We start with one of the best Mariners of all time. A future Hall of Famer. No one respects Ichiro more than Mariners fans and the M’s organization.
But it’s an admiration and respect that could be interfering with this franchise’s opportunity for success.
Earlier today, the Mariners needed to make a roster move to make room for starting pitcher Erasmo Ramirez. It came down to having too many outfielders, and instead of releasing Ichiro, they sent Guillermo Heredia to Tacoma.
Seattle Times beat writer Ryan Divish made this comparison: Heading into the day, Heredia had played in more games this season than Ichiro, hit close to 100 points better, and more than doubled Ichiro’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Heredia’s value to this team – right now – in terms of on-field play, is clearly superior to the aging 44-year-old. Heredia’s potential value going forward is better as well.
Now, yes, reaching base four times today was great to see. And with seven games left on this demanding roadtrip and Heredia in Tacoma for at least ten days, it’s safe to assume that Ichiro will likely get the rest of the month to turn things around. But it’s still fair to say that the M’s have four healthy and very capable outfielders not named Ichiro with whom they can more forward.
You see it. I see it. Scott Servais sees it. And Jerry Dipoto likely sees it too. But today’s move is an indication that even Dipoto might not have the ultimate authority when it involves the possibility of cutting ties with Ichiro so soon.
Let me remind you that just two months ago, Dipoto said he wouldn’t sign another big-name starting pitcher because he didn’t want to clog their minor league system and hinder the development of his younger pitchers. But by keeping the aging Ichiro in favor of an up-and-coming contributor like Heredia, that’s exactly what he’s doing when it comes to the M’s outfield.
And that’s why it’s my opinion that the burden now falls on Ichiro to look in the mirror and self-reflect. We all love him. We always will. We’ve all loved seeing him one last time. And now, out of respect for this team’s desire to be as competitive as possible, it time for him to do the right thing.
I’ve always believed that future Hall of Fame athletes deserve to go out on their own terms and not anyone else’s. Mariners ownership clearly feels this way too, since Dipoto’s hands are seemingly tied. But Ichiro has to recognize this as well. He has to see that a bit of nostalgia and a hint of veteran leadership aren’t good enough reasons to hang around, unless his on-field contributions are adequate too.
After being given a chance to play for Seattle one last time, after enjoying the standing ovations and “Ichiro” chants, the best way to return the favor is to take responsibility into his own hands.
We love you, Ichi. But the end might be coming soon. And thanks to an organization that loves you too much to pull the trigger, that burden now falls on you.