Friday, February 22, 2008

It's That Time Of Year

Image credit: Fortes

Safeco Field, Seattle. Soon, the Mariners will be playing here again.

It's that time of year again, when optimism that will soon be dashed in the bitter aftermath of hope binges that we call "reality" still runs strong. No, I'm not referring to Presidential politics, but that other passtime where America periodically indulges in outright fantasy - baseball season.

The same instinct that makes me shudder when I see Barack Obama speak makes me cringe when I read this about my home team:

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With a top-heavy rotation, a precise closer and a lineup blending speed and muscle, the Seattle Mariners should win a lot of games.

And there's someone in their camp who perhaps can teach them to even win some games they shouldn't.

Phillips been everywhere, done that

Here's the translation for all you foreigners who might have wandered here by accident:

We don't have enough good pitchers among our candidates to choose a staff, we don't have enough hitters or enough good baserunners, and our ace relief pitcher may get far more work than is good for him.

Or something like that. Baseball talk isn't an exact science, but that's the idea.

The best news here, if you're a Mariners fan, is that Ichiro is back:

The most exciting baseball player in the world will be expected to also be the most expressive player in the Mariners' clubhouse this year.

Ichiro Suzuki, at the crest of the Japanese wave still rushing Major League shores, enjoys unique status. While other Japanese players have blended in, only Ichiro stands out as the dominant personality on his team.

Ichiro makes noise just by showing up

Considering that Ichiro's one of the league's best players, with a well-known work ethic, his being a dominant personality could actually be a good thing.

Let's return to the bad news, shall we?

During a 2,315-game career, he started 250-plus games at six different positions. He stole 10-plus bases in 12 seasons, homered in double figures seven times, and drew 100-plus walks five times. However, nobody could keep count of his number of shouting matches.

"You knew where Tony [Philips] was all the time," McLaren said. "This guy would scream at anybody. Someone would yell at him [from the opposition dugout], and he'd challenge the whole bench.

Phillips been everywhere, done that

Yes, for those of you not well-informed about this game, 2,315 games is a long career. Phillips is now 48 years old, and considered a prospect nonetheless. When a middle-aged utility guy with anger-management issues has a chance to make your team, you have a few holes in the roster.

Who knows, the guy might turn out to be OK, but the Mariners seem to lack both pitching and hitting, at least one of which is usually needed for a winning season.

The grass will be lovely, though. And tickets will be easy to come by in August.

UPDATE: Added links to Philips and Ichiro's "career" statistics. I put "career" in quotes, because in Ichiro's case he played in Japan for several years before coming to America. Those link strings look complicated, so I hope they work.

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