27th, 2009 8:21 am

    Good god this is stupid. Arrghhhh!

    Here, I’ll save the mods some trouble with my next comment regarding Baker:

    [no]

  4. Gustafson on March 27th, 2009 8:22 am

    The Griffey-having-Ichiro’s-back thing is interesting. I really expected something about it on the front page here.

  5. bakomariner on March 27th, 2009 8:24 am

    It’s all a bunch of BS…who is the real villain?

    Would you rather have:

    A) a player that is valuable to the team on the field and that is aloof to his teammates

    OR

    B) a player that is a detriment to the team on the field and threatens to beat up players and doesn’t even watch his team when he isn’t pitching

  6. Kunkoh on March 27th, 2009 8:27 am

    I really liked Drayers story on that event. It gives a nice counter point to Bakers. No person is going to get everything, and everyone will notice different things or assign greater importance to them; so it’s nice having the same conference reported from two different opinions like that.

    I particularly liked Ichiros comments though which basically sums up what I think about leadership. A leader leads by example & he shouldn’t have to be the team “mom”. Obviously though that’s a perfect world where everyone is a profesional like Ichiro; in the real world we have pitchers not watching the game and complaining about others being selfish. I guess that’s why teams have a Manager.

  7. Kazinski on March 27th, 2009 8:43 am

    And people wonder why some players dislike talking to the press.

    When ever I hear criticism of players like Bedard, Bonds, and the greatest of them all Steve Carleton, that won’t talk to the assholes that dog the team, I wonder if the critics read some of the crap the press puts out.

  8. joealb1 on March 27th, 2009 8:44 am

    I think you hit a home run with this one DMZ. I hope Geoff reads your post.

  9. Mousse on March 27th, 2009 8:44 am

    Excellent post

  10. Typical Idiot Fan on March 27th, 2009 8:45 am

    I actually find it interesting that Ichiro didn’t know about Riggleman’s counter-point interview and didn’t seem to know about JJ Putz’s comments either. Japanese media is just as invasive as the American media is, sometimes worse in the yellow journalism department. Nobody over there asked him about it?

  11. coasty141 on March 27th, 2009 9:09 am

    Nice post DMZ. Lets win some games so we don’t have to talk about this anymore.

  12. argh on March 27th, 2009 9:14 am

    Turning dross into gold is one of those alchemical secrets possessed by credentialed sports journalists and there is little question that clubhouse access gives you access to plenty of dross.

  13. nadingo on March 27th, 2009 9:22 am

    Truly a bonanza of Ichiro-ness in that article.

    My favorite part is that Ichiro clearly feels the same way most of us do about this whole thing. Rather than giving Baker what he wants by calling out the individuals who were talking about him, he instead puts Baker on the spot and forces him to offer some justification for why any of this matters. In doing so, he broadens the perspective and limits Baker’s ability to define the story: Rather than this just being about Ichiro’s behavior, it’s now about the people trying to push this story in the first place.

    How many professional athletes would respond like that?

  14. section331 on March 27th, 2009 9:27 am

    Does he? What happens if he isn’t?

    Yep.
    I have all these sticks, and no dead horse… :(

    I also like Ichiro’s anti-Armstrong sentiment, “And something I’d felt, this thought of mine, became even stronger after playing with this Japanese WBC team, is that to have a leader — who is a leader? — that’s not important.” I love it!

  15. msb on March 27th, 2009 9:34 am

    the Drayer blog entry referenced above

  16. brokejumper on March 27th, 2009 9:35 am

    “This is so silly that I hate to be wasting time with this kind of thing,” he added. “I’m surprised at this. I’m surprised.”

    What Ichiro said….

  17. ThundaPC on March 27th, 2009 9:36 am

    I think even Beltre said at the beginning of Spring Training that the press was making too much of a big thing about this but that was kinda glossed over because “it was a big issue last year and it has to be addressed.”

    I really like Shannon Drayer’s angle on Ichiro’s return. Gives you perspective on who was focusing on what.

