Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 6/19/12
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Ichiro at the Heart of M’s Woes

Disclaimer: this article is not for the weak of heart.

Seattle Mariners fans love Ichiro Suzuki, as they should. For 11 years he has patrolled rightfield, a time that’s spanned 10 different 200 hit seasons, 1 MVP, 1 Rookie of the Year, 10 All-Star appearances and 10 gold gloves.

As it stands, Ichiro is 38 years old, batting .255 on the season and, for the second season in a row, providing little to no value to the team.

I know it’s very hard to hear, but it’s time the M’s began to explore trades.

Please, let me state my case. I know what it’s like to get bogged down in thoughts of “what used to be” when it comes to professional sports. I’m also a Red Sox fan, and it killed me when Nomar Garciappara was traded.

But, hindsight is 20-20, and without that trade the team might have never won the 2004 World Series.

Sometimes, you have to know when to let go. For the Mariners, that time is now. Still don’t believe me?

Well then, here’s the evidence. Follow the Money

Ichiro, in the last year of his contract, is currently making $18,000,000. That’s 21% of the Mariner’s current payroll of $84,928,100.

The quickest gain from trading Ichiro is that it will open up some payroll space. Sure, Seattle will most likely have to pick up some of his remaining salary; but, even if it frees up $3,000,000-$5,000,000 that can make a huge difference.

Seattle could do one of two things with that much more.

First, they could reallocate it into a trade—you never know who will be available come July. Second, they could hold onto it and use it next season—that much money can be the difference between a stud free agent or disappointment.

Look to the Future

No. 51 represents everything the current Mariners team is against.

Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, and Felix Hernandez. These names represent a bridge to the future, and hopefully dominance of the MLB.

Ichiro Suzuki. That name represents an impasse.

Seattle has one of the premier farm systems in baseball. Their current roster is filled with a myriad of under-26 year olds with tons of potential. Combine those two and you have the recipe for MLB success.

However, all it takes is one grizzled veteran to block a roster spot, dilute a lineup, saturate payroll and inevitably derail an organization from it’s future.

Is there Performance

All it takes is one look at a stats page to see why Ichiro should be traded.

.255/.282/.363, 4 home runs and 9 stolen bases. Not what we’ve come to expect of our rightfielder.

Last season marked the first time Ichiro had failed to reach 200 hits in a season, but at least he still had 40 stolen bases. This season, not only is Ichiro on pace for just 172 hits, but he’s also only on pace for 21 stolen bases. Both would represent career lows.

2011, and the current season, do not represent bad luck or statistical anomalies. Ichiro is 38 years old, and though he looks in pique physical condition, no one can outrun the facts of life.

At 38 years old and NOT in his prime the 2012 version of Ichiro is at best a reach.

At least he still plays stellar defense… but is an extra out here-or-there worth $18,000,000?

Support the Lineup

Ichiro is a man without a home.

In 52 games batting third, he possessed a slash line of .271/.305/.367. Not horrible, but certainly not fitting of a middle of the order bat. So, Eric Wedge moved him to leadoff—a much more customary role for the fleet footed outfielder. In 15 games since the move, Ichiro is batting just .206/.206/.353.

As you can figure out, that’s 0 walks since moving to the leadoff position. What kind of leadoff hitter has 0 walks in 15 games?!

As it stands, Ichiro has no “right” spot in the lineup. They tried him in the middle, but with such a low batting average he wasn’t exactly an RBI factory. Then they moved him back to leadoff, where he’s stunk.

For 11 years, Ichiro has patrolled rightfield for the Mariners. That means no matter what, he commands respect from ownership. As long as he has that respect they won’t do what’s needed—such as moving him to the bottom of the order.

With Ichiro in lineup purgatory, he’s not going to make the offense any better.

Is he Marquee

If King’s Court is proof of anything, it’s that Ichiro isn’t the only name in Safeco that matters anymore.

The signing of Ichiro opened great doors for the M’s. It allowed them to establish a very strong following in Japan, which is one of the most lucrative foreign markets in baseball. However, the Seattle brass had to know the cash cow would eventually end.

Ichiro Suzuki is no longer a marquee name in Safeco. Outside of Felix Hernandez, names like Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Franklin Gutierrez are becoming big amongst fans.

There’s also no guarantee that every foreign fan of the Mariners is going to immediately jump ship with the departure of Ichiro.

It’s true that Ichiro is the most famous Japanese player to ever play in the MLB, but is that notoriety worth sacrificing wins?

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© Jonathan Irwin for North West Sports Beat, 2012. | Permalink | No comment |

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Post tags: Casper Wells, Dustin Ackley, Eric Wedge, Felix Hernandez, Franklin Gutierrez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ichiro, Ichiro Suzuki, Jesus Montero, John Jaso, Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager, Love Em Hate Em, M's roster, Major League Baseball, Mariners, Mariners blog, Mariners Payroll, Mariners trades, Michael Saunders, MLB, MLB trades, Safeco Field, Seattle Mariners, Seattle Mariners Blog, Seattle Mariners blogs, Stats

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