Originally posted on Mariner Log  |  Last updated 10/3/11
"After lots of very deep thought and deliberation, I have decided to return home to resume my career in Japan.  I have had a wonderful experience competing at the major league level. I will always be indebted to the Mariners organization for giving me the opportunity to follow my dream.This was a very difficult decision, both professionally and personally. I feel now is the time to go home, while I still can perform at a very high level."

Remember those words? I do.

That's Kenji Johjima, right after he decided to walk away from roughly $16 million dollars included in the last two years of a (miserable) 3-year, $24 million dollar contract he signed.

It was a stunner, really. Johjima wasn't a very good hitter, and by most accounts, not a very good backstop either. His leaving freed up quite a bit of cash and it left most fans dancing in the virtual streets.

With this example in mind, how big of a surprise would it be if Ichiro walked away from his last season in order to go back to Japan? While I'd actually be rather shocked, I could definitely a world in which it happens.

Ichiro had the worst season in his professional career in 2011, and whatever your opinion of him might be, you know he's arrogant enough to not like being embarrassed. He's lost a step, and he knows it.

He also knows that this Mariner team isn't likely to be very good in 2012, or at least not with their current payroll. Is he really all that excited about coming back to a mediocre team only to face constant criticism that he's not the player he once was? Maybe. Maybe not.

He's not going to get to 3,000 hits unless he plays four more years, and I'm not sure there's a team that will give him a three year contract headed into 2013 so he can slap-hit his way to a .260 average as a 40 year old. So what is there to play for? Ichiro must know that 2012 is his last year here, and he must know that his $18 million dollars is almost exactly what the team would need to sign a productive bat on offense.

Would he want to go back to Japan and play out his days adored by fans instead of playing out an albatross contract with a bad team and a media frequently using has-been terminology? I could see it.

If he did it, the M's brass would suddenly be legitimate players for some big name bats.



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