Before you call me out as being sacrilege, hear me out. Here are a few facts to consider.
1. Ichiro is paid $20 million a year.
2. Of his 2200 hits over the past 10 seasons, 1800 are singles.
3. He is 37 years old. Not old by any stretch, but probably not deserving money of a 28-30 year old MVP-type producer.
4. Ryan Howard makes less money than Ichiro.
5. Last year, Baltimore, KC, Washington, Pittsburgh and Arizona all lost 90+ games. Seattle was the only team with $20 million tied to one player.
6. How much rebuilding can a 37/38 year old player provide? The Mariners are well on their way to a 95+ loss season in 2010 and probably the same in 2011. Jack Z has made it a priority to rebuild with youth.
Let's start from the beginning, the $20 million a year salary. A lot of people think that he is worth this money because he gets on base and is put into scoring position through sacrifices and steals. This could be true, however, we have no one to drive Ichiro home. Ichrio's streak of 100 or more runs ended in 2009 with 88, and only 74 in 2010. If we have no one to reward Ichiro for his hard work, why pay him so much to do so little? Management/Ownership might be under the impression that he is the reason people come to the ballpark. I beg to differ. We are setting record attendance marks in 2011. By record attendance marks, I mean record low marks.
No matter how we cut it, my second point contains a lot of singles. However, we now have Chone Figgins for another couple of years. I am not a fan of Chone, but we do have someone that could step into the lead off role and perhaps get on base. I am by no means throwing all my trust at Chone, but let him attempt to prove his worth while we find a true leadoff player with a much lower price tag.
Jack Z is doing, I think, a decent job of acquiring young talent. With Ichiro at age 37 in right field, with a hot right field prospect behind him in AAA Tacoma, do we really need to keep him? Yes, he is a great fielder with a great arm. However, the $20 million price tag is not well justified if it only keeps 5 runners a season from advancing from second to third on deep fly balls.
No matter how we slice it, there is no comparison to Ichiro. He is the only player being paid this much money to hit singles. Ryan Howard is signed through the 2016 season, with an option for 2017. Howard is making about 18 million until 2012, then in 2012 to 2016 he has a sizable increase to $25 million a season. In 2011, Ryan hopes to extend his streak of 30+ home runs and 100+ RBIs to six straight seasons. The RBI's dropped last year to 108, down from over 130 the previous 4 seasons. Offense and wins put butts in the seats at any stadium. I am not saying we need to go out and try to get Howard, but we do need someone that can hit with power from the left side of the plate.
My fifth point is just depressing, I have no other way to describe how sad this stat appears. They had the second worst record in 2010 and the worst in 2008, very challenging to be supportive. I am still not convinced the Mariners realize what truly is broken, I know I don't. In the start of 2011, KC is doing very well. Pittsburgh and Arizona also appear to be on the climb. If we give Wedge enough time, perhaps he can turn things around this year. I have already noticed more patiences at the plate and some aggressive behavior on the base path. We can always hope for more wins to help make the season move along, even though we will not be contending for any playoff spots.
Youth is key to progress in any ball club. Felix is great at age 25 and already has one Cy Young sitting in his trophy case. I am sure this will not be his last. Michael Pineda is off to a great start to his MLB career. We have Dustin Ackley waiting in Tacoma for his call up in June as well as a host of other younger talent. We need to build around Felix and Pineda, not so much around Ichiro.
Ichiro very well could hit 200 hits a season well into his 40's. As with most Seattle athletes, he will always be welcomed in the Emerald City. (A-Rod might be the exception to this rule). Let him finish the next 3 or 4 years helping someone else with his wizardly magic of the infield single. Allow the Mariners to acquire a player that will actually break 100 RBI's and maybe even 30 HR's. We all know Milton Bradely is not that guy. Perhaps Smoak can step up and start to show his potential greatness. All I know is that we need a new face to this franchise. Now, we just need to find someone to take on rich contract.
Thank you ichiro, it was a great run!