- Straight to Viewer Mail 9.25.2010:
The concept that I'm attacking Ichiro Suzuki is pure nonsense. Because he's so talented and gifted, Ichiro has the ability to do more than what he does because what he does is based on a self-interested attempt to accumulate as many hits as he possibly can.
Baseball is an individual sport in a team-concept; this lends itself to the occasional "me" player who's going to chase what he wants to achieve rather than what would benefit his team. The difference between playing for oneself and playing for the team is imperceptible, but easy to spot if one knows what to look for.
Here's the mail.
Anonymous #1 writes RE Ichiro:
You are full of it. Your whole argument against Ichiro relies on your belief that he can hit 25-30 home runs "if he chooses to". Who made you the God of "what if"? You don't know what he can or can't do. The fact is, hitting a MLB fastball or breaking ball is not as easy as you seem to think. The fact that Ichiro does it so consistently is extremely praiseworthy. The only reason the Mariners are so bad is that there is no one else on the team advancing Ichiro after he gets on base. All he needs is some better teammates. You compare him to batters like Gwynn and Rose, but it sounds like their stats are pretty similar to Ichiro's stats. You assume it is because they adjusted their games because they had decent teammates who could help them out, but you ignore the possibility that maybe they, like Ichiro, just weren't power hitters. Here's what I suggest, look at the Mariner's seasons. Look at how many 1-2 run games they lost. Now, imagine if Ichiro just had one individual averaging 1-2 more hits per game. Even if that only led to an additional score in half those games and the Mariners only went on to win a quarter of the games, they would be a completely different team. They would be in the playoffs every year. You would be eating your words. Ichiro would be an MVP candidate every year.
If I'm full of it then apparently so are many writers from various schools of thought who insist Ichiro can hit more homers. Just recently, Mark Bauman wrote about Ichiro's power potential here; Laura Vescey wrote it eight years ago here; a stat guy at BaseballEvolution.com came to the same conclusion here; but never mind any of that, here's an interesting statement from someone who has a pretty good handle on Ichiro:
"If (Ichiro were) allowed to bat .220, (he) could probably hit 40. But nobody wants that."
The comment was edited for artistic license because the speaker was....ICHIRO!!!!
What he actually said was: "If I'm allowed to bat .220, I could probably hit 40. But nobody wants that."
Did you read what I wrote? That Pete Rose----while also a self-interested player----did what the team needed him to do including hitting for power occasionally; throwing his body all over the place; playing every single day; and switching positions consistently and learning to play those positions well enough that he wasn't a defensive liability. Tony Gwynn was considered to be a selfish player as well and in a way, he was; he openly feuded with Jack Clark----Clark, loud and abrasive considered himself the ultimate team player and took exception to Gwynn's relentless pursuit of a high batting average at the expense of what the team needed.
Individualism in a team concept.
Ted Williams----who loved Gwynn and was very close with him----was always harassing Gwynn to hit for more power. To paraphrase from memory, Williams would tell Gwynn that he was a big guy and had the strength to hit home runs; Gwynn never really took advantage of this because, for the most part, he didn't need to based on the players he had surrounding him; the same thing with Rose.
Rose had seasons of 16 and 15 homers and was usually good for about 10 in his prime; he could have hit more if he sacrificed his batting average and hit total. He was also a winning player. What purpose would it have served for Rose to start swinging for the fences and diminishing his on base percentage with Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez----three Hall of Famers---behind him? It didn't.
Then you look at Rose's frequent position changes. Never a complaint; never any whining; he was needed at third base to get Dan Driessen or George Foster into the lineup? He moved to third base. He was needed in the outfield? He became a Gold Glove outfielder.
The silly statement of: "The fact is, hitting a MLB fastball or breaking ball is not as easy as you seem to think" is absolute garbage. Hitters can and have adjusted their approach to produce different results. Have you ever heard of a hitter trying to push the ball to the right side with a runner on second base to advance him to third? Is this done out of pure luck? Or is it bat control? Trying to hit a flyball with a runner on third base? The same idea can be translated to hitting the ball out of the park. What about hitters who've changed their swing to take advantage of their home ballpark?
