The Spirit of a Samurai

And arigato, Champ!

We wonder if this customized Japanese-to-English translation appeared anywhere else on the 'net tonight.

Surprising that Ichiro gave such an open, forthright explanation of his own motivations for leaving.  He was excruciatingly polite about it, but the opposite of "stimulating" is "dampening" and "stifling."  

In a karmic coincidence, yesterday happened to be the day that we posted our most reverent praise ever.  Ichiro has the spirit of a samurai, a sense of honor and integrity that invests even the tying of his shoes and the oiling of his glove with a spiritual responsibility.

Samurai must have difficulty dealing with the impossibility of victory.  But samurai maintain the same mu shin whether the battle is going well or poorly.  It's been an honor to enjoy his performances as a ballplayer and as a man.


Fare Thee Well, Dept.

As with everybody else, Dr. D agrees that it was time for Ichiro to move on.  It's probably less necessary for SSI to offer funeral bouquets than it is for other websites.  We've savored his greatness from every possible camera angle, beginning with Silentpadna's proclamation of his greatness from Arizona in 1999.

Dr. D was bemused, in a good-natured way, at the cyber tears shed online Monday.  If that's the way a fan feels about it, we respect that.  For some elusive reason we don't quite grasp, SSI can't find a microgram of bad feeling, even five minutes after reading about the trade.

Actually we'd always wanted to see Ichiro playing for the Yankees or Red Sox.  If he recaptures his form, which he might, it will be fun watching pitchers trying to deal with him while also dealing with great hitters at the plate.


Anecdotal Evidence, Dept.

It's hard now even to remember the skepticism that Ichiro fought when he came over here.  In a real sense, he went through the same types of trials -- with the volume turned down -- that Jackie Robinson did.  In fact, Jackie had Pee Wee Reese at his side; Ichiro had simply nobody.  Ichiro handled the racism in much the same way that Jackie did - with restraint, quiet dignity, and massive production on a game-in, game-out basis.

One NPB fan timidly prayed for Ichiro not to embarrass himself.   "There may be more powerful players in Japan," he wrote on a chat board, "But none like Ichiro.  If Ichiro cannot play there, nobody can play there." 

You might remember that, in his first spring training, Ichiro was warming up with his .350, slap-the-ball-through-SS game.  The Mariners were aghast at the lack of real baseball ability, not least of all Lou Piniella.  Finally Lou couldn't contain himself.  "Ichiro, are you CAPABLE of pulling a pitch?"  You know, "When they knock the bat out of your hands, will your husband go to the mound for you?"

"I'm just setting them up," nonchalanted Ichiro.  Al Martin said, "I wanted to punch him in the face right there."  Have a little respect for the real majors, you poser.

The season started and people's mouths closed so fast that you could hear their teeth click shut.  When Ichiro threw out Terrence Long at third base, what was it May of that year, the silence reached deafening proportions.  It was to remain deathly silent for ten years.

Well, Pudge Rodriguez broke the silence in 2002 one time.  Ichiro hit a home run to beat the Rangers and Pudge remarked, "he's the best player in the game right now."


It's All In the Timing, Dept.

One of the things that Ichiro gave us was a fairly-waged war against the MLB(TM) veteran entitlement that well-and-truly ended the success of the early 2000's and put the clubhouse in the hands of Carlos Silva and cronies.  Ichiro, and then Don Wakamatsu, might not have won 90 games per year, but they did take the asylum away from the inmates who'd been handed the keys by Mike Hargrove.

Ichiro never quit on the Mariners.  How many losing seasons did he endure?  He wasted the last 5-6 prime years of his life on a lost blinkin' cause.  And he declares, now finally at long last now, that the time has come:  it would be irrational for him to stay here.

Ichiro's invasion of the USA was quietly heroic.  His winning of the ROY's and MVP's was heroic.  His focus on defense was quietly heroic:  nobody gets paid for defense.  His relentless performance, as the Mariners became a doormat, was quietly heroic.  Ichiro's fairly-waged battle against Mike Hargrove was heroic.  Ichiro's military bearing, through his personal humiliation in 2011-12, has been quietly heroic.

And now, in recognizing that the rational course of action is to leave, he's being quietly heroic again.

He's one of my five favorite players ever.  And I'm glad he's going.



Ichiro's performance the last year-and-a-half has been a Master-class Sudoku puzzle.

We've studied unlucky BABIPs.  We've looked at infield hit rates.  We've monitored his adjustments to jam pitches.  We've talked about his selectivity and his contact on out-of-zone pitches.  We've noticed that this year, like all the other Mariners, Ichiro has huge road splits.

