BY SPNW Staff 01:37PM 02/21/2012

Mariners to hit Ichiro third; right move?

Manager Eric Wedge, convinced after one practice the offense shows significant progress from last season, has put Ichiro third in the lineup. Do you agree?

Ichiro, the Mariners' new No. 3 hitter, has been attentive to fans this spring. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

An incredible thing  – maybe a magical metamorphosis is a better way to describe it — happened to the Seattle Mariners after just one, full-squad workout in Peoria, AZ.:  Their offense, so dismal the past three years, suddenly improved by leaps and bounds. This, anyway, is the view of manager Eric Wedge, who gushed over what he saw.

“I don’t think you can come out here and watch our position players, whether it be defensively or maybe particularly in the batter’s box taking BP, and not see a difference,” Wedge enthused. “We’re much further along. We’re much better. We’re going to be a much better offensive ballclub.”

We’re not exactly sure how a four-month vacation can cure three years’ worth of batting lameness, and we could suggest that, on the basis of a single workout in which his hitters only took BP, Wedge is being overly optimistic. But maybe the four-month hiatus from baseball did work inexplicable wonders. If so, maybe if we stop writing for four months, we’ll all come back as Shakespeare.

Wedge Tuesday took some drama out of the desert air when he announced the offensive renaissance will include hitting Ichiro third. The move was the object of much off-season speculation. The powers that be apparently convinced Ichiro that this was a better use of his talents.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking about it this winter, of course,” Wedge told reporters.  “I’ve talked about it a lot with coaches. I feel like the bottom line is for us to have the best lineup, one through nine, out there. I want our lineup to be extended. I feel like our best opportunity to score runs is with Ichiro hitting third for us. It helps the guy in front of him, it helps the guy behind him.”

This comes after announcing Chone Figgins, after hitting .188 last year in 81 games, will replace Ichiro in the leadoff spot. The early leader for the No. 2 spot goes to Dustin Ackley, off his stellar debut last season.

The thinking here is that the Mariners, due to their heavy investment in Figgins, need to give him one more shot to re-capture the stroke that deserted him almost as soon as he inked his $36 million Seattle contract.

Upon his arrival in camp, Ichiro, who hit a career-low .272 in 2011, told reporters that he is open to a move.

“I’m always prepared for a new challenge,” Ichiro said. “That’s how we all have to move forward. If that (evacuating the leadoff spot he’s held since 2001) is the case, I’m out there to perform as a baseball player and go all out.”

[poll id="19"]


YourThoughts

  • http://twitter.com/tyrell418 Tyrell Osborne

    Ichiro shouldnt even be in the lineup? You guys are idiots, do you not know what this man has done? He had 1 bad year, and it wasnt even bad, just bad compared to what Ichiro normally has.

    • Jeff

      Relax, Tyrell.  It was just an option in a silly poll on a touchy subject.  A lot of people want to see the Mariners offload Ichiro, it’s not a personal attack on him or you.

  • http://twitter.com/tyrell418 Tyrell Osborne

    Ichiro shouldnt even be in the lineup? You guys are idiots, do you not know what this man has done? He had 1 bad year, and it wasnt even bad, just bad compared to what Ichiro normally has.

    • Jeff

      Relax, Tyrell.  It was just an option in a silly poll on a touchy subject.  A lot of people want to see the Mariners offload Ichiro, it’s not a personal attack on him or you.

  • RadioGuy

    I’m with Tyrell.  What’s considered a “bad” year from Ichiro was still enough to lead the team in hits, runs, steals, batting average and on-base percentage.  It’s relative.

    I fail to see how a guy who batted all of .188 last year is an improvement over Ichiro leading off, so hopefully it’s all a means of showcasing Figgins for a trade.  One plus with Ichiro moving to third is the possibility that he’ll alter his swing just enough to bring in more doubles and homers, since he’s supposed to be such a batting practice power threat (it’s a lot easier to reach the fences when the pitcher is grooving them in for you).  Let’s see if Ichiro will do it in a real game off a real pitcher.  Still, he wasn’t the problem last year.