Wade Boggs decided in 1987 to hit for more power and did without sacrificing his average; Boggs also made it his life's work to use the Green Monster in Fenway for target practice. Dave Winfield decided in 1984 to hit more line drives, saw his home run output drop to 19, but batted .340. Don Mattingly learned to turn on the inside fastball and evolved into a power hitter by whacking balls into the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium.
Which is more useful? Which helps the team more?
McCovey was awesome. Ted Williams said he had the sweetest swing in the game. "Now watch this man swing" was Dad's instruction. If Willie McCovey had hit for line drives all the time, and not homers, he would have batted .320 for his career.
Do you know more than Keith Hernandez and Ted Williams? Do you have any basis for the idiotic assumption that hitters can't attempt to hit the ball out of the park or go for singles as Ichiro does?
What of Ichiro when he was asked to play center field?
He did it, but didn't like it. He's passive aggressive which is worse than an overt whiner. It's as if he's saying, "I'll play out there if you force me, but I'm also going to make your life miserable while doing it". Similar to his dislike of Mike Hargrove and absence of clear evidence (complete with denials from all parties) that this simmering tension had anything to do with Hargrove's resignation coinciding with Ichiro agreeing to a contract extension, it's a perfect crime----there are no fingerprints to tie Ichiro into the act; he's getting his way; and he's able to maintain the veneer of "honor" for his fans and countrymen.
You're capriciously grabbing numbers while missing the overall hypothesis. If I, as you suggest, take the games in which the Mariners have lost by 1-2 runs, 1-2 hits or whatever, that doesn't take away the fact that Ichiro, if he were hitting in the middle of the lineup, would be of more use than he is as a leadoff hitter.
Look at the current Mariners----a terrible team----and place Ichiro in the middle of the lineup. Bat Chone Figgins leadoff and put Rob Johnson second (batting .191, but his OBP is 100 points higher than his average), would Ichiro have more opportunities to have his hits actually matter? Even if he still refused to hit the ball out of the park? Of course he would. Having a leadoff batter doing what Ichiro does is absolutely useless for a team like the Mariners.
If you stuck Ichiro on the Yankees, Red Sox or any other team with better personnel and a more structured atmosphere, you would: A) have more use for his current game of hitting singles; and B) those clubs wouldn't put up with his demanding nature because they don't have to put up with his demanding nature as the Mariners seem to believe they do.
If Ichiro was more of a team-oriented player, I wouldn't be eating my words because I'd be right and he would be an MVP candidate every year based on his value to the team; not because he's amassing specious numbers designed to get himself into the Hall of Fame.
Anonymous #2 writes RE Ichiro:
I'm no "stat guy" either, so this isn't coming from that perspective, but man ... how do I say this kindly ... that was a pretty bad article.
Just as the 2nd commenter said, your *cough* "analysis", is based on your "belief" that he can hit 25-30 home runs. Really? That's your argument?
And let's say he does try to hit 25-30 HR's, and he does it, sacrificing, as you say, "his precious batting average". Fine. Let's say this is possible. Well do some "analysis" and tell me what you think his batting average will drop to. Or what number will be acceptable.
He's a career 330 hitter, so what is your assumption? That it will drop to, 315? 300? Let's say it drops to 250. Do you know it won't? You seem to think it will drop to a slightly less number, allowing him to be unbelievably better. But maybe Ichiro, while switching his game to make it more appealing to you, doesn't become the player you think he could become. Maybe the 25-30 homers makes him worse than he is now (based on the other numbers used to judge a hitter).
On top of that, it's not enough to do the following: "He hits singles. He plays great defense. He has a great arm. And he can run." All things that help a team win. No, Ichiro, with his new stat line of 25-30 HR's, will cause the Seattle Mariners to score 200 more runs (as a team) on top of what he is contributing now. Because 200 more runs is about what is necessary to make the M's a decent team.
So, because every other player in the M's lineup is dog poop, it's Ichiro's fault. He should have adjusted and drove in 300 RBI's this year (which even with 125 HR's may be impossible, because no one on that M's team can get on base). Pick your favorite player: Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, etc. You put them in Ichrio's position, and you know what?, the M's would still stink. And then you'd tell us how Pujols should adjust his game too.
I mean, this is just terrible analysis and thinking. And you put it out to the world to see. I'd be embarrassed. Anyhow, I've already wasted enough of my life posting, and I'm not even an M's fan or an Ichiro fan. I just couldn't believe what I was reading and had to respond.
