I sat at my computer, bored for the day, debating on whether to buy tickets or not for the Mariners Game against the Yankees on Tuesday. I clicked around, wondering whether it was worth it to come to the game a little late and sit in the King's Court, or just attend an Aquasox Game two rows behind home plate. Bored, I clicked around on my newsfeed, looking at what my friends had been up to recently. I made a couple comments on pictures, posted a couple comments and talked to some friends. While I was scrolling through, I saw an image on someone's Facebook wall. It was a link to Sportscenter, saying that Ichiro Suzuki had been traded to the Yankees.
My friend is typically a jokester. I can never really tell if his feelings are genuine or I'm just being fooled with a mask of sarcasm. Intrigued, I went to check Lookout Landing, and then, well, I was absolutely floored. "Ichiro traded?" I thought. My eyes probably widened with shock at this point, and I scrolled down to look at the comments. "For two minor-league right-handed pitchers?" My next thought was not quite as civilized as the first two. "What the fuck were they thinking?" I watched the updating comments for a moment before heading out of my office and making a beeline straight for the water-cooler. I didn't care if I had a report to finish by 5:00. I didn't care if I needed a drink of water or not. Hell, I wouldn't even care if someone called me right then and there offering a bucketload of money for sex.
Ichiro had been traded, and that, to me, was the only thing that mattered.
I told my co-workers that Ichiro had been traded, and they were all immediately floored. Some were stunned that he was leaving the Mariners; others were in shock that he'd requested a trade. But all of them were surprised that Ichiro, the Mariners franchise icon for the past 11 and a half years, would be in uniform for the Evil Empire, which just so happened to be in town, playing the Mariners. And so, I rushed back to my desk and pulled up tickets for Tuesday, which I snagged in the King's Court. I don't care if sitting 37 rows back and behind some fat guy who's loose skin layers over the seat and falls into my lap. I am going to go wish Ichiro a farewell. And then, it dawned on me.From a business standpoint, the move makes sense. If you take out the name Ichiro from the trade, it ends up looking something like this:
"(Team of Losers) trades (underperforming veteran) to fill a need in (contending team)'s lineup, who sends over (prospects)."
From a baseball standpoint, the move makes sense. You trade out an old guy on a young team who's been eating money and smacking grounders for two young guys that can report to the minors and hopefully fix up some things and realize some of their potential.
But, from an emotional standpoint, the move makes little sense. How could the Mariners, in a year where attendance has dwindled to almost the lowest-of-the-low, trade their franchise icon to the most hated team in history? How could Ichiro be playing for anyone else but the Mariners? Why does all this have to happen? The answer to these questions is one word: Respect. The Mariners, as an organization, recognize that Ichiro has done so much for this baseball club. He brought Japanese fans to Seattle to watch him play.
He re-wrote records and wove himself into an elite group of baseball legends. He made himself the type of guy, that, when we have grandchildren and are old and have white hair on our chin, we'll watch an up-and-coming player that reminds us of Ichiro and say: "Boy, I remember when Ichiro came to town and broke George Sisler's hit record." Ichiro was always classy. Maybe not the most sociable of people towards the everyday fan, but you never saw him getting in trouble with the law or stirring up trouble. Ichiro, over an 11-and-a-half year career with the Mariners, was only thrown out once in a game, and he wasn't thrown out because he pulled a Milton Bradley and blew up at the umpire; Ichiro drew a line in the dirt, calmly, and was ejected. Ichiro was the classiest of the classy.
And when I got home to watch the press conference, with Ichiro speaking Japanese, I realized that, through the constant shadowing of his emotions, that Ichiro, the hit-making machine, was human. From speaking without a script and openly taking questions from the media (some of which he joked around with), I realized that Ichiro's had valued his time here, even with all the crap fans gave him these past two years. People labeled him as selfish, but yet Ichiro never changed any part of his game. He didn't deserve the criticism, but never reacted to it in the way David Ortiz or Chris Perez did earlier this year. Ichiro kept his head down and kept working.
