Welcome Home, Ichiro.
Number 51 is coming back to Seattle after spending the last five and half years in New York and Miami. After waiting for an offer this offseason, the greatest hitter of the 21st Century is coming home.
Hearing the initial rumors of this deal, my heart began to flutter. I have always loved Ichiro. His play was tenacious, his style relentless, and his smile electric. Ichiro Suzuki turned the game on its head. When big sluggers were all the rage, this Japanese import flipped the script, making the fundamentals of the game exciting again.
Watching Ichiro slap-hit a single was akin to watching Barry Bonds send a ball into McCovey Cove. Both players had this swagger that said, “There’s nothing you can do to get me out.” They both allowed no room for error. You had to be perfect to beat perfect.
Ichiro is now a shell of his former self, relegated to the role of bench player. There’s still a star in there, and at the age of 44, now is the time to transition to a coaching role. Seattle’s the place for him to do that. But I already told you that, remember?
“The best hitter of the 21st century is looking for a new place to call home for the 2018 Season. And he should be able to find somewhere willing to take him. Why? Because he’s Ichiro. Also, there’s this heartbreaking quote:
“I feel like a big dog at a pet shop that hasn’t been sold. Of course, I want to play baseball next year.”
Ugh. I love Ichiro, you guys
Landing Spot: Seattle Mariners
There has never been a better time for the Seattle Mariners to reunite with Ichiro. After trading for Dee Gordon and announcing he’ll start in Center, and acquiring Ryon Healy, who’ll be transitioning to Right Field once Dan Vogelbach is ready to take over, now is the time for Seattle to bring home their legendary right fielder.
Dee Gordon would especially benefit from having a veteran outfielder in the ranks, and one that he’s familiar with. Dee Gordon’s hitting still is as close to Ichiro’s as you can get. So why not double down on that investment? Seriously. It’ll be well worth the money.”
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!
In all seriousness, bringing Ichiro on board to mentor Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy is the smartest thing the Mariners could do. The first time Dee Gordon and Ichiro played on the same team, Gordon won the batting title. From 2014 to 2015, when Gordon went from the Dodgers to the Marlins, he opened up the front foot of his stance. This gave him an advantage in at-bats, especially with his blazing speed.
Ichiro, known for his slap-hitting, halfway down the baseline swing, changed the way the game viewed hitters. His father came up with the idea that being a lefty gave Ichiro a faster route to first base. Add in the fact that his swing took him two steps closer to first, he’s off to the races before the ball touches the grass.
Gordon’s new batting stance is a version of that. Gordon is always a threat to drop a bunt, rope a single or crush a double. His stance allows him to do all these things at once. He might not be taking a step towards first base, but he is mentally sprinting down the line.
There’s also the PR side to this signing. This kind of homecoming is normally paired with rumors of retirement. A great player signing a one-day deal to retire with his old team, it’s a great moment of celebration. I’m a big fan of these kinds of things.
Ichiro is not that kind of signing. Ichiro is coming to play, and to win. That’s the best case scenario for both sides.
The Mariners have no doubt been a bit of a disappointment these past few years. These past two years have seen them failing to compete towards the end of the season. At the end of the day, you start wondering what’s going to change. How do we get excited about a team who is inevitably going to break your heart?
You bring back your heart. You bring back the guy who made you fall in love almost 20 years ago.
Welcome home, Ichiro. Now let’s get down to business.