Iwakuma has agreed with Dodgers— Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) December 7, 2015
I mean, in a little way, you kind of knew this was coming. Maybe it was the offhanded joke about the whole thing during Aoki's presser, maybe it was an anthropomorphized three-storey living checkbook losing their Cy-Young worthy first option seconds before just tearing a new sheet out. Details are still coming in--years, dollar amount--but in any case, the ink has dried, and Jim Bowden from ESPN had it first: Hisashi Iwakuma will be a Los Angeles Dodger in 2016. It's not only the fans who are sad about it:
:(— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) December 7, 2015
From his first appearance out of the bullpen during the beached whale of a 2012 season to those final three August outs that we didn't realize would be our last glimpse of that toothy, silent grin, Hisashi Iwakuma has not only become my favorite Mariner in recent years, but he's also helped guide the team from hapless mediocrity, into confused relevance, and then back again to crushing incompetency.
On one hand, you really have to give it to him--he heard the collective unzipping of purse pockets across the league after David Price dropped, and rather than just taking money he went to a team with as good of a chance to win as anyone else in the game. On the other, we're all still so enamored with the new shiny Dipoto glow that we may have forgotten just what that clubhouse might feel like after four years of tumultuous leadership.
There are, I'm sure, countless Iwakuma memories out there. Surprising Eric Wedge enough to claim a spot in the rotation. Making the All-Star game and riding in that car with his smiling family. That weird commercial where he spins on his head which made for a better reaction GIF than it did a marketing opportunity. The hat. The no-hitter.
Of course, there were also the days and weeks on the disabled list. Blisters on his fingers. That time he got his hand stuck in a net (?????) before missing a good deal of time, without even leaving Arizona in the first place. I'm sure many will choose to remember him at one of two extremes--from those daily reminders of a mid-30s arm on a disabled list to Kyle Seager stealing an errant popup before stealing the 27th out, and the mitt slap, and the grin, and the final exhausted sigh.
I'm gonna choose to remember a mid-July game during that incredible 2014 run. It was before the team really took off, but right after they won all those wait who is in the lineup? games. Jeff Samardzija had just been traded to the A's, and the weekend series just had this strange, tangible weight to it--if something was going to happen this year, it was going to start tonight, start then, start by Monday, or at least we'd know by the time we all woke up with headaches the next morning.
Iwakuma struck out the side in the first, and then only allowed three more hits through seven of the remaining eight innings, looking perhaps more dominant than he had ever been while wearing a uniform with a compass rose on its arm. He had never pitched a complete game, so when he jumped out of the dugout to take the mound in the ninth with a 6-0 lead, Safeco erupted in a way I had never heard it since the first part of the last decade back when TV was in the shape of a square and you could get ichirolls from the one to the three hundred levels of the park. It was ecstatic, eruptive, real. And there he stood, warming up with that little side arm circle thing he always did which you are now picturing, I know you are.
With three outs to go before we could all be sure that the Mariners were indeed going to the playoffs with one of the few best #2 pitchers in all of baseball about to complete his first career CGSO, we then watched as John Jaso whacked a gimme single into shallow left. You didn't even notice the next two outs because in a matter of moments Brandon Moss hit a mammoth, towering home run to put the A's on the board, meaninglessly, making the whole thing 6-2 Mariners with an out to go. Lloyd ran out of the dugout, touched his arm to his right hand, and then Yoervis Medina ended the game on a single pitch. I'm not even sure Iwakuma was back in the dugout by the time it was all over.
And that is how I'm going to always remember one of the most intriguing, dependable, efficient, and enjoyable Mariners pitchers in franchise history. Just walking back to the dugout, head slightly down, his car left sputtering mere inches in front of the finish line while all the others lay smoldering in pieces on the ground.
Godspeed, Hisashi. 岩熊さん、ここまで本当にありがとうございました。ダージャーズの球団で頑張って下さい！
(Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)