“Fisher, after his unsettling wait, was low with the first pitch. He put the second one over, and . . . swung mightily and missed. The crowd grunted, seeing that classic swing, so long and smooth and quick, exposed. Fisher threw the third time, . . . swung again, and there it was. The ball climbed on a diagonal line into the vast volume of air over center field. From my angle, behind third base, the ball seemed less an object in flight than the tip of a towering, motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in the books when it was still in the sky.”
John Updike wrote this immortal account of Ted Williams’ last at-bat in The New Yorker in 1960. Teddy Ballgame homered in his last plate appearance. He was 41. His slash line in 1960 was .316/.451/.645, with 29 home runs.
God only knows when ichiro Suzuki will have his last major league at-bat, or for what team or when that will be. But I’m betting he won’t have Williams slash line, and he won’t go out on the same high the Splinter did at Fenway that night so long ago.
Which is a pity, because ten or twelve years ago there was no more prolific hitter than number 51 in a Mariners jersey. I want to remember him that way, gunning down Terence Long at third, stealing bases, breaking George Sisler’s hit record. I want to see his plaque in a Mariners hat in the Hall of Fame, the first Japanese-born player to do so.
So why this long, rambling intro? Never write a blog post when you’re angry. The news today the Mariners activated Erasmo Ramirez was expected. We’re into five starter territory now that the schedule has normalized. Somebody had to go. With five outfielders, the obvious answer was Ichiro. Instead they sent down Guillermo Heredia, who had minor league options.
As I stated in an earlier post, Ichiro simply isn’t the hitter he was a decade ago or even a few years ago. His defense has deteriorated. Add this: he’s left handed. Ben Gamel and Dee Gordon are also left-handed.
Heredia is a better hitter, better outfielder, can play all three outfield positions and is right-handed. You may recall he got Saturday night’s key rally going in the 7th inning. Heredia is 27, and if he doesn’t have Ichiro’s passport to Cooperstown, he is a better member of this team today, and better able to help this team win now.
So, what the hell? I’m not sure who made this decision, but I am relatively certain that 90% of Mariner Nation is up in arms about this. How can we be persuaded this team wants to win and win now when they aren’t keeping the best players on the team? This may be a time-buying measure so the Jerry Dipoto or the front office can sort this out in a manner that doesn’t injure their relations with the former star, but they’re perpetuating a public image that rightly or wrongly much of the public has that winning is not at the top of this organization’s to-do list. They better sort it out fast.
Ichiro has repeatedly stated he wants to play until he’s at least 50. That’s fine, I completely support that. But it must be with another team. This one has a very narrow window to ending it’s 16 year playoff drought, and it must carry all the best players available to them. There are only 25 roster spots available for those guys, and unfortunately number 51 isn’t one of them.