BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 07/01/2016

Thiel: Milestones and Griffey, Ichiro — and A-Rod

Ex-Mariners stars Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro will be part of the national baseball spotlight in July. A third ex-Mariner, also with gaudy career numbers, is pinch-hitting against lefties for the Yanks.

Alex Rodriguez, a Mariner from 1994-2000, will not be hailed this July as will two other career high-achievers who played in Seattle. / Getty Images

Reduced to designated hitter/pinch-hitter only against left-handed pitchers, Alex Rodriguez, 41 next month, was defiant this week in New York talking to reporters who follow the 39-39 New York Yankees.

“You haven’t heard the last of me,” said Rodriguez, which is certainly true. He makes $21 million this season as well as next season, all guaranteed. If the Yankees cut him, it will be the greatest sunk cost in sports since the collapse of the Donald Trump-led United States Football League. The New York media will certainly do what it can to keep the A-Rod debacle in the sports cross-hairs.

Rodriguez can’t play in the field anymore and can’t hit right-handed pitching. Over his past 95 games including last year, ESPN reported through Monday he was hitting .204 with 17 homers and 49 RBIs in 333 at-bats. One of those homers was a two-run shot off Hisashi Iwakuma in April that helped the Yankees beat the Mariners, 4-3.

Irksome as that may have been, and as delightful as A-Rod’s plight may be to the battalions of Seattle fans who bear him a 15-year grudge, it might be worth stifling a bit of the chortle.

Consider the fact that upon completion of his 10-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners, Robinson Cano will be 41. Perhaps by 2023, technology will have devised a solution to aging — don’t forget Russell Wilson’s Recovery Water is already a thing — and 41 will be the new 31.

The histories of Cano and Rodriguez with Seattle figure to be vastly different, but the Mariners, too, seem likely to be faced with what to do with a hugely expensive player who is more about a millstone than a milestone.

Whether Rodriguez survives the week or the season, his summer will be vastly different than that of two other ex-Mariners soaking up the national spotlight:

After two more hits Wednesday for Miami, Ichiro was batting .342, leaving him 12 hits shy. As the Marlins’ fourth outfielder, he hasn’t had enough at-bats to qualify for traditional selection, but MLB has ways to get him in, particularly if he is upon the threshold by the July 12 game in San Diego.

“He’s been fun to watch,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s been kind of ageless. We shouldn’t really be talking about his age because he runs better than most, he throws and plays defense better than most. He’s been swinging the bat better than most. Everything about him has been way above average.”

His first season in Miami in 2015 looked A-Rodish, finishing with a .229 batting average and .561 OPS.  But his revival at 42 is astonishing. After 10 All-Star selections in Seattle, to add an 11th five years later would have not only popular appeal, it might inspire the Mariners to fix their left field problem with him at the trade deadline.


We’ve already seen how going retro worked with Griffey. No need to re-test the strategy with Ichiro.

But it is fun for fans to appreciate two former Mariners stars going icon in the same month. Griffey received the most votes in the history of the hall, and Ichiro will become a baseball king of two nations.

For Ichiro to leave Japan and start his major league career at age 27 and hang around long enough to reach 3,000 is one of the great career accomplishments in all of sports, especially without using performance enhancers — unless MLB decides to put beef tongue, one of Ichiro’s favorite dishes, on the list of banned substances.

Fanatical about fitness and stretching, Ichiro has kept sufficiently in shape to suggest that he might have a decent chance to carry on for awhile, until the eye-hand coordination begins to fade, usually the principal culprit dooming major league hitters.

Griffey, who may have yet to lift his first weight-room weight, took a casual approach to fitness, which many think trimmed his production, which ended in 2010 at 40 after 22 seasons, many of them shortened with a variety of strains and pains.

As with Ichiro, Griffey never was tainted with baseball’a PED scandal. Rodriguez, of course, has been smothered by it.

Once Rodriguez retires, the passage of time will soften at least some of the criticism and let his numbers come through. But it’s doubtful he will be celebrated — for that and other reasons — as the nation in July will celebrate Griffey and Ichiro.

Seattle gets to bask in some reflected glory. A-Rod gets to sit in the shade.




  • bugzapper

    Iconic at 42? All-Stars in their Golden Years of Sports Decrepitude? Let’s see any of those guys do this at 70! And without PEDs, too!

    • art thiel

      Now THAT was a grand salami! You had me at the hat.

      As far as no performance enhancers, well, I believe preservatives have been involved. Only the narco agents of the sixties defined them differently.

