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Wednesday's Big News

Fox Sports - Hargrove won't let Ichiro's deal distract team

CNNSI - Hargrove: Ichiro's contract will not distract M's

ESPN - Hargrove says Ichiro's contract won't be distraction

Apparently the most interesting thing about the Mariners these days is what's going to happen to one of their players after the season's over. Nevermind how ridiculous this is (even the Pirates aren't looking ahead that far); it's also just offensive and insulting. The Mariners play in a crappy division and look to field a respectable ballclub for the first time in years, and yet people can't get over this God damn Ichiro thing. Okay, yeah, he's an important player and all, but I have to think there're bigger things to worry about right now, like sorting out the bullpen, seeing how Guillen and Vidro bounce back from their injuries, and figuring out who's going to take Weaver's place in the rotation when he gets busted for possession. We don't need to be thinking about Ichiro's contract status right now. It just isn't anywhere close to the top of the list of the most important current stories out of ST.

Beyond that, there are these two bits taken from recent articles:

(Ichiro) will make $11 million in the final year of a four-year, $44 million contract. He wouldn't rule out negotiating a new deal during the season, although he said he wouldn't discuss it anymore with the media.
Last Thursday, team chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln wouldn't say how far along the team is in negotiating a new deal with its franchise player.

"We have a team policy not to talk to the media about the status of contract negotiations," Lincoln told The Associated Press.

Just how far can you go with a story, exactly, when nobody's letting you follow it? If the Mariners won't say anything, and Ichiro won't say anything, and Ichiro's agent won't say anything, then you don't have anything. All you've got is the fact that Ichiro's contract expires after the year, and that's it. The rest is all speculation, and the sort that I'm sure Hargrove and the rest of the players are already sick of hearing about. Either Ichiro signs an extension between now and October or he doesn't. That's it. If it happens, great, report about it. If it doesn't, whatever, you can talk about it next fall. I just don't want to be hearing about this all year long, because there aren't going to be any new developments until some conclusion is reached, and that can get really tedious really quick. I'm probably overreacting to this, but honestly, the Mariners are interesting for the first time in years, and seeing sportswriters go for the Ichiro story instead just reeks of laziness. Do we love Ichiro? Yeah. Do we want him to stay? Yeah (most of us, anyway). Do we want to hear about him every God damn second of every God damn day? No. Shut up, and go talk about how bad Horacio Ramirez sucks instead. I haven't seen enough of that yet.

Anyway, going all the way back to the articles themselves, the headlines raise two questions:

(1) Who the hell is Hargrove to say what is and isn't going to hang over his team's head all year? If we've learned anything during Hargrove's tenure in Seattle, it's that the man is hardly a beacon of awareness or leadership. If Julio Mateo were stricken with advanced terminal cancer and lost his right arm in a tragic accident while fishing with Sean Burroughs, Hargrove would still send him out there to protect a narrow lead, not because he wants Mateo to live out his dream just one more time before going for a dirt nap, but because he doesn't know why not, because he's spent the whole summer watching Steamboat Willie in his eyelids and thinking about soup. If I wanted to know what was going on in the Mariner clubhouse, first I'd ask a few players, then Chaves, then a clubhouse attendant, then Kevin Towers, then God, then a Magic 8-ball, then that little origami folded paper thing with words on it that kids always do, then I'd nap and hope the answer came to me in my dreams. Mike Hargrove would rank somewhere behind a stack of old pickles.

(2) Since when is a team ever distracted by a player's upcoming free agency? Who grants a post-game interview after a loss and says "you know, I wanted to drive him home from third base to win the game, but seeing his face from the batter's box just flooded my brain with all these thoughts about what it'd be like if he left, and I couldn't concentrate. I don't think I'll be able to focus until his situation is resolved"? Sure, maybe it's something the players might think about from time to time, but I'm pretty certain they're worried about themselves first and the current state of the team second (unless it's Derek Jeter, in which case the order is reversed), so the occasional wander of the mind to Ichiro's contract status probably won't buckle any knees. I mean, considering Pedro's imminent free agency, I think the 2004 Red Sox did pretty well for themselves.

Whatever. I need to stop now before I spend too much time writing about a story that I just minutes ago declared wasn't a story. How about that Richie Sexson? He sure is tall.