Suffice it to say that SSI gingerly predicts that Ichiro will return to 100-run form (pro-rated) for the Yankees.  If he does, he might continue it until he's well into his 40's.  I wouldn't bet anything I was afraid to lose, that Ichiro won't pull an Adrian Beltre and start racking up 5+ WAR seasons again, having been freed from this park, this 95-loss situation and this local attitude towards him.

It probably wasn't going to happen in Safeco.  I'm just glad that a bad situation was swapped out for a good situation.  


Postpartum Dept.

Oh!  I just thought of something that made me feel bad. ... from 1989 to 2012 the Mariners have had a bizarre run of dynamic, great, charismatic position players.  For the first time since the 1980's expansion Mariners, the M's no longer have a player who could finish #1 in that All-Star vote thing.

July 31 comin' up fast now,




ghost's picture

I have one major disagreement. You claimed that Ichiro faced "racism." I don't buy it. He faced doubts from the establishment not because he was Japanese, but because he played in a non-major league. The game is well past racial tension at this point...the accolades fell swiftly to his locker from the league as he proved his worth. He'll be in the HOF on the first ballot, I guarantee.
Bottom line...let's be careful about assuming racial reasoning behind the doubt.


Ichiro, Ibanez, Soriano, ARod, Freddy with Pineda, Aardsma and Jose Campos in the wings. 1/5 of the Yankees current roster is former M's.
I don't know if I can root for the Yanks now that Ichi is playing in NY but I am going to root for him to be what he once was, which was the most unique player in the game. He shouild be freed up to play the game without the stress that he has carried for the last couple of years. Weird to think that a player will have less stress going to NY than he had playing in Seattle but in this case I believe it to be true. Ichiro was a pleasure to watch. He was just miscast as a player who could/should carry a team.


We had a decade of Griffey, all of A-Rod's club controlled years, half of Randy Johnson's best years, Edgar's whole career, and now 11 and a half years of Ichiro, without so much as a pennant to show for it.
Like you said, since 1990 we've never had a season where one of the 5 greatest players in the game were not on this team. We still have Felix, one of the game's greats and on track for the HOF himself, but he can't lead the offense. Dave Sims said he walked up to Ackley and Smoak after the presser and said, "Well it's your team now." Ackley agreed. I would guess that Smoak curled into the fetal position.
We'd better find some players capable of shouldering that load. It never should have been Ichiro's job in the first place - if we'd given him a Thor to his Captain Japan, then he would have been able to use what he brought to the table to help us win.
Getting bunt base hits with two men on that score no one, only to have the men behind him all fail miserably, just added to the misery. I like Ackley, Montero, Saunders, Wells and Seager. I dunno that any of them are up to the task of carrying this offense and this franchise forward. The shine is definitely off of Smoak. Guti can't stay healthy and with his concussion symptoms who knows when or how well he'll play again (see Morneau's post-concussion struggles for an example). Franklin and Carp are not offensive juggernauts. Are we waiting for a catcher (Zunino) to come and lead this team?
Ichiro is one of the greatest players to step on the field, but he couldn't avert 100-loss seasons. The RJ/Griff/Edgar/Bone Mariners made the playoffs twice. Two times.
I would hope that the Mariners we are building will be deeper than our teams have been for most of the last 2+ decades. I would hope that we can get an offense, a rotation AND a bullpen, all at the same time.
But in the post-roid era putting together an offense requires a lot of money or a lot of luck, and we haven't shown an inclination toward either, while the other members of our division have the pedal to the floor. The Rangers are monsters. The Angels are letting the minotaurs out of the labyrinth. The As are once again the "mess around for 2 months, compete for 4" small market scrappers.
We are... foundering. We have Felix, and an entire stadium full of question marks. I don't want to compete with the Astros for the basement. I want to duke it out for division titles and pennants.
We've been drafting at the top for a decade, so where's our Mike Trout? He's got 6 WAR by JULY for the Angels. Trumbo, who will "never keep this up" is absolutely keeping this up.
The kids have to come through for us, hitters AND pitchers. If the Rangers are gonna drag a Colby Lewis out of Japan and have him be a top-20 starter in the league, then we've got to manage the same, either with a Hultzen or an Erasmo, or a flier like Iwakuma. Because when he goes down with an injury (as he just did) they have other arms who can step in. We don't even have the performing arms the first time around at this point.
We have pieces. We need a spark. The Frankenstein monster Zduriencik is assembling requires a beating heart - right now all the parts are in place, but lifeless. I dunno where to go from here. Ichiro gave us everything that he could, and (until the last coupla years) I enjoyed his time with us, but the teams were not especially enjoyable.
I would be fine with fewer superstars and more wins, but can you put together a successful offense in 2012 and beyond without superstars?
The Orioles are hanging in there with a couple of starting arms, the greatest bullpen around, and an offense powered mostly by one man (Jones) helped out by a few average bats. Is that sustainable, or will they sink back into the muck and the mire next season?
Because the Yankees have a good everything. So do the Rangers. The Angels need a couple of starters to get better and they'll have everything too. The As have an ungodly staff right now compensating for offensive weakness, but their star bats (Reddick and Cespedes) are doing what it was hoped they would do.
Nobody but Felix on this team is really doing what we would hope they do. Okay, Casper Wells (150 ABs) and some of the pen arms are fulfilling our dreams for them, but it's not enough.
The way we play on the road you feel like maybe we're on the verge. And then we come home for a 10 game homestand and all the life leaks right out of the team. That wasn't anything Ichiro could stop - his game is an internal and personal one, and always has been. We need somebody who can have a Network moment, where he just won't take it anymore. That guy does not currently seem to play here.
That particular problem is not going away. I hope we find a fix for it soon, because we have so many of the pieces that would seem necessary for victory, but are so good at snatching defeat from its jaws instead.
If we can't hit, we need to pitch. If we can only hit on the road, then we need to plan better for winning at home. But individual perfection in the form of Ichiro didn't help his 24 teammates at all, so something needs to rally an entire team and have them put their best on the field. I thought that was the manager's job, but we haven't had a manager who could do that in many seasons either.
By the way, Melvin's doing it just find in Oak-Town right now. There's something about this particular club - I can't argue with Baker about that conclusion. We'd better figure out how to fix it before we hold another press conference, Starship Troopers style, where the new person in charge tells us all about how smart they are and how we're gonna get better dancing to the second verse, same as the first.
I'm glad I got to witness so many individual moments of greatness from Ichiro. I'm ready to witness some moments of team greatness now.
Make it happen.

