Too Selfish, Too Proud: It’s Time For Ichiro To Leave

First of all, let me start by saying that I’m Asian. Half-Japanese, in fact. And if there’s anything I know about Asians, it’s that we tend to be a little proud and a little selfish. I realize that this is what sensitive people call “stereotyping.” Frankly, I don’t care.

I, for one, fall under the umbrella of proud and selfish at times. I’m not going to lie to you. It is what it is. The guy driving 50 miles per hour in the fast lane on the highway? He falls under that category, too. And if you want yet another example of the proud and selfish Asian man, look no further than Ichiro Suzuki.

Ichiro is a bad teammate. There’s no getting around it. The man plays a team sport in selfish fashion. You can say what you want about his talent level, his ability, his meticulousness, his craft, but at the end of the day, he’s more concerned about Ichiro Suzuki than he is about the team he plays for.

I’ve played baseball my whole life. I’ve watched baseball my whole life. I enjoy baseball. Baseball makes me happy. Watching Ichiro play the game of baseball frustrates and upsets me. Both as a fan of the game, and as someone who shares an ethnic background with the Mariners’ right fielder.

One of the things that really bugs me about my people, those of Asian descent, is that they tend to love Ichiro because he’s a successful Japanese major leaguer. That’s great and all, but expand your horizons. Ichiro may be skilled, but he rarely gives the game his all. He lays up on fly balls, swings at pitches that he should be taking, bunts at the dumbest times, and generally focuses on what’s best for No. 51, rather than the twenty-four other individuals who he shares a clubhouse with.

On top of that, excuses are constantly made for Ichiro. He’s representing an entire country, they say. The M’s are already out of contention, they argue. Personal records mean something, too, they cry. But you know what? Excuses are bullshit.

If Ichiro was on my team, I’d kick him off. If you can’t rely on your teammates, who can you rely on? I certainly wouldn’t feel safe trusting Ichiro to have my back in a situation that called for it. That’s the unfortunate part about his selfishness. It exposes the weakness of his character. How can you trust somebody that so blatantly worries more about himself than about those around him? How can you put your faith in that person? Not just in baseball, but in any walk of life. That’s how Ichiro comes across to me, as a fan, and I’d wager that many of his teammates feel the same way, even if they’d never say it.

It’s not that I don’t like Ichiro. I don’t know him, so honestly, who am I to judge? All I can do is call it as I see it. And what I see now, and what I’ve seen over the years, is a person who would rather do right by his own self than by those he works with, those who call him a teammate. There is zero selflessness there.

Fact is, this wouldn’t be a problem if Ichiro was self-employed, if he played golf, tennis, or owned his own business. Who cares at that point, right? No one else is depending on him under that scenario. Ichiro could do as he pleases if his work didn’t demand any level of professional accountability.

But that’s not the line of work he’s chosen. And as a result, everyone pays for Ichiro’s narcissism.

The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs in a decade, not since Ichiro’s rookie year. While the man, himself, has piled up the individual accolades, the team has suffered in his midst. The organization has paid Ichiro millions of dollars to be a figurehead for a franchise immersed in suckitude. Congrats, Ich. You’re the best of the worst.

Additionally, while fans have been treated to eleven seasons of Ichiro bobbleheads, they haven’t yet been able to redeem a postseason ticket. How the f**k are we supposed to feel about that? Our mantles can’t hold all these figurines. Put an end to that garbage and give us some memories. No more of this material BS. We want to be able to tell our grandkids that we were there — WE WERE F**KING THERE — when the team won it all. Instead, all we’ll have to bequeath unto future generations are these piece of sh*t dolls with the big, springy noggins.

And then there’s the whole Ichiro conundrum, which to me isn’t a conundrum at all.

Ichiro, my man, my brother, my compadre, go home. Your heart isn’t in this game the way it needs to be. You’re too proud. You’re too selfish. You’re going 50 in the fast lane. Retire. Go back to Japan. Do right by your teammates for once. Let us move on without you. Let us evolve. Let us celebrate as a fan base. Let us pay witness to guys who get their jerseys dirty, who go balls to the wall on every play, who seemingly care more about the name on the front of the uniform than the one on the back.

Ichiro, it’s time. You need to leave.

20 responses

  1. Once again, you have delivered classic Alex material. Well done Sir (said in my best butler voice).

  2. Forgot to log in…^ was me.

  3. Nail on the head. He should go, the sooner the better.

  4. Alex: This is well done and probably the one piece of yours I’ve enjoyed the most. I’ve made tons of excuses for Ichiro and I’m reconsidering every one of them right now.

    My issue, and I believe many people’s, is that we never hear much from Ichiro, or even from his teammates, that would indicate he is a bad teammate. Heck, we don’t get much of any sense of anything about this guy. All we get is speculation from media and fans.

