*Editor’s note: Welcome to our first installment of Writer X, a column written by anonymous contributors for your reading pleasure. Periodically, we will be presenting you work from accomplished scribes behind the guise of the mysterious Writer X. The idea here is that we give our talented journalists the freedom to say what they want about who they want without fear of retribution. Were they to pen these thoughts under their own names, they could face serious repercussions. Writer X, however, is perfectly immune to it all. Enjoy the candor.
Obviously, the Mariners blow homeless guys again this year.
Yeah, sure, they made the first half interesting. But they did it with ungodly pitching that was wholly unsustainable. This has been a familiar refrain over the last few seasons.
In fact, since 2001, the offense has sustained major deficits, especially in the power categories. It seems like every year this team is constructed weirdly. Like, building a house on the side of a hill or not having a stripper pole inside Oskar’s Kitchen (free plug). You know why that is?
No, I’m not kidding. When Ichiro first came to the U.S. he was a marvel. His skills were so unique and different. He had blinding speed, played the cavernous right field in Safeco with ease, and possessed a sniper rifle arm. We all marveled at some of the amazing things he did because we hadn’t ever seen these things before. That doesn’t tell the whole story, however.
While these amazing things were certainly good, they masked major problems that Ichiro presented to the Mariners.
First, Ichiro is not a right fielder. At least not in the context of Major League Baseball.
Every team that is consistently successful needs places to put power hitters. Right field is one of those traditional positions of power. Ichiro’s career season average for home runs is nine. That wouldn’t be average at any position on the diamond; it especially hurts from one of your power positions.
Ichiro has created such a tremendous void of power hitting that the Mariners are forced every year to try and create power from non-traditional positions (ex. Miguel Olivo at catcher this year). Sadly, they’re not very good at this.
When the likes of Richie Sexson is the best you can do in free agency, you’re up sh*t creek. It creates a lineup issue every year. Though arguably, this issue could be negated by moving positions.
With the exception of the 2008 season, Ichiro has more or less refused to play center field, a position ideally suited for his speed, arm, and bat. While this point has been beaten to death, the fact that this selfish decision is somehow verboten to talk about is bullshit.
And that brings me to his refusal to bat anything but leadoff.
Another dictum that has come down from whomever, it’s clear that Ichiro is not a leadoff hitter. In his career, he has one season with an on-base percentage over .400. ONE. That was in 2004, when he won the AL batting title with a .372 batting average. That season, he still only reached base at a .414 clip, a minimal difference when taking his average into account. His inability or disinterest in taking walks should make him a natural fit in the two-hole, where his slap hits could so some good.
Ichiro’s insistence on miscasting himself in both lineup and position has forced the Mariners to try and place pieces around him. In essence, they’ve been forced to cope with him. This has created needs for forced free agent signings (see Everett, Carl, et al), while simultaneously blocking power prospects from getting consistent corner outfield play at the big league level.
All by himself, Ichiro has altered the natural course of development of the team and roster. The Mariners, meanwhile, have suffered greatly throughout.
Ichiro’s greatness lies in the periphery of the debt his very presence creates. With his particular skills, demands, and inflexibility, he has crippled the Mariners over the course of his career. Unfortunately, relief will only come when he retires.
Oh, and f**k you, Figgins.