By Blaidd Drwg
At the time the Mariners traded Ichiro to the Yankees, I will be honest, I had absolutely no idea why the Yankees would have wanted him. They were pretty set in the outfield and really didn’t need a DH, so the trade seemed odd, especially since Ichiro has struggled over the last 2 season, particularly against left handed pitching. Something that did not get widely reported by the media in Seattle was this little detail of the deal from ESPN.com:
Before completing a trade to acquire the Japanese star, the Yankees spelled out a list of conditions to Ichiro, a former American League MVP and two-time batting champion.
Ichiro would be asked to switch positions, hit at the bottom of the lineup and possibly sit against left-handed pitching.
Ichiro knows his career is coming to an end and he is probably desperate to win a World Series title and the Yankees are his best hope for doing that this season. I found it very interesting that the Yankees scouting has noticed exactly what I have about Ichiro this season:
He can no longer play above average defense in right field.
He isn’t a top of the lineup hitter considering his sub .300 OBP.
He is cheating on fastballs against left handers and can’t hit them effectively anymore.
He has slowed down (there has been a huge drop in the number of infield hits he has had over the last 2 seasons).
The move to the Yankees has not really helped either – Ichrio had slash totals of 261/288/353 with the Mariners and 265/296/368 with the Yankees, translating to an OPS= of 82 with the Mariners and 77 with the Yankees. His time with the Yankees has been bizarre: he hit in 16 out of his first 17 games with them, but managed to only produce 2 multi-hit games. The Yankees have generally batted him in the bottom third of the lineup and have sat him the last 2 games against a lefty starting pitcher.
I have never been a huge Ichiro fan, but he was a fun and frustrating player to watch and I would love to see him win a championship. I suspect that if he does this season, he will call it quits and in 5 years become the first Japanese inductee into Cooperstown. If he does not, I bet he takes a part time role with a contender to try again next season. I think that even Ichiro has realized that he has reached the end of the line. He is currently 449 hits away from 3000 and I just don’t think he has enough left in the tank to get there.