    Ichiro and his teammates are under no obligation to comment. They are not a public company or elected officials. I undertsand this. But the wave of speculation that keeps washing over him remains until he says something or somebody closer to him speaks out. Until that happens — and I doubt it ever will since, in my opinion, the ‘Ichiro issue’ is ignored for business purposes — this guy will continue to live with the “selfish” label. If it were me, I’d like to clear things up. But I’m not an privileged athlete protected by my organization.

  5. What a complete load of drivel. It takes some real creative desperation to attack a future hall of famer and one of the greatest pure hitters baseball has ever seen. Ichiro is absolutely having the worst season of his career, no doubt, some of this has to do with age, but some of it also has to do with bad luck on balls in play (.295 average vs. .355 career) and defenders making an above average amount of excellent fielding plays against him (http://es.pn/rbgJ3S). It would be unreasonable to expect Ichiro to bounce back to an all-star caliber player in his late thirties, but it’s markedly more unreasonable to ignorantly call for his outright release or retirement. Ichiro plays the game in a way that few others ever have, how selfish of him to not fit your antiquated and preconceived notions of how that should subjectively look and feel.

  6. I agree with this Kyle guy. Spot on. This article was a waste of my time.

  7. Why does it matter what Ichiro has done to this point? Is he really going to be a part of the next Mariners team that’s worth a damn? Right now he’s an $18 million/year black hole in right field. Right field is one of the few premium power positions on the field. If you aren’t going to be a viable power hitter, you have to do every other part of the game exceptionally to justify using a power position on a non-power player. Up until this year Ichiro had been able to do that for the most part.

    To argue Kyle’s point about Ichiro having bad luck on BABIP this year, from my eye most of that comes from the fact that he’s not beating out the infield chopper to shortstop or third base anywhere near the rate that he used to. It’s clear that he’s lost a step on the bases and in the outfield. With that being the case, he’s losing his ability to give the team enough of a contribution to justify his everyday spot in right field.

    Right now the team has eight outfielders either in the majors or in Triple-A that have some major league ability (Ichiro, Gutierrez, Wells, Robinson, Saunders, Halman, Peguero and somewhat Carp). They can only play three guys a day in the outfield. Wells appears to be the perfect fit with his power and arm to be the replacement for Ichiro in right field. Instead, he’s playing left and platooning with another possible everyday player in Robinson when both should be in the lineup everyday.

    Are you an Ichiro fan or are you a Mariners fan? The point of the game is to win a World Series. If Ichiro isn’t helping you win a World Series, then he shouldn’t be here. By the time Seattle is ready to make a series run at a title, Ichiro won’t be the player he even is right now. With that being the case, why is he here now? Can Robinson, Wells, Halman or Peguero be a part of that World Series contending team? Quite possibly. Ichiro? Not so much. Ichiro has done a lot of great things for the organization. You thank him for that but it’s time for the team to move on.

  8. Kyle, so what you’re saying is that the ENTIRE year has been bad balls and great fielding….I almost pissed myself. Are you related to Ichiro in some way? “Ichiro has plays the game in a way that few others ever have”….are you talking about Mariners or other high priced players that accumulate fussy STATS…but NO championships. You know, if the guy made it to one Series or League Championship I’d back iffy…oh wait, you’re going to blame the team right, because it’s a team game? You fell in love with stats and now you don’t realize that your relationship was built on a lie. Stats mean nothing without the hardware to back it up (Brady Anderson 50 HR, NY Yankees payroll, Prince Fielder, etc). But hey, if he makes you happy, then I’m happy for you!

  9. @Anonymous: I agree with you that Robinson and Wells show potential to be big league contributors in the OF, I’ll even hold out a sliver of hope for Saunders and Halman. Peguero is not happening. I also agree with your point about Ichiro seeming to have lost a step. This is no doubt costing him on defensive and IF singles as you mentioned. That being said, I still believe that Ichiro has been a victim of bad luck this season. Really, it’s remarkable that he’s been able to sustain a BABIP over .300 for his entire career, a season like this was bound to happen. Will he hit .340 next season and lead the league in IF singles? Probably not, but given his track record, and his well-documented meticulous devotion to taking care of his body and the craft of hitting, I think the guy deserves the opportunity to show us if he can bounce back and be a productive major league player. If the same problems persist into this time next year, I’m more than willing to reevaluate Ichiro’s merits as a big league starter. We all age eventually, after all. The Mariners were never going to win the world series this season, they more than likely won’t next season, and while giving younger players big league experience is no doubt valuable, we’re talking about a collection of players that largely project as 4th OF’ers, with Robinson and Wells being the exception. Making reactionary judgements on small samples of data and calling out one of the best players this organization has ever seen over flimsy subjective opinions and speculation is just irresponsible.

    @John: I guess I didn’t realize that baseball is an individual sport. You’re right, Ted Williams, Ken Griffey, Jr., Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Gwynn and Harmon Killebrew were just a bunch of selfish, stat-padding bums who didn’t know how to win.

