It's funny when I write a headline without any real intentional hidden meaning and then I look at it after it's in written form and I think to myself "People will think this is about how selfish Ichiro is or isn't."
In reality, this has nothing to do with Ichiro being selfish or in defense of him not being selfish. This has nothing to do with Ichiro's personality at all. This isn't about how Ichiro did anything right or wrong. It's not about his play, his character, or how high of a BABIP he has with a runner on 3rd and 1 out during a day game with temperatures between 62 and 71 on grass.
No, in fact this article isn't even about anything that's technically within the control of Ichiro himself. It's just a collection of names. It's just facts and therefore my opinion is left out of it, and isn't that the nicest kind of article to write? When it's so hard and fast non-bias that I am completely free from being ridiculed for my silly opinion? I think any writer should strive for this, unless that writer was just out to develop thicker skin. Geoff Baker probably has very thick skin. Steve Kelley's skin is probably akin to that of a rhinoceros. A hard metal casing not unlike what Shredder must wear to protect himself from the turtles.
Indeed, I enjoyed looking up this collection of names because I am a sick and twisted person who likes doing research on baseball, especially research that doesn't require difficult math. I am better at reading and writing than I am at math, so this one was easy.
Ichiro has been in the league for over a decade now, and one of the reasons that I think he's so beloved by the Mariner community is his loyalty to this community. It's not just about the numbers, the All-Star appearances, or the attitude. Sure, players get booed away from hometown teams on a regular basis (Griffey) when they stop putting up those numbers, but Ichiro's loyalty to the team that first believed in him has amazingly stood the test of time. The Mariners have rarely been in the thick of a playoff chase in the last 7 seasons, but talks of Ichiro leaving are scarce. He's here, he's ours, and we love him.
Because of that, and because of the fact that we seem to have an incredibly difficult time in finding long-term solutions at other positions, Ichiro has had a crap-load of teammates. I never really thought about it before, I never wondered "How many people in baseball have played with Ichiro?" but when that thought did occur to me, I really wanted to find out the answer. I wanted to at least know how many players played significant time with Ichiro. It's sort of like thinking about the fact that there are roughly 6-7 billion people on the planet. Most people seem to get very close to the accurate number of people on the planet. But how often are you asked the question "How many people have EVER lived on the planet?"
To me, that is the more interesting question. I know there are 25 players on the Mariners right now, but how many have ever been on the Mariners? If they've been on the Mariners in the last 10 years, then they have played with Ichiro. That's interesting.
Here are the primary players to ever hit alongside Ichi:
(Current starters in bold)
Dan Wilson (2001-2004)
Miguel Olivo (2004-2005, 2011)
Kenji Johjima (2006-2009)
Rob Johnson (2009-2010)
Adam Moore (2010)
John Olerud (2001-2004)
Richie Sexson (2005-2008)
Russell Branyan (2009, 2010)
Casey Kotchman (2010)
Justin Smoak (2010-Present)
Bret Boone (2001-2005)
Jose Lopez (2004-2010)
Jack Wilson (2010-2011)
Dustin Ackley (Present)
Carlos Guillen (2001-2003)
Rich Aurilia (2004)
Yuniesky Betancourt (2005-2009)
Josh Wilson (2009-2010)
Brendan Ryan (2011-Present)
David Bell (2001)
Jeff Cirillo (2002-2003)
Scott Spiezio (2004)
Adrian Beltre (2005-2009)
Chone Figgins (2010-Present)
Al Martin (2001)
Ruben Sierra (2002)
Randy Winn (2003-2005)
Raul Ibanez (2004-2008)
Jose Guillen (2007 in RF, Ichiro in CF)
Michael Saunders (2010-2011)
Mike Cameron (2001-2003)
Jeremy Reed (2004-2008)
Franklin Gutierrez (2009-Present)
Edgar Martinez (2001-2004)
Carl Everett (2006)
Jose Vidro (2007-2008)
Ken Griffey Jr (2009-2010)
Milton Bradley (2010-2011)
Jack Cust (2011)
Mark McLemore (2001-2003)
Jay Buhner (2001)
Desi Relaford (2002)
Ben Davis (2002-2003)
Willie Bloomquist (2002-2008)
Jolbert Cabrera (2004)
Chris Snelling (2002, 2005-2006)
Ben Broussard (2006-2007)
Wlamadir Balentien (2008-2009)
Mike Sweeney (2009-2010)
Adam Kennedy (2011)
Some conclusions from this list:
I didn't know exactly where to place Kennedy. Primarily a 2B this year, that position is now all but done for him, so I placed him in the "Others" list as a jack-of-all-trades. (Moreso than the two actual Jacks on our team) The Others lists was mostly just a list of names over the years that I felt to be significant for one reason or another. Maybe they played here awhile, maybe they got a significant amount of at-bats in one year. I don't know, it's arbitrary, and it's just a list.