    Baker’s take: “Griffey kept repeating: “That’s last year” as the questions were being asked. I couldn’t make out all he was saying, but he was clearly trying to deflect some of the questioning towards more positive topics

    Shannon’s take: “What is he trying to get too? I swear to God! That was last year, come on!” Junior said quietly of the line of questioning.

    If anything, this is a good example in the advent of newspapers shutting down why it’s good to have multiple news outlets.

    On Shannon’s side, you could tell that Griffey was about as aggravated by this story as we are. Couldn’t tell that in Baker’s article.

    But ultimately, yea, time to move on.

  18. Spanky on March 27th, 2009 9:38 am

    Can it be that finding controversy where nobody else finds it due to the fact that you have access that others do not could give you a self-serving reason to keep the controversy swirling to justify your own job?

    While maybe Baker didn’t start this, it sure seems he is milking it all he can. I agree with Joe C…Baker is creating the clubhouse controversy now!

  19. section331 on March 27th, 2009 9:47 am

    Oh boy. Tune into Baker Live at the moment for more wacky fun!

  20. msb on March 27th, 2009 9:50 am

    it’s always interesting to read different write-ups of the same thing — Kirby Arnold and Larue, for example.

    Arnold also has a blog take on Ichiro and “clubhouse chemistry”

  21. JerBear on March 27th, 2009 9:57 am

    Shannon’s take: “What is he trying to get too? I swear to God! That was last year, come on!” Junior said quietly of the line of questioning.

    I also like the quote from Griffey in Larue’s article…

    “Horse-bleep question,” Griffey said in a stage whisper. “You lose 101 games, everybody says stuff. Are those guys still here?”

    I’m so ready for this imagined controversy to be over. At the same time, it’s very nice to have so many angles to read in regards to Mariners coverage. We’re pretty lucky. Just can’t wait for that coverage to be of something relevant.

  22. JerBear on March 27th, 2009 9:58 am

    Oh, and I forgot this gem:

    “This is so silly that I hate to be wasting time with this kind of thing,” Ichiro said. “I’m surprised at this. I’m surprised.”

    Junior shook his head. “I’m only surprised you answered,” he said.

    Ichiro looked at him and they both smiled.

  23. Paul B on March 27th, 2009 10:00 am

    re a leader having to be a “team mom”…

    I always thought teams had coaches, and they were tasked with things like suggesting to a player that it may be time to take some infield rather than eat cheetos. Maybe the coaches don’t do anything when they are off the field?

    Some leaders lead by example. Ichiro and Edgar (Raul was mentioned in another article) are two that I would of that way. Some lead more directly, like Buhner, and it would seem, Sweeney. But that is because Buhner’s personality is very different from Ichiro or Edgar. Expecting Ichiro to be like Buhner is just silly.

  24. Paul B on March 27th, 2009 10:02 am

    “Horse-bleep question,” Griffey said in a stage whisper. “You lose 101 games, everybody says stuff. Are those guys still here?”

    Pure gold. Of course, at least one of those guys is still there. Griffey may or may not know it.

  25. RoninX on March 27th, 2009 10:02 am

    if you go with this style, there are manholes.”

    …Priceless.

  26. isaac on March 27th, 2009 10:10 am

    I think Baker did float a suggestion to solve the problem — let clubhouse salves Griffey and Sweeney secrete leadership from their pores, the pleasant scent of which will overcome any lingering bitterness.

  27. RoninX on March 27th, 2009 10:16 am

    the pleasant scent of which will overcome any lingering bitterness

    Not to mention Silva’s “fetid odors”.

  28. joser on March 27th, 2009 10:27 am

    I actually find it interesting that Ichiro didn’t know about Riggleman’s counter-point interview and didn’t seem to know about JJ Putz’s comments either. Japanese media is just as invasive as the American media is, sometimes worse in the yellow journalism department. Nobody over there asked him about it?

