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Ichiro Allegedly Has Friend

The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

This morning I was reading through a little bit of the Post, as you do. I know that sometimes when you're reading the Post you have to suspend disbelief, and I know that sometimes the Post will publish content that other people might not touch. It all comes with the territory, and it's not so bad so long as you go into it prepared. But with that said, something today caught me completely off guard. I was reading an article about Tim Lincecum and the Giants, and then I clicked through to the second page, where I read:

But a person close to Ichiro told me he strongly wants to stay with the Yankees because he so enjoyed playing in a professional, winning atmosphere with so many contemporaries near his age range.

The friend said he can’t imagine money being a factor, noting that to make matters work when he wanted to be in Seattle, Ichiro deferred $5 million a year on his last long-term contract.

Most of the people linking to the story have emphasized the part about Ichiro supposedly wanting to stay with the Yankees. That seems secondary to me to the part where it's alleged that Ichiro has a friend who knows things about what Ichiro is thinking. There's a long history of reporters making up anonymous sources and referring to them as such, but here Joel Sherman might have taken a misstep by trying to give his fake source an identity detail. It's like he hardly knows Ichiro at all. Which, of course, is the whole point. Nobody knows Ichiro. Ichiro exists in another plane, another universe, and all we're given is a window. Nothing passes through the window but spoken incomprehensibilities and infield singles.

"A person close to Ichiro." That should've immediately set off alarm bells. Nobody can be emotionally close to Ichiro. People can be physically close to Ichiro, and it's occasionally one of the requirements of his profession, but even that corporeal proximity makes Ichiro visibly uncomfortable, and Ichiro is most at ease when considered from a distance. He's like a deer in the forest. You can see him, and you can want to touch him, but you cannot communicate with him and you cannot touch him, unless you shoot him. And a difference between Ichiro and a deer in the forest is that Ichiro cannot be shot. He's quicker than your "bullets". He's quicker than your thoughts.

"What of Munenori?" you might ask. I think it goes without saying that there was mutual affection, but that's where it stopped. Professionally, Ichiro and Munenori got along. Famously, even. But it was Munenori who wanted to be nearer to Ichiro. It wasn't Ichiro who did any recruiting. It was Ichiro who requested a trade to the opposite coast, after Munenori was able to fulfill a career-long dream of his. Ichiro could sense that Munenori was getting closer, and so Ichiro left. Munenori was never a friend. He was just more like a friend than anyone else, in the way that a rock is more like a chicken sandwich than an oil refinery.

That which knows Ichiro best is Ichiro's dog. Ichiro's dog knows many of Ichiro's most intimate secrets. Ichiro's dog isn't a legitimate newspaper source. Although Ichiro's dog might be a more likely source than Ichiro's friend. At least we know that Ichiro has a dog that he talks to.

So anyway Ichiro's future is obviously fascinating, now that we have a pretty good idea he'll have one in the major leagues. It makes sense that the Giants would've been interested midseason, and it makes sense that Ichiro might be fond of the idea of staying in New York. I caution you against making too much of this, but here are Ichiro's home/road splits after joining New York:

Home: .343/.370/.543, six dingers
Road: .283/.298/.338, zero dingers

It's not that I think Ichiro is incapable of hitting on the road these days. It's that, while Ichiro improved after the deal, those numbers were posted in a hitter-friendly stadium, and the stadium isn't changing. Ichiro's going to have fond memories of playing in Yankee Stadium, and of course he's going to have fond memories of playing with the Yankees because the Yankees were good and they went to the playoffs and Ichiro was surrounded there by future Hall of Famers. In Seattle he once shared an outfield with Alex Liddi and Chone Figgins. New York's a good place for Ichiro, as places with major league baseball teams go.

We'll see in time if New York is eager in turn to have Ichiro back. Between 2010-2011, FanGraphs has Brett Gardner as having been one of the more valuable outfielders in baseball, and he should be healthy next season. Ichiro should be healthy and much older. If not New York, then I can't shake the idea of Ichiro signing with the Giants or Dodgers. I don't know why but it is what it is. The Giants have already had interest in Ichiro, and they clearly don't mind outfielders who are short on power. The Dodgers like expensive things that a lot of people have heard about. Ichiro would be popular in either situation, and in a lot of other situations.

There are between three and six more games of baseball in 2012. After that, questions start getting answered. We'll get answers to questions we have about the Mariners, and we'll get answers to questions we have about Ichiro. We won't get many answers, but we'll get at least just the one. I'm as interested in seeing where Ichiro ends up as I am in seeing where Josh Hamilton ends up.