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The Disappointment of Ichiro Friday, February 10, 2012

Posted by mrgenre in Mariners.
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Photo courtesy mlb.com

Let me preface this article by saying that I’m a fan of Ichiro.  I cannot wait to explain to my kids and grandkids someday that I got to see him countless times live at Safeco Field tugging that sleeve before he got set in the batter’s box.  I’ll never forget a spider-man catch he made a few years ago at a game I was lucky enough to attend, and I’ll always tell the story of his walk-off homer against Mariano Rivera back in 2009.  He’s a hero, as far as I’m concerned.

But let’s face facts: he may have worn out his welcome in Seattle.  Local media has been buzzing with the news that he probably won’t hit lead-off this season.  The phrase “once we get Ichiro’s salary off the books” seems a foregone conclusion when discussing possibilities in 2013.  And all because he hit .272 last year with only 184 base hits.

I understand that you don’t expect to pay 18 million bucks for a guy who hits singles, which is what’s fueling most of the argument for his outright release next season, but what about the consistency?  Aren’t you willing to pay premium for that?  At 184 hits, Ichiro ranked 9th in the American League last year. 9th.  But big money often means big bats, and Ichiro’s shown few flashes of power (batting practice aside) in his 11 seasons.  He averages only 9 homeruns a year.

Reason #2 that people don’t want Ichiro on our team?  He’s selfish.

I hear again and again that former players tell the media (off the record) that he’s a selfish player who doesn’t get along well with the rest of the team.  I can buy that to an extent, but let’s remember that this is a man who lives his life in Japan.  His wife lives in Japan.  His friends and family live in… Japan.  That his quotes often lend themselves to awkward metaphors is largely an issue with how the Japanese language translates to English, but most people just write Ichiro off as odd, because of his “strange” interviews.  We’ve had other Japanese players that didn’t come off in this same manner, but few players in baseball see the same intense spotlight that Ichiro’s international fame brings.

So those are the two big reasons, and it’s hard to argue against either, which as an admitted Ichiro fan I’m loathe to admit, despite the truth in it.  But do you want to know why I’m actually disappointed in Ichiro?  Do you want to know the only legitimate reason to hate Ichiro in my book?

He’s not a leader.

Now, not every baseball player can be a leader.  For many, it’s downright impossible.  There are some players that prefer to lead by example.  They work hard day in and day out and hope that the team works hard solely because of the effort they’re putting in (See Raul Ibanez, Jack Wilson, etc.).  For those of us with lazy co-workers, it’s almost laughable that this would work in any profession, but it does seem to rub off from time to time.  Other players prefer to lead vocally, often pushing guys around, calling them out in front of the media, etc. (See Ozzie Guillen).  This seems to usually get lost in rookie hazing, but also seems to “work.”

Now a true all-around leader that is respected and admired is a truly rare thing.  And the reason I’m most disappointed in Ichiro, really the only reason, is that he has the ability, but  has never shown it in the United States.

He’s done it in Japan.  Twice he’s lead Japan to victories in the World Baseball Classic, even driving in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th in 2009.  After his second WBC victory, the Seattle Times wrote a great piece on his leadership skills and how they’ve failed to find home in Seattle.  Yet the excuses given there (cultural differences) no longer work for a player entering his 12th year of Major League play.  Ichiro made his professional baseball debut in 1992, exactly 20 years ago, and it’s about time he started acting like the veteran he is.

Photo courtesy mlb.com

So you can hate Ichiro because he “sucks” (despite his hall of fame career).  You can hate him because he’s getting old.  Or you can hate him because he’s “weird” and doesn’t play well with others, but I won’t.  I’ll just stick to hating him because it’s long past time he stood up and took control of this team.  That is the only thing that has ever disappointed me about Ichiro, and unless he makes the decision to stop playing, his career ain’t over yet.  Stand up and take charge, Ichiro.  Win us back.