As I stated to the first commenter, it's not just me that says Ichiro can hit more homers----Ichiro himself has said as much. There's no way to absolutely quantify whether or not his average would drop, but the question is which would be of more use to his club? Is Ichiro providing anything to the Mariners now as he gets his 230+ hits with 40 of the extra base variety and about 8 homers?
Did you read what I wrote or did you skim after you got all agitated and respond out of context? Are teams sitting around and wondering how they're going to deal with Ichiro and his multitude of singles? Or would his conscious decision to hit more homers----even 20 homers a year----influence their plan of attack? As of right now, Ichiro is a "yeah, whatever" player. Let him get his singles. So what?
If Albert Pujols decided one year that he wanted to hit .400, he could do it. He'd have to drive the ball to the opposite field; increase his walks; sacrifice around 15 homers a year. Do you know what would happen around baseball? There'd be champagne-fueled celebrations because he'd hit .400 with 17 homers and 90 RBI and hurt his team while doing it!
The Mariners would be just as bad with the players you mention, but it wouldn't be because of said players dictating to upper management what position they play and who's managing the team. Pujols and Jeter----the players you bring up----have the right to do that; Ichiro, considering the teams upon which he's played and their annual non-contention, does not.
Mike in LA writes RE Ichiro:
Saw this linked on Baseball Reference while researching Gwynn. Gotta ask: who goes "diva" to get singles? Ichiro or Gwynn or Rose would make any team better. Torture that any way you like to be a negative.
Again, did you read what I wrote? The diva behavior extends to subtle (and not-so-subtle) off-field bullying of the club in terms of management and position and that he's going for the types of hits that don't help his team as much as the increase in power would.
Anonymous #2 (yes, the same guy as above) writes RE the Red Sox:
Wait a minute, you think the 2010 Boston Red Sox had a season not up to expectations, because they focused on "pitching and defense". That's the reason.
Of note, the Red Sox have a better record than the Texas Rangers. But their season is going to be viewed as a success! Nope, an arbitrary "divison" had nothing to do with it, it was that "pitching and defense". And, of course, come playoff time you will say: "pitching and defense wins championships!" Because I've heard that 1 billion times in my lifetime. I digress, but this is why their needs to be no divisions, but instead, just grab the four best records.
Anyhow, back to the topic, the injuries to, basically, an all-star team had NOTHING to do with it. Nope! It's because Theo Epstein focused on "pitching and defense". Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Ryan Kalish, Kevin Cash, nope, they had nothing to do with it. It was that "pitching and defense". Losing Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Mike Cameron to SEASON ending injuries had nothing to do with it! Josh Beckett missing half the season (and partially ineffective when actually pitching, because of his health)? Nope. Having your starting catcher (Martinez) and backup catcher (Varitek) both out at the same time (Martinez for a month+, Varitek for 2 months+)? Nope!
On top of that, before the Red Sox lost half an all-star team, they were something like 1st or 2nd in runs scored. In fact, they are currently 3rd .. in ALL of baseball! Unfortunately, the Rays and Yankees are 1st and 2nd. So, it's not like Theo didn't focus on "batting" too. Man, would I have loved to see what a healthy Red Sox team would have been like this year. Because that team would, dare I say, be better than the one we see now. You know, the one with the fourth best record in the AL. Stupid Theo!
Lastly, "closer by committee", did that so called fail because it was a bad idea? Or did it fail because the committee was comprised of Chad Fox, Scott Sauerbeck, Rudy Seanez, and Todd Jones? Nope. Those guys would have been Mariano Rivera in his prime, only if they weren't in that darn-fangled closer by committee thing! Fire Theo!
I see anonymous commenters as the old masked men from professional wrestling. According to the storyline, the Spoiler was possibly an escaped fugitive trying desperately to win Ric Flair's NWA World Championship to acquire the power necessary to have the charges against him expunged.
For someone with better things to do with his life, you're spending an awful lot of time reading my writing and formulating responses. It's strange how this works in that the people who hate me read and react to me more than those who love me. It's one of the mysteries of life.
Anonymous #2 is responding to my posting from Thursday----Plans And Schemes.
If you knew what you were talking about, you'd understand what I'm saying. The pitching and defense strategy is a microcosm of the mistakes the Red Sox made and it has nothing to do with the idea itself----much like the closer-by-committee.