    I think Ichiro does his best to tune out the Japanese press entirely — he certainly limits their access to him, and I expect he tries not to read or listen to what they’re saying about him back in Japan. He’s generally been more tolerant of the US press, but Baker’s obsessive drift into the same territory is starting to make the US contingent look interchangeable with the Japanese one, and if it continues I wouldn’t blame Ichiro if he vastly curtails his interaction with them as well.

    I totally get that the press shouldn’t be obsequious toadies of professional athletes: they’re supposed to be reporters first, and fans second. When hard questions are warranted, hard questions should be asked. But there doesn’t seem to be much of a story here — none of the other reporters seem to share Baker’s compulsion — and what there is seems badly covered (dubious anonymous “sources” countered by outright, on-the-record denials from people like Riggleman).

    I hate this topic, and I can’t wait for the season to start.

  29. slescotts on March 27th, 2009 10:29 am

    I love this site and appreciate your thoughts. However, folks need stuff to write about. We ‘peeped’ this story of clubhouse collapse like one might compulsively stare at a car accident. Additionally, journalists need stuff to write about. The fact that it is still going on, still being commented on here and elsewhere means that it’s proved to be a story with ‘legs’ and a great number of angles by which to cover it.

    Instead of it dying on the vine, we are questioning the validity of the sources, the premises, etc. This is sorta’ like the ‘multiplier effect’ in economics. It’s spawned far more than the initial story likely warranted.

    Chuck Klosterman made a great point that is applicable here. If college football actually sorted out the bcs mess it might prove detrimental to the sport. Basically, one could argue that it’s in the best interest of the sport to foster controversy and not let this stuff get answered so cut and dry, as not doing so means that fans and blowhards of all walks remain engaged and enraged. The rivalries mean more…

    So, yeah this story is/was meaningless, yet we still keep talking about it.

  30. msb on March 27th, 2009 11:17 am

    and …. Jimmy Caple

  31. Paul B on March 27th, 2009 11:26 am

    FSN was harping on chemistry in their Mariner weekly show the other night. I was sort of hoping that they would find something else to talk about, but maybe the easy topics are what they do best.

  32. CMC_Stags on March 27th, 2009 11:28 am

    Stone defending Baker’s line of questioning.

    But they [the questions Baker asked] had to be asked, if for no other reason than Ichiro deserved the opporunity to explain his side of the story, if he so chose. That’s only fair, right? The way I see it, this was precisely the forum to bring it up — Ichiro’s annual “let’s throw everything on the table” session.

    and

    I’m not sure how anyone can say that having the team’s iconic player at the center of some clubhouse turmoil last year — and that fact is indisputable — is not news.

    Maybe because the news was possibly blown out of proportion and there is a sense that Baker is pushing his own agenda. Also that Baker could have done more to address what actually was the problem rather than turning into reporting on high school clics.

  33. Paul B on March 27th, 2009 11:29 am

    from Caple’s article:

    “I don’t think anyone is off-limits to Ken, so I’m sure he’ll be getting on Ichi, and maybe he’ll loosen him up and hopefully get him speaking a little more,” pitcher Jarrod Washburn said. “It can’t hurt. That would be a good thing for the team.”

    Yes, that is probably what would make you pitch better, Jarrod.

  34. gwangung on March 27th, 2009 11:30 am

    “For a guy who is 35, he’s got more gray hair than I got.”

    Love the quote from Griffey in Caple’s article.

    And, truly, that’s the sort of thing that would help “chemistry.” Treat him like one of the guys, treat him as a valued contributor to the team.

  35. DMZ on March 27th, 2009 11:58 am

    I feel like Stone’s missing the point a little. It’s about the origin and continued nursing of the story itself, rather than offering the victim a chance to respond.

  36. JI on March 27th, 2009 12:24 pm

    “I don’t think anyone is off-limits to Ken, so I’m sure he’ll be getting on Ichi, and maybe he’ll loosen him up and hopefully get him speaking a little more,” pitcher Jarrod Washburn said. “It can’t hurt. That would be a good thing for the team.”

    I don’t think having Griffey around will make Jarrod Washburn any less unpleasant to talk too.