    The pre-2011 Figgins would’ve really helped in 2011, but he spent the entire season sulking over not leading off and it showed at the plate and in the field, although I’m sure he managed to cash his paycheck a lot quicker than he left the batter’s box whenever the rare occasion to make contact came up.  Trade him, cut him and eat his salary, do whatever, but keeping (and caving in to) Chone Figgins after he undercut the team last year sends the wrong message to young players in camp who are trying to become reliable MLBers.  I’d rather take my chances with Seager or Liddi.

  • RadioGuy

    I’m with Tyrell.  What’s considered a “bad” year from Ichiro was still enough to lead the team in hits, runs, steals, batting average and on-base percentage.  It’s relative.

    I fail to see how a guy who batted all of .188 last year is an improvement over Ichiro leading off, so hopefully it’s all a means of showcasing Figgins for a trade.  One plus with Ichiro moving to third is the possibility that he’ll alter his swing just enough to bring in more doubles and homers, since he’s supposed to be such a batting practice power threat (it’s a lot easier to reach the fences when the pitcher is grooving them in for you).  Let’s see if Ichiro will do it in a real game off a real pitcher.  Still, he wasn’t the problem last year.

    The pre-2011 Figgins would’ve really helped in 2011, but he spent the entire season sulking over not leading off and it showed at the plate and in the field, although I’m sure he managed to cash his paycheck a lot quicker than he left the batter’s box whenever the rare occasion to make contact came up.  Trade him, cut him and eat his salary, do whatever, but keeping (and caving in to) Chone Figgins after he undercut the team last year sends the wrong message to young players in camp who are trying to become reliable MLBers.  I’d rather take my chances with Seager or Liddi.

  • jafabian

    Ichiro’s “down year” is so overrated.  If the entire batting lineup had his 2011 stats the team would have at least had a winning record. I don’t like Figgins being named the leadoff hitter and an every day player when he hasn’t lived up to expectations at all.  There’s players in the minors who could care less where they are in the lineup and don’t have the attitude of “I’m a leadoff hitter and nothing else”.  Have to admit though if Figgins turns it around it wouldn’t surprise me.  IMO, he simply isn’t comfortable batting anywhere else but in the leadoff slot.  I say let him work it out and then trade him.

    Ackley had a better OBP than Ichiro but played in only 90 games and isn’t the basestealing threat Ichiro is.  I still think Ichiro is the best person to be leading off but it wouldn’t surprise me if this move is more for Figgins benefit than it is for Ichiro’s.  If he ends up hitting .290 and steals 40 bases (which is what the M’s had been predicting when they signed him) then the move will be a success. 

  • jafabian

    Ichiro’s “down year” is so overrated.  If the entire batting lineup had his 2011 stats the team would have at least had a winning record. I don’t like Figgins being named the leadoff hitter and an every day player when he hasn’t lived up to expectations at all.  There’s players in the minors who could care less where they are in the lineup and don’t have the attitude of “I’m a leadoff hitter and nothing else”.  Have to admit though if Figgins turns it around it wouldn’t surprise me.  IMO, he simply isn’t comfortable batting anywhere else but in the leadoff slot.  I say let him work it out and then trade him.

    Ackley had a better OBP than Ichiro but played in only 90 games and isn’t the basestealing threat Ichiro is.  I still think Ichiro is the best person to be leading off but it wouldn’t surprise me if this move is more for Figgins benefit than it is for Ichiro’s.  If he ends up hitting .290 and steals 40 bases (which is what the M’s had been predicting when they signed him) then the move will be a success. 

  • SUDS

    Alot of people are idiots, too.

    I’ve always been amazed by what a big deal this is. Granted it could be a blow to Ichiro’s ego, but he’s a professional and in his Zen-like mind, he has to have addressed his skills slowing down somewhat and the consenquences of it.

    Let’s give Figgins a shot. If he blow it, cut him at that point. They’ve done it many times before.

  • SUDS

    Alot of people are idiots, too.

    I’ve always been amazed by what a big deal this is. Granted it could be a blow to Ichiro’s ego, but he’s a professional and in his Zen-like mind, he has to have addressed his skills slowing down somewhat and the consenquences of it.

    Let’s give Figgins a shot. If he blow it, cut him at that point. They’ve done it many times before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002466339654 Rex Devel

    how did you “know” hutch was coming back to seattle? he had no plans and i dont think seattle wanted him back at all.. so don’t assume things like that

  • RadioGuy

    Isn’t hindsight grand?

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