I'm in a hell of a hurry and don't have much time to address this at the moment, but I wanted to get something posted before running out the door. Recently we've talked about how the Mariners are probably going to move Ichiro down in the lineup, and move Chone Figgins up. Eric Wedge just made that official:
#Mariners manager Eric Wedge just announced that Ichiro will hit 3rd in the lineup this season.
A companion tweet said something along the lines of, if the season were to start today, Figgins would bat first, and Dustin Ackley would bat second. One gets the sense that the top of the lineup is far from being set in stone, and that the Mariners will re-evaluate if Figgins isn't getting the job done. But one also gets the sense that Ichiro batting third is essentially permanent. Maybe that sense is inaccurate, but I feel like Ichiro's kind of like a closer, where he wants to know what his role is. Now he can spend the next several weeks preparing to bat in a new place, which he's probably going to do all season long.
It sounds weird that a player might have to prepare to move a few slots in the lineup, but there are different responsibilities, and there's no denying that these things make a difference to players. Chone Figgins certainly believes that moving around has been an issue, and while I'm skeptical that moving back to leadoff will be the answer for him, I don't think his words are completely irrelevant. Moving in the order matters for players, more than we might be able to understand.
We've talked about Figgins leading off. We haven't talked about Ackley batting second, but that's a pretty natural place. We've talked less about Ichiro batting third. The big question, obviously, is going to be whether he changes his approach, and, if so, to what degree. All those rumors about Ichiro having the ability to hit for power - is this the year that gets put to the test? Will Ichiro treat this year more or less like any other year? God knows we'll never get a straight answer out of Ichiro, but it's going to be interesting to see what he looks like, relative to what he used to look like. Ichiro as a #3 hitter feels different from Ichiro as a #1 hitter; now we'll see if Ichiro as a #3 hitter looks different. I don't know what I'm rooting for, myself. I don't know if I want Ichiro to try to change, or if I want him to try to stay exactly the same.
There'll be more time to discuss potential implications later on. For now, news. News that seems a little more significant than it ultimately is, but news that at the same time is by no means insignificant. The last regular leadoff hitter the Mariners had before Ichiro was Rickey Henderson. Ichiro's long been a wee bit entrenched.