  37. Steve T on March 27th, 2009 12:46 pm

    All I know is, if I was a professional athlete, I would go out of my way to set up fake conflicts with various teammates, in an effort to get them discussed in the media. If I was on the Mariners, I would secretly arrange for Ichiro to call me a asshole and physically attack me while I was being interviewed by some reporter, and have to be held back by teammates. Large kangaroo-court penalties would apply to teammates who broke character or giggled or anything.

    Then I’d arrange for a reporter to walk in on us kissing — or WHERE they? Keep them confused off-guard at all times.

    I would also before games deliver long, rambling statements about what despicable human beings today’s opponents were, and how their manager should be locked up, and how I was going to do my level best to permanently injure as many of them as I could, but I might be too drunk to do any real damage.

    It’d certainly break up the “we’re going to go out there and play hard and try our best to score more runs than them”.

    But then I’m weird.

  38. section331 on March 27th, 2009 12:52 pm

    If this story had been about Bedard, it would have been over with one syllable and a shrug.

  39. terry on March 27th, 2009 1:11 pm

    Now that Ichiro has had his chance to respond, is the issue now a dead one?

  40. burton on March 27th, 2009 1:22 pm

    I was actually curious what Ichiro had to say. Regardless of the reasons, people did finally directly name him in complaints in the open. So yeah, even though he handled it professionally and I think it should be put to bed now that everyone has had their say.. I thought it was OK to bring up.

    Imagine if it hadn’t been brought up. Wouldn’t that seem a little odd? I think Baker was just doing his job here.

    But then I never really understood the big issue with reporting the story. I don’t agree with them at all, but it was sorta interesting to learn that there were some players on the team stupid enough to think Ichiro was/is a problem.

    Which is sort of ironic, since I hate all the people who slow down traffic to stare at an accident… and I guess I was/am doing the internet version of that.

  41. MKT on March 27th, 2009 1:28 pm

    What you get then is this:
    * Clubhouse chemistry is an important factor in a team’s success

    I agree that the coverage has been overblown and that the media overblows the importance given to chemistry, in the sense of chemistry directly leading to wins and losses.

    But chemistry can still be important indirectly, and for that reason it should be covered.

    Specifically, if there are teammates who are xenophobic, threatening violence, or just plain unfriendly to another teammate — Ichiro in particular — then that is important and it is news. What if Ichiro finally gets fed up with those teammates and decides he wants to jump ship for a clubhouse where he’s not hassled? That’s where clubhouse chemistry becomes important. Chemistry doesn’t cause Ichiro to get more hits nor did it cause Putz’s inconsistency last year. But chemistry sure could have an impact on the roster, if Ichiro’s teammates are sniping at him and cause him to want to leave.

  42. terry on March 27th, 2009 1:40 pm

    Jeff Kent hated Barry Bonds. Knowing that has not helped me understand a thing.

  43. CMC_Stags on March 27th, 2009 1:45 pm

    Now that Ichiro has had his chance to respond, is the issue now a dead one?

    I certainly hope so. If Baker writes about it again this year, it needs to be clear, specific, and with potential remedies. Not this vague, “people don’t like Ichiro” crap. It comes across as lazy reporting trying to drum up artifical noise/news.

    Specifically, if there are teammates who are xenophobic, threatening violence, or just plain unfriendly to another teammate — Ichiro in particular — then that is important and it is news.

    And if that happens, I hope Baker focuses on the lack of professionalism and possible racism of those teammates instead of blaming Ichiro for other people’s issues.

  44. JerBear on March 27th, 2009 1:56 pm

    Steve T – I definitely think you should become a professional athlete.

    It’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

  45. galaxieboi on March 27th, 2009 2:06 pm

    I would also before games deliver long, rambling statements about what despicable human beings today’s opponents were,

    I’m going to forward this idea to my cousin to see if this would work ok in High A or Double AA.

  46. Slurve on March 27th, 2009 2:16 pm

    Too busy attacking each other rather than attacking the problem…

    Hopefully this is all behind us and we all unite together like a team should know you know but knowing is only half the battle.