benihana's picture

Every town has its ups and downs. Sometimes ups out number the downs. But not in Nottingham, er.. Seattle.
As a glass half-full type, I'd point to the bullpen, and.. well.. maybe Saunders and Wells?
In 2010 I was simply blown away by how many players played to their down-side scenarios. Again in 2011. And now again in 2012 with can't miss guys like Ackley slip sliding away.
We've changed rosters, changed coaches, changed managers and GMs. Next up is inevitably going to be change to the stadium.
What we really need is a change in ownership, the exodus of Howie and Chuck and their decades of failure, and a top-down commitment to winning.
I'd up and fly away if I had wings for flying. Can't you see the tears we're cry'in'? Can't there be some happiness for me and my Seattle Mariners?
- Ben.


What do all these seasons of failure and mediocrity have in common? Ownership.I get tired of saying it. I get tired of thinking it. I get tired of reading it. I get tired of realizing it's true. I get tired of wondering if, having left the Los Angeles area in 1995, I will ever again see my hometown MLB team play in the World Series. If Jack Zduriencik fails (and the situation with Smoak and Ackley should give us pause), then how can we ever again trust the judgment of The Two Amigos at the very top of the food chain. How can we hold our heads erect and tall with pride that we are fans of the Seattle Mariners?
I do not see myself becoming a fan of another team. At this point, I almost wish I could, but I cannot.
They say things are darkest just before the dawn. All I know is that things are pretty doggone dark now, when my team bases all it's fortunes on a radical youth movement and our competitors still are able to field better youth than we can while sporting some of the top veteran talent in MLB and the willingness to leverage their financial position to become and remain elite teams.
I sincerely hope a dawn comes, but I'm stuck in the mode of "They Call Me Mr. Skeptical."


Ichiro had to agree to change positions, bat near the bottom of the order and sit against LH pitching.
He agreed to the entire checklist before the deal was done.
The Yankees thought he was "bored" and "playing down to his surroundings."
Yankess expect him to be Brett Gardner
Trade was initiated by Chuck Armstrong calling the NYY president before Z and Cashman got involved.
via espn