  10. Ichiro has been successful, but the Mariners have sucked. Last time I checked, there are 24 other players on the major league roster. Why is it selfish that Ichiro is playing above-average baseball? He’s been a GOOD baseball player. Good baseball players help teams win games. Saying the Mariners have been terrible because Ichiro is selfish is ridiculous. The Mariners have been terrible because of Bill Bavasi, Chone Figgins and Carlos Silva. I think you’re missing the point here.

  11. Please note that while I point out the fact that the Mariners have sucked during Ichiro’s tenure –

    “The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs in a decade, not since Ichiro’s rookie year. While the man, himself, has piled up the individual accolades, the team has suffered in his midst. The organization has paid Ichiro millions of dollars to be a figurehead for a franchise immersed in suckitude. Congrats, Ich. You’re the best of the worst.”

    – at no point do I attempt to show any kind of relationship between the team being mostly bad over the past decade and Ichiro’s presence. I’m merely stating a fact: the team has suffered while Ichiro has been here. And they have. The numbers support it. It is irrefutable.

    That said, my point is not to “blame” everything on Ichiro. My point is, he’s a bad teammate. That’s all. And no one likes a bad teammate. We’ve all been on teams where there was at least one guy who wasn’t “with” the rest of the team. And in those situations, we’ve probably felt some level of animosity towards that outsider.

    At some point, a certain level of animosity can destroy team chemistry, and I would argue that team chemistry is essential to a positive environment that ultimately breeds winning. That’s my point of view; yours may be different, and I respect that.

    But don’t get me wrong. In no way am I stating that “this is all Ichiro’s fault.” That’s not the case at all. He’s a bad teammate, in my opinion, and I don’t think bad teammates have a spot on any good, thriving squad. No matter if we’re talking baseball or any other walk of life.

  12. The only part of “team” that Ichiro understands is “ME.”

  13. Another thing that was mentioned in a previous article (Operation Writer X: Blame Ichiro) is that Ichiro takes away a place for a power hitter. Right field is traditionally a place to put a power bat. Don’t get me wrong, as great as he is in right field, he doesn’t save as many runs as a power hitting right fielder would gain back. The fact that we have to find power in other places makes it harder for the Mariners to score runs, and ultimately win. I mean, we have our second baseman as our number three hitter. That’s not too common. I’m not saying that the past decade of mediocrity the Mariners have put us through is completely on Ichiro’s shoulders, but I do feel as though he’s made things more difficult.

  14. The article misses the obvious. Pro baseball isn’t much of a team sport. Players don’t stay with a single team over their career so they have no loyalty to the franchise or to other players that they may only know for a season. Not all baseball positions are equal. The pitcher is generally (but not always) the most important player.

  15. I’ve gotta say, this comment thread is almost as entertaining as the actual article.

    But really, I do agree with Alex here. Ichiro has kind of been like the Senior on a high school football team. He’s kind of a jerk, but no one questions him because he’s good.

  16. Ichiro maybe a Hero to many seattle fans. However to me he is nothing but a sandwhich! Soon the baseball world will realize how selfish his play is. People just don’t want to belive it is true. He simply wants to be the first Japanese Hall of famer. Nothing wrong with that, but 100 yard singles, stealing a base when it is not the time. He should be captain of the team, but he is not. He most always speaks Japanese to the media and only now he is changing his spot in the lineup. One other important note concerning the mariners. They simply do not want a championship. they are content with mediocraty. Nintendo has been in the red. Why spend the money. Not every team wants to win the world series folks. believe it or not. It all comes down to ownership. What is their intention.

  17. guys its over…

  18. Hi Guys,I am japanese and I am big fan of Ichiro.well…mostly,I understand you guys opinion and those opinions are always dividing between “is he overestimate player ?or not?,is he good or just selfish?”in Japan too. If you see 2ch site there is alot of criticism of his playing style for example why don’t he choose a base on balls, he got a Low On-base percentage,he could get more homeruns etc. but I think ichiro’s parsonality is apt to be misunderstood. and also I am sure there is a lot of culturel or language problem.

    and to me just very sad to him to leave mariners. cose I think his real mind is he wanted to stay… I am sure he really do…well..its sad..just sad.I wanted him to stay mariners and get world series championship in seattle.

  19. Ichiro is GOD. Fuck all of you who think otherwise. May you all be damned to hell for eternity, motherfuckers!

  20. And you fit another stereotypical person who is a minority, you would rather not support your own race than be disliked by the majority. I’m Asian, and there are a lot of us who will sellout to be on the good side. This is baseball, even the best players can’t always hit the ball or predict how the play is going to go. You talk about Ichiro like he has complete control of the game and that he can win it if he wants. “He bunts the ball at the wrong time”? When is it the right or dumbest time to bunt a ball? Everyone takes chances when they bunt or do a sacrifice hit. He ” swings at pitches that he should be taking” You being a baseball player has never missed a swing? It sounds to me like you’re a bitter baseball player who’s never made the big league, and jealous of people who lool like you who did. I’m sorry for your failure, but don’t take it out on other people’s success.

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