  47. Carson on March 27th, 2009 2:16 pm

    It is now the featured story over at The World Wide Leader’s MLB page.

  48. Tek Jansen on March 27th, 2009 2:18 pm

    “I would also before games deliver long, rambling statements about what despicable human beings today’s opponents were”

    Doesn’t Ichiro actually do this at every All-Star game, with many swears to boot?

  49. mln on March 27th, 2009 2:28 pm

    Ichiro really needs to be more of a guy’s guy. That will make him more of a leader, as Caple says:

    Ichiro is not the sort to sit around stuffing his face in the team dining room and competing to see who can break wind most often during the final half of “Happy Gilmore.”

    A few more wedgies and clubhouse pranks by Ichiro should take his leadership level off da charts and really boost chemistry!

  50. jro on March 27th, 2009 3:22 pm

    Derek, you’re giving Baker too much credit. His post smacks largely of having not much to write about at this stage of spring training.

  51. 3cardmonty on March 27th, 2009 4:00 pm

    While I certainly haven’t followed Baker’s reporting on this pseudo-controversy word for word, is it really fair to characterize his stories as “Ichiro is selfish”? Wouldn’t “Anonymous: Ichiro is selfish” be more accurate?

    I’m not saying this garbage is newsworthy (it’s not) or that Baker isn’t stirring the pot (he is). It’s just his defense to this kind of sentiment is going to be a more self-aggrandizing version of “I’m just a simple stenographer. People say stuff to me and I write it down.” That’s lazy journalism, but it’s not the same as editorializing.

    It’s not really a choice between “Silva’s a moron,” and “Ichiro’s selfish,” as neither op-ed would really be within Baker’s purview. I guarantee if some anonymous source told him “Silva’s a moron,” he’d print it.

  52. Breadbaker on March 27th, 2009 4:49 pm

    What you get then is this:
    * Clubhouse chemistry is an important factor in a team’s success
    * Therefore, clubhouse chemistry is an important story to cover
    * Therefore, there’s a need to report stories which allege clubhouse factions, threats of violence averted by clubhouse * meetings, etc, even if that means using and protecting blind sources, and itself creates controversy
    * When clubhouse chemistry is an ongoing controversy and topic of discussion, further stories following up on it are called for

    I think the real analogy is:

    * Clubhouse chemistry stories always get a lot of hype, which sells newspapers
    * Therefore, clubhouse chemistry stories must be reported
    * Therefore, reporters must come up with excuses to continue clubhouse chemistry stories as often as possible

    As Dave and Derek and others have emphasized throughout, bad teams lose games and good teams win games. Winning makes it seem that the clubhouse has chemistry and losing makes it seem that the clubhouse does not have chemistry. In baseball history, however, there are numerous examples of players who hated one another and nevertheless played well together. An outfielder throws the ball to the cutoff man he hates as long as he’s in position; there is no opportunity for something like the alleged freezeout of Isiah Thomas at an NBA All-Star Game one year.

    If I were putting together a baseball club, I would indeed look for a personality type, and that would the type who understand that the kind of preparation and professionalism Ichiro talks about is what is needed to make a club win. They are innumerable people on this planet who know how to have a good time at work. There are only a few hundred people who know how to play baseball at a major league level (and the WBC showed that they are not all in the major leagues). Winning baseball clubs are not based on the number of good time Charlies but the number of good hitters, pitchers and fielders. If the 2008 Mariners had all gotten along, they’d have lost exactly as many games.

  53. JMHawkins on March 28th, 2009 8:51 am

    Last year wasn’t the first year the M’s sucked. It was however, the first year they sucked with Baker covering them. Frankly, whatever else he does worth praising as a reporter, Baker is the clubhouse cancer in this story.

    Or, as Ichiro said in response to the first clubhouse chemistry quesiton, “I think you are more of an expert, next question.”

  54. wilmer on April 1st, 2009 8:32 am

    Griffey needs to be limited to sharing DH with Sweeney. Over the long haul Sweeney will contribute more. Chavez and Balentien own left field.

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