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Ichiro appreciation day

How frustrating is it to see a player perform at a high level on a team that isn’t worth a damn?

How maddening is it to see one of the best players of our generation unable to showcase their talents on the postseason stage?

How debilitating is it to realize that no matter what a player does, he’ll always be relegated to a status that the perennial contenders know nothing about?

Any of those questions can apply to a number of sports. As fans, we see it annually in basketball, football, baseball, and any other team sport. There are players who are pretty good, and then there are players who can truly be considered all-time greats, but due to the team they play for, they get lost in the shuffle. The player who fits the bill, in this case, is none other than Ichiro.

Ichiro has always been a player who’s intrigued me. The man has been in the big leagues for 11 years and during that time, he’s been one of the best hitters, if not the absolute best, in all of baseball. If people do talk about him, maybe I’m just not around and miss out, but if they do, then the chants should be louder.

This dude gets it done, but there are a number of reasons why folks don’t talk about him nearly as much as other players in the game. One problem is he plays for the bum-ass Seattle Mariners. That’s said, because the team has only made the postseason once since 2001.

Another thing could be even more simplistic: his greatness, brilliance, and dominance are taken for granted. The man hits for average. The man can run the bases. For a majority of his career, he’s been one of the best players at his position. He does it all and has done it all for so long that he’s at a place in his career where people just expect him to do these things and end up taking him for granted.

In basketball, it was Kevin Garnett during his Minnesota days. He was one of the five best players in basketball for years, but since he languished in the Twin Cities, plenty of time was wasted. Once he got to Boston, he had to make up for all the years of team futility with a majority of his best years in the rearview.

One could even go as far to say Deion Sanders encountered a similar situation during his first five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. The team was cool and all, but it wasn’t one that could be mistaken for a contender. Prime Time leaves town, the balance of power shifts radically, and the rest is history.

Is that what it’ll take for Ichiro? How realistic is it for a contending team to take a flier on a 37-year-old man with 11 years of mileage on him, not including his years in Japan? When you look at what he’s accomplished, it’s hard to argue about his greatness on the diamond and the impact he would have for a contender:

Led the AL in batting average twice
Led AL in hits seven times
Led AL in stolen bases once
Ten-time All Star
All Star Game MVP in 2007
AL MVP in 2001
Ten-time gold glove

When one looks at his performance this season, one thought is he's having a bad year. However, I believe he's more than capable of bouncing back and playing at the level we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. As a fan who recognizes greatness, Ichiro’s over the years is certainly appreciated. Hopefully, others haven’t let this season cloud their opinion and can truly say the same.

Be easy.

-K. Masenda


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