And it shocked me when I saw Ichiro almost crying at the press conference. I would have thought, with everything the Mariner fans gave to him, he would have wanted out of there faster than Steve Hutchinson wanted out of the Seahawks organization. For the first time in my life, I was watching Ichiro show emotion. It made him seem human, and I was able to relate to that with stuff that I had go on earlier in the year. He seemed genuinely sad to leave the Mariners. He didn't seem eager to leave, no matter what Ichiro might say. He seemed like a man who was torn between memories and nostalgia or the future and success. Sort of like what the Mariners faced with him and his contract situation.
From a different standpoint, the trade made me realize that all of us fans had sort of taken Ichiro for granted. We'd look at his amazing catches, throws, and constant hitting and think: "Yeah, typical Ichiro." And when he started to decline, it was such a change for us fans to see him struggle, and we hounded him for it. Yes, us as Mariner fans have earned the right to be the most cynical fans in the league. But Ichiro deserved a nice, quiet decline. Instead he was hounded for it when he really couldn't do it anymore. We thought he'd get his hits, get his stolen bases, and be here forever as a Mariner.
Of course, we were wrong. The unbelievable happened, and Ichiro was traded to the Yankees. Which got me thinking. This year, none of us were considering that Ichiro would be traded, let alone to the Yankees. We expected that his bond was too tight with management and that he would forever remain a Mariner. We expected the management to do all that they could to re-sign him as to keep drawing fans. And then we learned that nothing is automatic in baseball. Which makes me believe that, yes, it was a classy move by Ichiro, a selfless one at that, but also to enjoy what we have.
We enjoyed Ichiro through his time in Seattle, but we also took him for granted. We expected too much of him in his decline and, instead of seeing every hit as an opportunity to yell and scream and cheer "ICHIRO!", we only looked at the stats and said, "Well he has a long way to go if he wants to get to .300". We expected that out of Ichiro, unreasonably. We expected too much of him and that made us not appreciate him. It made us only care about the stats, and we thought he'd be here forever. We didn't give him the sendoff he deserved on a season that saw him struggle at the plate.
This is a difficult topic to write about, seeing as I'm trying to process all of my feelings about Ichiro into one post. But Ichiro's departure, even though we thought he'd never leave, happened, and it taught me to enjoy every moment we have, with everything. More specifically, Felix Hernandez. Yeah, GMZ says that Felix will be here because GMZ "doesn't feel like" trading him. We've heard everything from Felix that he wants to stay in Seattle, but, even though Felix says that and GMZ has repeatedly denied trade offers for Felix, that doesn't mean he'll be here forever. No player is immune to being traded, and we saw that with Ichiro, who we didn't really give a proper sendoff until he was off the Mariners.
So, if there's any moral to take from Ichiro's trade, it's to treat everything like it'll never happen again, because nothing is guaranteed. Who knows, Felix's next start could be his last as a Mariner, and, if he does end up leaving, (which he probably won't because Felix is ours and YOU FUCKING CAN'T HAVE HIM BITCHES), we'd all want to make sure that we have no regrets, that we left all of our cheers for Felix out on the table, that we gave him everything we have. We'd want to know that we cheered Felix on as long as we could, as loud as we could, and were more appreciative of him than ever for his last start as a Mariner. I hope I don't have to see that day, but Ichiro, the untradeable player, being traded amongst all of the turmoil and criticism surrounding him makes me feel as if no one is immune. That we should appreciate every player on that field, because, who knows, it could be their last game as a Mariner.
When I saw Ichiro bow to the fans, it made me realize that, through all the crap we gave him, he still loved us like we loved him. He was so gracious, so respectful, and so Ichiro throughout his goodbye. And, with that, it hit me. The man who had filled SafeCo Field with fans through the dark days was leaving. The legend of Area 51 was ending. Ichiro's hits, stolen bases, and defense would no longer be a part of the Mariners. And, then, right then, even if he couldn't hear me, I gave him the loudest cheer I could, even in my apartment.
And now I'd like to say a goodbye to Ichiro for all of those years, but, as I cannot type anymore, I'll just link to Ichiro's Theme for one final goodbye. I'll also be at the game tonight, cheering my ass off in appreciation for all he did with the Mariners.
Thank you, Ichiro. Good luck winning that ring.
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