Of primary players, minus the "Others", there are 43 names listed. In the last 11 years there are 5 catchers with significant playing time, with Wilson and Johjima getting the most overall time a piece.
During last year it was hard to believe that first base was once kind of steady, with Olerud and Sexson manning the position (however gracefully) for the first 7.5 years of Ichiro's career. The same can be said about second base. Boone was in many ways as significant to the early 2000's as Ichiro was, and halfway through the decade Lopez took over. If Ackley mans the position for the next 6+ years, 2B will be mostly covered by 3 guys during Ichiro's Seattle tenure.
Third base was very shaky for the first half-decade until Beltre came along. Then things were very good. Now it's perhaps the shakiest position in the organization and a huge unknown.
No superstar at SS has come along for the last 11 years, but there hasn't been too much shake-up at the position either. Guillen didn't become a great player until he was traded away, and Betancourt of course got worse and worse as time went on. Brendan Ryan isn't spectacular at the plate, but do he and Jack Wilson combine to put forth the best defensive job at the position over the last 2-3 years?
We all know the story about left field. I remember it first being highly publicized in the 90s with "Who will join Griffey and Buhner to form a great outfield?" and the constant shuffling and rotation. No one player ever panned out then, and that didn't change in the next 10 years next to Ichiro. Ibanez shuffled to DH as often as the M's possibly could slot him there. That's no different now, having placed seven players in left field already this season.
Ichiro has spent significant time in right field playing next to awesome centerfield defense with the players he's teamed up with in his career. I wonder which centerfielder he would hold in higher regard between Cameron and Gutierrez. I'm sure neither would take it as an insult if he picked the other, and yet both could be amongst the top 5 defensive centerfielders of the last 10 years.
Of course, DH has been awful since we lost the player they would actually name the DH award after. We just need a guy who can hit a ball, he doesn't have to play a lick of defense. I get that we have a lot of players who suck at playing outfield, but why can't they at least rack up some hits. That's all they need to do to get in the lineup every single day. Cust obviously isn't blocking anyone.
So what exactly does all of this mean?
I don't know. Consider a chance to reminisce. Consider it a chance to bask in the wonder that is Ichiro: a timeless, ageless wonder who has managed to stay almost completely healthy in the majors for over a decade. By never facing significant injury, and until this season a significant slump, he's been able to become a Mariners legend and play alongside dozens and dozens of players.
I have hope that with Ackley, Smoak, and Gutierrez, we have a stable future at some key positions. I won't pretend to know whether or not any of our current position player prospects will ever succeed in the majors. I guess I'm predicting that Ackley is a can't-miss player, but hey have you seen how awesome and handsome he is?
Ichiro has withstood the test of time and I'll never forget that. Despite being a child of the nineties and falling in love with the game and the team on the strength of an Edgar double, I marked Ichiro down as my favorite player of all-time. It's not just because of his accomplishments. It's not just because of his skills. It's because he's here, he's been here, and I guess I have some hope that he'll never throw on another uniform other than ours. In many ways, he's just like Edgar.
Oh, and it's estimated that between 100-115 billion people have ever been born.