This afternoon, the Seattle Mariners announced that the team’s best known player, known around these parts of the country simply as “Ichiro”, had been traded to the New York Yankees for two minor league players and cash considerations after more than a dozen seasons in the Emerald City.
The news took the Pacific Northwest and the country by surprise, because although Ichiro’s future with the team has been a hot topic in the sports press, the news was not preceded by much rumor or speculation.
On behalf of our ownership group and everyone in the Seattle Mariners organization, I thank Ichiro for the great career he’s had here in Seattle.
Several weeks ago, Ichiro Suzuki, through his longtime agent, Tony Attanasio, approached Chuck Armstrong and me to ask that the Mariners consider trading him. Ichiro knows that the club is building for the future, and he felt that what was best for the team was to be traded to another club and give our younger players an opportunity to develop.
Ichiro will be missed. He owns a long list of Major League Baseball and Mariners club records, has earned many prestigious awards, and in my opinion, he will someday be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I know that I speak for all of Ichiro’s fans, both here in the Pacific Northwest, around this country and also throughout Japan, in wishing him and his wife Yumiko the very best as he continues his baseball career with the Yankees.
Ichiro reportedly had a no-trade clause in his contract, so the deal with the Yankees was evidently made with his blessing. He appeared at a news conference this afternoon to say goodbye to the Pacific Northwest and Mariners fans. As it so happens, the Mariners are playing the Yankees tonight at Safeco Field, so Ichiro’s first appearance in a Yankees uniform will ironically be at the ballpark he has called home as a player for more than ten years.
To say that Ichiro has been a fixture of the Seattle Mariners since the turn of the century would be an understatement. He is – or was – the only player still on the Mariners’ roster who was part of the magical one hundred and sixteen win season back in 2001. Everyone else had already moved on or retired from baseball. Now Ichiro is gone as well, headed to a team that is likely to make the playoffs…. the Evil Empire. (Sorry, meant to say the New York Yankees).
A little bit ago, at Lookout Landing, Jeff Sullivan reflected on how much has changed since the Mariners signed Ichiro:
The last time the Mariners played a game without Ichiro under contract was October 17, 2000. John Halama yielded to Brett Tomko, and Stan Javier batted leadoff in front of Al Martin. The Mariners lost to the Yankees.
October 17th, 2000 was the day the Mariners were eliminated from the American League Championship Series. The team, at the time, was coached by Lou Piiniella, and Alex Rodriguez was perhaps the team’s best known player, excluding designated hitter and fan favorite Edgar Martinez. Rodriguez went to the Texas Rangers in the offseason, and the Mariners brought aboard Ichiro, who has patrolled the outfield for the team in almost every game since. Until today.
We at NPI join other Mariners fans in saluting Ichiro for his years of service to the Mariners. It’s unfortunate the team only made the postseason in his first year as a Mariner. Unfortunately, after Pat Gillick left, the Mariners’ owners hired a truly incompetent general manager (Bill Bavasi) who wrecked the team and squandered its potential by making a series of awful trades and signing the wrong free agents. The team is in better hands now, but it is most definitely still in the rebuilding phase, and is likely to be for another season or two at least.
Even if Ichiro doesn’t retire as a Mariner, he’ll be remembered as a Mariner. Good luck, Ichiro, and thanks for all of the years of dedication you gave to Seattle.