The MLB(TM) discrimination against NPB players isn't really based on a belief that Asians are an unappealing race, and in that sense the Jackie situation was importantly different.
Native Asians, those who excel and especially based on work ethic, do face mistrust, cultural bias, and resentment.  You'll notice that they aren't included in the progressive agenda towards entitlements and nobody speaks up loudly for them when they face bias.
But I definitely agree that there's got to be a more precise term than 'racism' for the bias that they suffer.
In any case, the discrimination that Ichiro suffered in the clubhouse was not to be understatd, in my opinion.  Good stuff Matty my friend.
- Dr D mobile

ghost's picture

...was the reaction of the fans. Fans in other cities paid extra to see him play, cheered him for his exploits as long as they weren't blowing up the home team's chance to win (except in Oakland, which is well known for hooliganism and boorish behavior) and the media praised him from day one once his contract was signed. If anything, the Seattle fan culture was a little TOO FORGIVING of some of Ichiro's personality quirks that might have harmed the team in some instances (minor though they may have been). Robinson was denied access to public restrooms, pelted with garbage and debris in enemy stadiums, intentionally decked by players in the nastiest way imaginable, etc. He did have support from his Dodger teammates...but they were about the only guys to get with the program in that first year or two.
That's the only reason I balk a little at calling it racism. What it is is elitism. We think the American game is the only valid version and people who do it differently are looked at as weird. People look for reasons those guys might fail or not be as good as their numbers seem, etc. Ichiro is definitely an anomaly in the American game...but that's why I love him. He proves that it can be played countless ways to produce championship caliber results. But I try not to be a cultural/intellectual snob.


Tiresome to you I know Gordon but new to some we're sure ...
About the year 2000 Bill James wrote, the 1950s Braves parlayed Aaron Matthews and Spahn into one championship in the long series of excuses.  The Seattle Mariners appear to have outdone them.
As to the rest of that awesome post I can't wait to get to a computer :-)


That 35 year postseason wins total is truly dampening and stifling, isn't it?
And it could move you to cyber tears, the public statements that they make towards it.  Shrug. Can't get carried away.  Deal with it.


Nobody bled his team's blue more than Bill did ... There came the day when he simply decided not to be a Royals fan anymore ... and a few years later he doesn't feel their pain any more ... 
Question.  If amigos did switch to another team which team would it be for me probably the Red Sox
by the way talking into a mobile phone is a little easier in some ways LOL :-)

ghost's picture

he's not gonna get to play much with Saunders and Wells eating up a ton of ABs as they should and Gutierrez coming back eventually if he can shake the concussion symptoms.
Peguero and Robinson would probably platoon for LF. Bleh. Though Trayvon did cut his K rate considerably this year in AAA (at the expense of his power).


He said that the organization owed it to Ichiro to allow him to play for a competitive team this year, and next year.
With the money green for Carlos Quentin or Josh Hamilton and a pitcher, and Hultzen coming in for a hot landing in 2013, and the entire hitting staff getting better, why wouldn't Howard expect us to be better next year? Does he know something we don't? (He should, he's the chairman of the board, he votes the Nintendo Stock, and is the Mariner's boss of bosses).
I'm more than a little dissapointed in Howard for announcing surrender for next year, instead of plotting the revenge that we need to keep this thing interesting. "Mr. Moreno just signed Sir Albert, Howard. What says Nintendo?" "We need to keep our expectations reasonable". He says.


And they were waiting to see what happened before naming the other name .
They do have $2.25M in payroll space freed up.  And with Guti uncertain and Carp relegated to 1b/DH, I'm guessing they'll be interested in an outfielder.  I don't think they're figuring on Robinson and Peguero soaking up all of Ichiro's playing time.  Hope not, anyway.
As an aside, for a moment I thought the samurai was wearing headphones.

Taro's picture

Nothing close to what Robinson went through, but there is something there. Racism is too strong a word, but there is a slight cultural unacceptance of foreigners.
Just yesterday at O'Hare airport, an asian lady was trying to board a plane with her children, and the flight attendant practicularly tore her head off for being 'slightly early'. She boarded the plane (with a Group 3 ticket) just tad earlier than the last portion of Group 2. She is forced to wait for all of Group 3 to pass on the side and a "Next time I'll charge you twice" remark afterwards without any humor intended.
With all that Ichiro accomplished over here, he still had green rookies like Jeremy Reed looking down on him. "Ichiro just does his own thing." Maybe Reed could have learned something from Ichiro's preparation. Theres a segment of the fanbase that still hates him for personality/cultural/philosophical differences. You never felt that he commanded the kind of respect he had earned.

ghost's picture

I think players look at a man like Ichiro and don't see the kind of figure they're used to seeing attached to the other players that they respect - not to mention his style is impossible for anyone else to emulate...even Muni Kawasaki can't do it.
As for your O'Hare story...why would you assume that the Asian woman got blasted because she was Asian? Maybe the flight attendant had had just about enough of people thinking only of themselves and rudely cutting in line all day and just snapped. Airport personnel are extremely stressed at all times because their customers are extremely stressed at all times, opinions and rear ends, most of those stressed customers just stink. Rude, self-absorbed, oblivious, thankless, and pushy. That's not to say that it's ever right to blow up at someone for a minor infraction like cutting the line...but it says something to me about your personal biases that you would leap to the conclusion that this particular woman was punished because she was Asian. I don't buy it. Not unless the flight attendant said something like "You blinkin' Asian people are always in too big a hurry!" Personally, I just think this flight attendant was, as Amy Alkon puts it, a "Costly Punisher" - someone who reacts to rudeness by calling attention to it and shaming the rude people publicly to make their behavior change.

