You'd have to be illiterate to take an extended glance at the tea leaves and come away with the impression Ichiro will be batting leadoff to start the 2012 season. The Mariners have been dropping none-too-subtle hints for a while now about moving Ichiro out of his customary No. 1 role and the implications will be felt elsewhere in the lineup.
For instance, the decision will likely make it difficult for the M's to fulfill their stated objective of trying Franklin Gutierrez out for the No. 2 spot in the order. Gutierrez would seem a natural fit at the No. 2 position if he gets his game back to where it needs to be offensively. But barring a major development, that won't be where Gutierrez hits.
The decision could also have an impact on whether the Mariners trot out the best 3-4-5 combination they can.
Let's start at the very top. Other than Ichiro, the guys who best profile as leadoff hitters for the team are Dustin Ackley and Chone Figgins. But the M's see Ackley as a hitter better ...