- Ichiro the overrated:
Ichiro has the power and ability to hit 25+ homers a year, but he'd rather beef up his batting average and hit totals instead of doing more to help his team win. For a guy who's averaged 228 hits a year, one would think his OBP would be higher than it is; one would think he'd drive in a few more runs along the way; one would think that he'd be a more useful player; but he isn't. And now, with the revelations of Ichiro's demanding nature off the field in making the Mariners choose between a manager who'd very nearly won two World Series with the Indians and had the Mariners in contention for the first time in years and insisting that he move back to right field, he has to be examined more closely in questioning whether all of this aggravation is worth it.
Baseball-reference.com has comparisons of players to other players with similar numbers. Ichiro is constantly mentioned as a "future Hall of Famer" because of his ability to hit singles, but in looking at the players to whom he's compared there isn't one who's even close to being a Hall of Famer. Ralph Garr? Bake McBride? Mickey Rivers? Ron LeFlore? Were any of these players big enough stars that they'd be able to get away with making the demands that Ichiro makes and gets away with? The Mariners would be better off with a player like Freddy Sanchez who hits for more power at a fraction of the price (and the trouble) that Ichiro causes.
I made these points before and slightly changed my tune because I was swayed by the constant references to Ichiro as such a great player, but my first instinct was correct. Ichiro is an overrated player whose main skill is hitting singles and playing solid defense. If that's what a team needs, they can go and get Willy Taveras or Juan Pierre, get similar defense in center field and not have the player dictating how the organization is run. Ichiro's batting average and hit totals may end up getting him in the Hall of Fame as they've somehow gained him all of this say-so over the Mariners, but that doesn't mean he deserves it, any of it.
- Will the real Brian Bannister please stand up?
Bannister is showing himself to be a pitcher who has to be nearly perfect to get those great results and when he's not perfect, he becomes a less than .500 pitcher who isn't even an innings-eater. The Mets have been said to regret trading Bannister, but as he goes around the league and hitters figure him out, was it even that big of a mistake? Burgos is out for the season after arm surgery, but even if he's not back until mid-2009, he's still only going to be 25 with a fastball that was around 100 mph (if he gets it back and Tommy John surgery patients tend to come back throwing as hard, if not harder); Bannister is already 27 and is proving to be inconsistent and mediocre, just as the Mets thought when they traded him.
The Royals couldn't have realistically expected Bannister to be as good as he was last season and they're probably happy with what they've gotten from him as a back of the rotation starter. In the long-term, he's not going to be much more than he is and that's not something that any team should regret trading because he's the type of pitcher that can be found on the waiver wire or as a reasonably priced free agent. His hot streak and ability to dominate when he's on (as rare as that is) notwithstanding, Bannister is nestled into his niche and that's not that big of a deal one way or the other.