Ichiro to the Yankees
Holy crap. As you’ve probably heard by now, the Mariners have traded Ichiro to the Yankees for right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. But let’s be honest, you don’t care about those two right now. They don’t matter. This isn’t a trade for prospects, this is a trade to allow Ichiro a chance to play in the postseason.
And it’s absolutely in everyone’s best interests. For Ichiro, struggling to perform on a disappointing team in front of a restless fan base every night couldn’t have been enjoyable. Being continually cited as the reason for the team’s demise while having his personality and character called into question couldn’t have been enjoyable. In fact, to be honest, I’m not sure there’s been much about Ichiro’s time in Seattle that has been enjoyable the last few years. He clearly enjoyed getting to play with Junior. He probably enjoyed performing well, even when the team didn’t, though we don’t really know that to be true because we don’t really know much about Ichiro.
So, now, Ichiro gets to go to the Yankees. A team that scores runs and wins game, and will almost certainly be playing in October. He’s probably going to be a platoon player, sharing time with Andruw Jones in left, and giving them outfield depth and a guy who can still play some defense. If he starts hitting again, that will be great for them, but they’re not counting on Ichiro to hit. For probably the first time in his entire career, Ichiro won’t be under intense pressure to hit well. That will probably be different. That will probably be fun.
For the Mariners, this trade has a bunch of benefits well beyond the two pitchers they got back in return. It opens up playing time for younger players and removes a guy who has been a lightning rod for criticism among members of the media and the fan base for several years. But, perhaps most importantly, it shows that the Mariners are willing to move on. Last week, when Jon Paul Morosi wrote that the Mariners were planning on re-signing Ichiro, the reaction was mostly negative. This is a fan base that is ready to move on from Ichiro. This is a fan base that wanted to know that the team knew it was ready to move on from Ichiro. I guess they could still re-sign him as a free agent this winter, but this seems like a pretty clear sign that the organization is ready to move on from Ichiro. And that, more than anything, is a sign that the fan base needed.
It’s also a reminder that as much griping as people do about ownership, no one really has any idea how the inner workings of the team’s front office works. Howard Lincoln, Chuck Armstrong, and Hiroshi Yamauchi have taken a lot of shots over the years about perceptions of interference in the baseball operations department, and it was assumed by many that ownership was not going to let the baseball operations staff make this kind of move. Those assumptions were wrong. At the end of the day, the Mariners made the right call here, and they deserve credit for making that call.
Later tonight, or maybe tomorrow, I’ll write the goodbye Ichiro post that he deserves. He was a great player for the Mariners, and I’ll miss watching him perform his wizardry at the plate. I’ve missed that for going on two years, though, which makes this goodbye easier to say. In his prime, he was amazing. And then he got bad, and the end wasn’t pretty. This is probably for the best for everyone.
Thanks for all your years of fine performance, Mr. Suzuki. And thanks for knowing that it was time to move on.