Geoff Baker Stumbles Upon Solution For Mariners: Hit Balls In The Air/Far Friday, April 29, 2011

Posted by mrgenre in Mariners.
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Photo Courtesy Seattle Times

In an announcement today in the Seattle Times’ Mariners Blog, Mariners Beat Reporter Geoff Baker released the key to baseball victory in Seattle in his latest blog post.

“I’ve always been a big fan of fly balls,” the reporter mused. “But when fly balls go far, you get a point for them and the crowd gets all excited.  I’m certain the reason we managed to sweep the Tigers had something to do with the long ones.”

Baker’s reasoning was immediately embraced by team management, who made promises to do everything possible to “ensure more long fly balls in the future” according to a press release this morning.

Rumors also surfaced of a raise in Baker’s future for his outstanding coverage and insight.

“I’m proud of anything I can do to support this team I purport to love,” Baker continued. “Go Felix! YAY!”

Geoff Baker Admits Real Reason For Anti-Edgar Campaign Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Posted by mrgenre in Mariners.
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Photo courtesy of Seattle Times

In a surprising move in the local sports blogosphere, Geoff Baker finally came clean about the real reason for his now annual campaign against the Hall of Fame election of Edgar Martinez.

In more than twenty thousand emotional words accidentally posted and then removed from his blog this morning, Baker relayed his intense love for the Seattle designated hitter, and his regret that he cannot support him publicly.

“It pains me to omit him from my ballot yet again, but the reaction it provokes in the Seattle sports community is something that sustains me.  I just can’t live without it,” Baker wrote.

He went on to use most of the post to describe the almost physical gratification he receives from the onslaught of negative comments on his blog.  “It’s the reason I went into sports journalism in the first place,” Baker continued.  “Without it, I’d be just another Canadian pretending to love baseball.  Nobody wants to read what I have to say otherwise.”

Baker also confessed that he was on the verge of being let go by his editor when he noticed the sudden popularity of blogs a few years ago.  Convincing the Times that he could generate a large number of hits to their site, he followed in the footsteps of many popular bloggers, hoping to “infuriate the masses and therefore gain their affection.”

He’s been a popular mainstay in the sports section of the Seattle Times ever since.

Also covering the Mariners beat for the Times is Larry Stone, an award-winning journalist who has been working across the hall from Baker for a few years now.  He wasn’t at all surprised by Baker’s sudden onslaught of emotion this morning.

“He’s a headcase, that’s for sure.  He’s always begging me to show him how to ‘navigate the webs’ as he puts it, to find the latest scoop.  I feel bad for ever writing down the link to [ussmariner.com], as most of his posts these days are just gut reactions against whatever [Dave] Cameron writes,” Stone told us this morning.  “And to top it all off, he doesn’t even really understand baseball.  You should see his cube, all decked out with NHL memorabilia.  It’s sickening, really.”

When called later to get a response to Stone’s comments, Baker was surprised, but kept his usual calm demeanor.

“Larry wouldn’t say that,” Baker screamed.  “He’s my friend.  I mean – no comment!”

The biggest surprise, of course, was that Baker’s comments this morning were in direct contrast to his supposed “case” against Edgar Martinez that he’s maintained all this time, although there were clues in his post on Monday.

“There is a fine line between promoting your own Hall of Fame argument and trying to bully others by calling them names or suggesting ulterior motives behind why they voted the way they did,” Baker wrote in the post immediately before his annual “Anti-Edgar” rant.  “And the absolutists, the group-thinkers and the new Puritans who would tell us all how we should think and act will simply have to get used to [‘us’ not voting for a particular player].  Because, it would appear, no matter how forceful they try to be, folks simply aren’t listening to them.”

Baker’s comments were clearly written to make him feel less guilty about not voting in the way Seattle fans wished him to, and most saw his next post coming.

And for those Geoff Baker fans out there, there’s no reason to worry.  His annual post garnered him more than 300 negative comments.  His pleasure was made clear in his comments this morning.

“It was absolutely delicious,” he wrote at one point in his meandering prose this morning.  “The hatred cast at me yesterday will feed me until March.  Every year it gets more delicious.  Geoff Baker like.”