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An Anniversary Not To Be Forgotten

My bet is that 2011 is going to a season of remembering 2001. This year's Mariners are long shots to contend in the division and with a nice round anniversary to commemorate, I foresee a deluge of reminders that the Mariners once were great so be sure to come out to Safeco to remember how they were once great while ignoring that they currently are not. The juxtaposition of a potential celebration of a 116-win team in a season following a 101-loss team tickles me.

Anyways, two possible ten-year reminders already slipped by with little mention here to the best of my knowledge*. It can be forgiven since Dave Niehaus' death deserved and received most of our attention** during the time frame. Still, it is worth marking the occasion, even if it is four months later. See it was the 9th of November in 2000 when the Mariners were announced as the winners of the posting auction for Ichiro Suzuki.

*Incidentally, Jeff almost nailed it perfectly when he posted this on 8 November of last year, but he failed to mention anything about the winning bid so I will assume that he merely backed into that coincidence. How you of you, Jeff.

**Coincidentally, Ichiro was awarded his tenth Gold Glove Award on November 9, 2010.

Ten days later on 19 November, Ichiro and the Mariners agreed to a three-year, $14 million contract. Ichiro obviously was not a free agent, and his status during his first two contracts makes it difficult to analyze, but using market rates for wins at the time, Ichiro produced either 37 (FanGraphs) or 40 (BRef) WAR over his first seven seasons while being paid $58 million, a total commensurate with a free agent producing just over 18 WAR.

Ichiro is less of a staggering bargain in his newest -and current- deal, but entering the penultimate year of the contract, he has already produced 14-15 WAR when the contract calls for a player to earn about 20. Barring a collapse or massive injury, Ichiro will exceed that benchmark.

With his on the field performance alone, Ichiro has proved to be a good deal for the Seattle Mariners in his ten seasons here. Even if he had not though, his off field quirks and marketability would have made up for a lot of any shortfall. The Mariners have seen their fair share of Hall of Fame talents pass through, but I am not sure any of them will ever match Ichiro in uniqueness and bless him for that.

It's been a fantastic ten years, Ichiro and I wouldn't mind having you around for another ten. I know it seems like lunacy at your age, but the next time that you fail to defy expectations will be your first in my book. Thanks for hanging around.