The signing of Mike Cameron and shifting of Jacoby Ellsbury to left field are two of the proximate causes of the Red Sox ills this season----had they not signed Cameron to take over in center field, Ellsbury wouldn't have been in left field to crash into the wall and injure himself to begin with. To suggest that the Jason Bay failure in New York automatically implies that the Red Sox were "right" in letting him go is a logical fallacy. Bay had already proven himself as a Red Sox; Cameron has been an injury-plagued disaster. All are tied in with one another.
This was all part of another plot by the Red Sox to transition from what they were while saving money and having an explanation for doing it.
Actually, the bullpen is more important to winning a championship. Mariano Rivera with the Yankees and the repeated failures of the Braves year-after-year bear this out; but that's arguable I suppose.
It's amazing that the Red Sox have been able to patch in such suspicious journeymen and continue to win and that's a tribute to the organization as I've said repeatedly, but you're a fool if you think the strategy of pitching and defense was anything more than an excuse to execute a larger plan of moving forward and, similar to the closer-by-committee, a stat zombie tenet they wanted to try to see if it worked.
Since you mention the closer-by-committee and you're being so snarky, do you know how many games the horrific bullpen from 2003 cost the Red Sox?
Check it. It's a fact.
For all the blame laid at the desk of Grady Little, had there been a competent set of relievers (whose absence is the fault of Epstein and the front office) there's every possibility that the Red Sox might've avoided the Yankees entirely in the 2003 playoffs and won the World Series a year earlier and not resorted to blaming Little and backing away from their refusal to have a prototypical closer when they signed Keith Foulke.
As for the strategy of the closer-by-committee? Of course it's a logical way to run a bullpen in a perfect world, but are we in a perfect world? Or are we dealing with human beings who want the "glory" of the save stat and the resulting paycheck? The only way a closer-by-committee can work is with a team that has a front office and manager on the same page; a group of relievers who are minimally paid or disposable so they can be dispatched if they begin to complain about the absence of defined "roles"; and guys who can actually pitch. The Red Sox had the second tenet, but missed the other two and it cost them dearly in 2003.
You're absolving your GM for that gaffe while proving my point. Nice straddle.
Anonymous writes RE Ichiro:
Fortunately, Ichiro doesn't care what you think. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/mariners/2012919629_ichiro17.html?prmid=obinsite
Ultimately most of your claims are based on your unsubstantiated theory that because Ichiro hits the occasional home run, he could hit many more without sacrificing anything, which is pretty much completely bogus. It also comes off as stupid and whiny when you tell us how you don't want to hear about how good a player he is statistically, just because you want to trash him, but can't find a stat to do it.
I'm pretty sure this is Anonymous #2 again, but am not positive beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Did I trash Ichiro? Or did I credit him for being so good that he----unlike your basic big leaguer (replacement player as it were)----can do much more than he actually does and is being self-interested to the point of team detriment for his steadfast refusal to do so?
Either you can't read or you're picking and choosing to take a poke at me. This is fine, but to be completely honest, you're outgunned in every possible permutation when coming after me.
We've got anonymity; condescension; poor to non-existent reading comprehension; ridicule; and illogical/ignorant arguments. You've covered all the bases and not just first base (with singles) as Ichiro does. You're more versatile than Ichiro!! Dunno about valuable, but that's relative.
As for Ichiro not caring what anyone thinks, it's all part of the problem. If he cared about his teammates and winning, he'd be more agreeable to doing what needs to be done to win rather than collecting hits and accomplishing nothing in a teamwide scheme.
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Ichiro:
Ichiro is the greatest player I wouldn't want on my team. Did that make sense? He has all the skills you mentioned, but he gives me the creeps.
Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Ichiro and Anonymous #2:
Totally with you on the Ichiro thang. And if I can figure out who Anonymous is I'll put in a work order for ya.
I'm the Boss of this Family; and it's good practice to get the work in myself every now and again.
It's dark comedy that the comments emanated from the exact same posting in which I made a cogent case as to why people shouldn't comment anonymously.
Force Lightning is frightening to behold, is it not? Especially when someone is in the receiving end of it at full power. I'd say it's been handled in the same way that led to my elevation to Boss, wouldn't you?
It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.
Might as well be me.