  • just passing thru

    I am happy to see Ichiro about to achieve *his* 3000 milestone, not to mention, ahem, Art, become professional baseball’s all-time hits leader. I’m even happier to see Ichiro do this in another uniform, because the last four years would have been unbearable given the attitude towards him and his pursuit of the goal had he stayed in Seattle. If the Mariners could have him in uniform just for that hit, though, would be epic – then, back to the Marlins. ;-)

    It’s wonderful to see Griffey heading into the HoF. Maybe he could help Edgar in that direction, if nothing more than by hanging onto KG Jr’s now massive coattails.

    As for Alex, no pity here. He can count his millions all by himself, just as Pete Rose counts all his hits. Karma, baby.

    Finally, here’s hoping that Cano buys Ichiro’s exercise video and uses it daily for the next eight years.

    • art thiel

      I’m aware of his two-nation distinction. But what attitude toward him are you referring to? Fans?

      • just passing thru

        yes, many fans were growing more vocally negative and to have him play full time here the past four years would have been seen by many as sacrificial to the team getting stronger so Ichiro could pursue his goals.

        • SeaRaays

          Passing blame to the only player that carried the offense and defense in his time in Seattle. Is a blind way to ignore that he was loyal to a team that was inept from players to ownership and yet he is truly a hall of fame player in the MLB. For the decade he controlled as the best at right field. That is the true shame here in my opinion.

          • just passing thru

            I agree with you, myself. The point I was wanting to make is that so many did not.

          • SeaRaays

            I agree…It had a lot to blame from some sports talk…saying he wasn’t worth his salary for just hits and defense. That the money could buy us better! Since they gave Figgins big money and Milton Bradley a lot. How should they have spent money at the time?

        • art thiel

          I get the point that in the absence of success, Ichiro’s accumulation of numbers looked selfish to many fans. But he clearly was not enjoying the futility here, and his unwillingness to move in the lineup or on the field was a pain to the team.

          • jafabian

            I view Ichiro’s perceived selfishness as his way of staying motivated on some otherwise futile teams filled with bad contracts and bad attitudes. I remember when Tom Chambers first joined the Sonics he was thought of as selfish and his reply was if his teammates can’t score or don’t know what to do with the ball he might as well keep it himself. Or when Randy would refuse to come of out a game even though he was gassed because he knew the bullpen would just blow it. Same principle.

      • SeaRaays

        I think Ichiro was the only thing worth the ticket price. His professionalism and being at least 1/3 of the offense year after year. It was not his problem but upper management and the owners signings and draft problems.

  • jafabian

    i still hear people who say Junior should have been more of a work out fiend. How many athletes do you see play until they’re 40? If anything, his inability to play full time after he left the M’s came from years of playing full tilt on the paper thin turf in the Kingdome. He gave up his body the M’s during his time here. Amazing when some of those teams weren’t all that good.

    Same with Ichiro. Not a fan of him being in another uniform but at least he got a taste of the playoffs again and he deserves the accolades he’s getting right now despite Pete Rose trying to take away from them. And like Junior, Ichiro played for some of the best and worst teams in M’s history, more worst than best. And he was still amazingly consistent and one of the few to hit over .300 at Safeco Field.

    As much as I chuckle over Alex’s misfortunes if I could fire up the DeLorean and go back in time and change history I’d rather Alex have stayed with the M’s. I still wonder if he didn’t go to the Rangers, which was rife with steroid users at the time, just how much his career would have been different. Especially if he stayed around class acts like Edgar, Dan, Jamie and Ichiro.

    • Kathy Edgar


    • art thiel

      We don’t know that A-Rod wasn’t using in his time in Seattle. His departure, as with each of the big names, was inevitable. Seattle was too small and distant from the big action then.

      Ichiro was fed up with the losing. You’re right about the Kingdome rug. It took a toll on Buhner too.

      • 1coolguy

        Wasn’t the truth about Buhner that he batted in front of Griffey?
        Let’s not forget his being near the top each year in strikeouts.
        792 bb, 1406 so. Brutal.

  • Paul Harmening

    You stand alone Art, putting the scenario of these three together. Any added comments on my part are not worthy…Tempted though I may be. But-we were blessed having these guys, weren’t we.

    • art thiel

      They all evoked lots of passion. My experience is that it’s very hard to be a superstar in baseball, because any deviations from the norm gets picked on more severely because of the game’s dailyness. One game in which the player doesn’t run hard, and the fan thinks he’s a loafer for life.

  • 1coolguy

    What is really a shame about both A-Rod and Bonds is pre-steroids they were excellent players and MVP’s. While some player batting .210 takes roids to be a .280 hitter, these guys were the best. Bonds was the national league’s Griffey and A-Rod was the next Griffey, so it really was disgusting the two of them took roids when they could have been voices, together with Griffey, against roids.
    The two of them will always be identified as roids users when they could have simply been recognized as among the best of all time.