Taro's picture

The airport thing was a major stretch as the 3rd group had already been announced by the time the lady had lined up. I was a few people behind (also 3rd group), and got a 'Welcome Mr. Kussman' from the same lady. Fyi, I Iook more caucasion than Asian and was wearing a suit. Whatever the reason, the airport attendant decided to snap at that lady.

OBF's picture

I would be willing to bet the airport attendant was more annoyed at the lady because she was traveling with children than her race. You must have been on an airline that doesn't allow people with kids to board first? Or maybe they were older kids. Anyway, there are two type of people (customers and workers both) in an airport. Those that love kids and are helpful and kind and generous when you are traveling with them. And those that absolutely loathe kids (maybe not in general, but in the airport), and that it is a crime against humanity that someone would have the audacity to bring children under 18 to an airport. My kids are for the most part pretty well behaved and I remember one time getting scolded for the way my kids were all ASLEEP on the plane! They were all buckled and sleeping peacefully and yet that particular flight attendant still felt it unreasonable that kids were on his airplane! (The beef was that one of my kids feet was lightly resting on the seat in front of her, and even when the kind lady in front of her stood up and argued for my cause with the flight attendant he still wouldn't let it go! Eventually I had to WAKE HER UP so I could readjust her legs to get him off our backs! Of course after that she was cranky and couldn't fall back asleep and caused way more fuss than if he had just minded his own business.) Oh well, moral of the story is that things that happen in airports and airplanes should mostly be taken with about 4 metric tons of salt and the motivations behind any type of behavior there could be one of a million things.
On a completely different note it saddens me that the ratio of people who love kids vs loathe them seems to be turning in the wrong direction (at least the wrong direction IMHO), and it is also starting to seep out of the airports and such and into everyday life. In our little town in Oregon it is no big deal, but going to some places in "The BIg City", Portland, we practically get sneered at. Especially with four (in a hipsters eyes) dirty, foul, pollution generating monsters, but even my sister in law who only has one child and lives in Portland deals with anti parenting bias daily. From small thing like people sighing or leaving or rolling their eyes when they see you walk into the restaurant they are in, to full on confrontations with people who think they are better than you because they are not contributing to the "over population problem", or "why would you bring a child into a world like this one?" or "Why would you waste your money that way". It amazes me the bravado and cajones of some of the random strangers that have come up to me in Nordstroms and flat out told me I am a bad person for having children!
More than a racial issue I see these things, just like the rude flight attendant or your rude ticket taker, to be a selfish, amoral, egotistical issue. It is all about making one's self feel better by sneering at someone who made different, and therefor worse / wrong choice in life and thus reenforceing to yourself that you made the right choices and you are better.
And in fact one of the holier than though pedestals that these type of people love to get on is being the PC police and actively admonishing people for any hint of unintended racism or sexism or any other type of ism, smh. And being rude or not follow the rules to the letter of the law is exactly and "ism" these folks like to jump on... like cutting in line, ESPECIALLY if it was unintentional ;) "How can you be so rude or blind to NOT notice you were cutting in line ::GASP::"
As far as Ichiro goes I don't know if I would say he was subject to any racism, certainly people in general don't like change, or anything out of the ordinary. And baseball folks are even more to the extreme of that camp. Not being anywhere near the actual day to day of the team or Ichiro himself, all we can really comment on is how fans from afar see Ichiro, and I would say the defining characteristic of this group is that Ichiro is an extremely polarizing figure. Much like Tim Tebow or Barry Bonds, or any number of other controversial out of the ordinary famous people. Of course inextricably tied to Ichiro's differences and out of the ordinariness is his race, upbringing, history, actions, personality, etc, etc, etc. So in a very general and vague way you could say that any of his lows came about in some small way because of his race, but then you would also have to say that any of his highs (and he has had a lot of very high highs) also came about by his race.
Anyway, there are my can't sleep, arrg I have to be up in 5 hours, why cant I sleep!, 3.5 cents :)

Taro's picture

Ya, you could be right there. Perhaps a combinations of reasons. In the past two years I've noticed polarizing reactions to my son running all over the place.. I'm sure thats magnified with four children. My wife says she gets very different reactions depending on whether I'm around or not (she doesn't speak very good English).

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