A national hero, an enigma, one of the best baseball players to ever have a career on two continents; these are just a few of the things that describe Ichiro Suzuki. However if you ask Seattle Mariner fans to describe Area 51 now, you will encounter words such as declining, selfish, roadblock, done. What do you do with a player like this? That is the question that has spurred much debate in this city. What do we do with Ichiro?
We don't know if Ichiro will be offered another contract by the Mariners, move on to a new free agent adventure, or simply ride off into the Hinomaru. Many fans are ready to see him go anywhere as long as he does not return to the Seattle lineup in 2013. Others can’t fathom letting loose of a player who has been such a franchise icon and can still hit for average and play a nice right field.
As the rebuild process begins for this team, it too begins for the fans; the rebuild of a new superstar figure to cheer for and admire. The rebuild of a new potential, Rookie Of The Year, AL Stolen Base Champion, 2x AL Batting Champion, 3x Silver Slugger winner, 10x Gold Glove, 10x All Star, AL MVP and historical MLB record breaker.
It is clear that Ichiro’s skills have declined. He is not a 200 hit, .300 average, 50 stolen bags type of player anymore. But is he so detrimental to the franchise that we are completely ready to cast off a player who has, at a minimum, kept us interested in the team and one of two reasons (King Felix) for the nation to keep a peripheral eye on our little baseball world here in Seattle? Maybe, maybe not, but one thing is for sure: some fans want him and some fans want him gone. What do we do with Ichiro?
Maybe you never liked Ichiro because you never really felt like you knew him. Maybe you thought his slap hit, infield single style of bating was overrated and underwhelming. Maybe you have been disenchanted by his perceived unwillingness to improve his on base percentage via the walk. It could be the fact that he is making a ridiculous amount of money in the twilight of his career. If you never liked Ichiro then presumably his departure from Seattle will not stir much emotion. If you have loved and enjoyed Ichiro’s career here in Seattle you likely replay fond memories of his laser arm, the deep knee bend and shirt sleeve tug, every piece of hardware collected in association with his Mariner career, and the meshing of Seattle baseball with an historical figure such as George Sisler.
What do we do with Ichiro? We can debate where Ichiro should or should not hit in the lineup. We can argue the merit of signing him to another season or two. We can discuss how to remove an old roadblock to make way for the new superhighway. We can attempt to justify his existence on the team by way of relative batting average and capabilities in the field. We can clamor for his benching. The topic of “what to do with Ichiro” can be dissected down to the most finite point. But here is my suggestion on what to do with Ichiro…..root for him, enjoy any flashes of Ichiro days gone by, and reflect on what he has accomplished in a Mariner uniform. Don’t worry about what we should do with Ichiro and let the ball club worry about what to do with Ichiro. It’s out of our control. What is in our control as fans is the ability to enjoy the transition from culture and history to youthful exuberance and possibilities. What do we do with Ichiro?