So there’s this dude, Phil Rogers, and he happens to be a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. A few days ago, he penned this article declaring Mariners’ right fielder Ichiro Suzuki to be the most overrated hitter in baseball. Why he cares so much about a player and a team situated 2,000 miles away from his coverage area is beyond me, but obviously this is Phil Rogers’ world and the rest of us are just living in it.
Let me start by saying that Ichiro is overrated to a degree. He is. A lot of that has to do with the advent of fantasy baseball (where a player in real life is only as good as his fantasy value), as well as Ichiro’s rock-star stigma. His international following helps, as do his nine All-Star appearances, nine Gold Gloves, and an MVP award. While he possesses numerous accolades, he is, for all accounts and purposes, a great player with a larger-than-life aura. He’s good, he’s just not as good as perception would indicate.
But the most overrated hitter in the game?
This is the point that Rogers attempts to make in his article. Key word: attempts. Rogers claims that the Mariners’ lack of wins make Ichiro as overrated as he is. Though that certainly plays a role in determining an individual player’s value, Ichiro can’t possibly be counted on to carry an entire team. Even Michael Jordan had help.
Rogers then ties Ichiro’s ability to hit tons of singles into part of the argument for his overrated-ness (not a word, I know).
“What do his 200-plus hits every season — heavily loaded with singles — do for the Mariners?” Rogers asks. Well, frankly, not much. But is that Ichiro’s fault? No. He could be hitting triples every time up but he would still need someone to drive him in. I doubt that too many Mariner players in the past seven or eight years could be counted on to do that.
Rogers makes a fair enough point, but his reasoning behind the argument is just dumb. He basically blames the last nine years of crap baseball in Seattle on Ichiro, as if Ichiro is the entire team. If Ichiro is overrated because Bill Bavasi’s a moron, and Scott Spiezio couldn’t hit, and Rich Aurilia couldn’t hit, and Carlos Silva couldn’t pitch, and Mike Hargrove quit on the team, and all this money was invested in busts like Richie Sexson, then so be it. But it sure doesn’t sound like a fair deal for the team’s leadoff hitter.
Besides the general perception of Ichiro as this baseball demigod, you could argue that he’s a bit selfish in his approach to a team game and he rarely, if ever, seems willing to sacrifice for the benefit of the 24 guys on the roster alongside him. What I mean by that is he isn’t willing to lay out for sinking liners, or steal a base when he fears he might get thrown out, or take a strike to make a pitcher work. Ichiro is more concerned with Ichiro. He works his butt off for Ichiro, he weighs his bats for Ichiro, he stretches for Ichiro, he eats healthy for Ichiro, and he collects all those hits for Ichiro. If the team happens to benefit from the work that Ichiro puts in for Ichiro, then the team should be so lucky. This attitude — not a certain number of singles or the win-loss record — is what makes Ichiro an overrated entity.
But Rogers never mentions that, and instead lays the blame for a decade of failure on the shoulders of a guy who stands 5’9″ and weighs 170 pounds. Maybe Rogers hasn’t watched the M’s play enough to know that we’ve been suck.com for the past few seasons. Or maybe he just hates little Japanese guys who slap at the baseball. I don’t know. All I know is he takes a fair criticism and turns it into a sh*tshow. And somebody is paying this guy to write.
Perhaps we should be questioning whether Phil Rogers is the most overrated columnist in sports journalism. Boom. Roasted.