Checking In On Two We've Lost

have to be happy for him...have to be happy for him...have to be happy for him...have to be happy for him...

Depending on the circumstances, it is either a human blessing or a human failing that we continue to feel a connection with those who have passed or moved on. In the case of a deceased relative, one might find comfort in the connection, and in the shared memories. In the case of an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, one might wish the connection could be wholly and totally zapped like memories in Men In Black. In the case of baseball players who no longer play for your preferred baseball team, matters are far less serious because it's just baseball and as much as some people say that baseball is life, it isn't, or at least it shouldn't be, if you are a baseball fan. Things that happen with baseball rosters shouldn't be emotionally devastating, although this clause comes with a Felix Exception.

Obviously, we all feel a connection with Mariners who are no longer Mariners. We feel like we understand Yuniesky Betancourt better than most. We feel like we understand Jose Lopez better than most. We have a particular interest in knowing what some former Mariners might be up to, and as it happens, the Yankees are currently paying two former Mariners of note. They are in the news for opposite reasons. No, that isn't true. That are in the news for reasons of opposite...neatness? Ugh I don't know I'm terrible with words.

One of them is Ichiro, and if you haven't checked in on Ichiro lately, his numbers look a lot better than they did a few weeks ago. This is Ichiro receiving a curtain call at Yankee Stadium after hitting his second homer of the game last night off Josh Beckett. The picture associated with this post is one of Ichiro beaming as he returns to an enthusiastic dugout. It's not like Ichiro never smiled when he was a Mariner, but it wasn't the norm, nor should it have been. Ichiro hasn't played for a team as good as this year's Yankees in more than a decade. Even when Ichiro played for that unbelievable Mariners team, he probably didn't appreciate it as much as he appreciates this, now that he's spent so much time playing for catastrophes.

The simple comparison:

2012 Ichiro, SEA: .261/.288/.353
2012 Ichiro, NYY: .322/.344/.506

It isn't that easy, and it almost never is. Ichiro's still waiting to bat for the hundredth time as a Yankee, and he's mostly been platooned. His three homers as a Yankee have been hit in a stadium that wasn't built for players with his skillset, but that can still benefit them a lot more than Safeco can. We can't say that playing for the Yankees has rejuvenated Ichiro as a player, any more than we could say the opposite when he had pedestrian numbers as a Yankee through the first couple weeks.

But Ichiro's adjusted well, the team seems to have accepted him, the fans seem to have accepted him, and the Yankees are still comfortably in first place in the AL East. It's difficult to see Ichiro having such a great time with other people, since we've always felt those people should be the Mariners, but if you can bring yourself to just focus on what's best for Ichiro, for now this couldn't be going any better. They say that if you truly love someone, you should just want that person to be happy. While it's always a lot more complicated than that, Ichiro seems happy, and he probably wasn't going to be happy with the Mariners, and we probably weren't going to be happy with the situation we would've wound up in were it not for this deal. This is for the best. This is what's for the best. Repeat that over and over and over again and by playoff time, perhaps it will have sunk in. Perhaps then you can keep the happy and ditch the sad.

Another former Mariner of note on the Yankees payroll is Michael Pineda. Allow me to summarize Michael Pineda's 2012 as a New York Yankee:

  • traded
  • fat
  • out for season
  • DUI

The DUI story is the new one, as Pineda was boozed up and driving at 2:35 in the morning. He was also boozed up and driving before that, probably, and 2:35 is just when he was pulled over. Pineda is 23 years old, and early last season he got his driver's license. I don't know why that's news that I remember, but that's news that I remember.

The obvious, inarguable response is that such behavior is incredibly irresponsible. You hope that it was Pineda's first time, but you know that people are seldom found out their first time. The secondary response is that it must take ships full of alcohol to get Michael Pineda even mildly buzzed. You hope that people don't make too much of this, but you have to balance that against the fact that driving under the influence is so awfully dangerous that it deserves a hell of a lot more than a slap on the wrist.

It's not just a young person's mistake, or a complete fuck-up's mistake. Adam Kennedy just got busted for DUI before last year, and normal, reasonable people can drive drunk because when they're drunk they're not normal, reasonable people. But Pineda is young, and pretty much everybody can reflect on some real stupid shit they did when they were younger. For those of you who are currently teenagers, a lot of real stupid shit still lies ahead. Embrace it and try not to die.

For Pineda, personally, the important thing now is learning about the seriousness of this mistake and never making it again. He's not the first baseball player to get busted, and he's lucky he's still alive and that he's still got a future. Professionally, though, this is only going to make him more unpopular than he already was. Not so much with his teammates, but with the fan base that has only seen him disappoint them since he arrived. It's hard to be patient with a guy who shows up to camp overweight, ends up injured, and gets arrested during his rehab. It would be different if Yankees fans had seen what Pineda can do at his best, but they haven't, so you can't blame them for their limited patience.

A few good fastballs should do it, though. If Pineda makes a full or mostly full recovery from his shoulder injury, then Yankees fans should be pleased with what they have as a pitcher, and they'll be more forgiving, more willing to write off the hurdles as learning experiences. I'm not saying that Pineda should be more worthy of forgiveness than another player just because he's more talented, but that's the way these things work, and it's hard to see Pineda catching so much shit after the way we got to know him in 2011. He's a guy who can do a whole lot who doesn't yet understand a whole lot, and not everyone's perfect. No one's perfect. Not everyone's perfect enough, especially early on.

Of course, maybe Michael Pineda is a complete shithead. How the hell should I know? It's hard trying to deal with the benefit of the doubt after a guy gets pulled over for drunk driving. It's so, so, enormously stupid. It's so, so, staggeringly easy to do. They should probably just arrest all of us before we actually do something for which we ought to get arrested.

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