Now, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I love Ichiro; not like I love Max Scherzer and DEFINITELY not like I love Iván Rodriguez - it's more like a "this guy is super-cool and has charisma and is just so darn likeable!" When Ichiro became a free agent at the end of last season, I told my husband that the Mariners should sign him so that he's able to finish his career with the team that originally signed him over twenty years ago out of Japan. Well I'm glad someone finally listened to me, because having Ichiro in Seattle is absolutely storybook perfect (I know most people think of Derek Jeter's career as "storybook," but I've always liked Ichiro better!).
Last season, Ichiro appeared in 136 games with the Miami Marlins, hitting .255 (with an On-Base Percentage of .318 and Slugging Percentage of .332) across 215 plate appearances - more than half of them coming as a pinch hitter. Over the past five seasons, split between the Marlins and New York Yankees, he hasn't been able to replicate the success he enjoyed in Seattle, hitting .263 in 725 games. Still, the Mariners are very happy to have Ichiro on board (time to sell more jerseys!), and they insist (as does Ichiro himself) that this is not just a "swan song" thing - he's going to play regularly, and he's going to make a difference for his team (which I believe to be true, because the guy can still hit). Ichiro is not planning a retirement tour this season akin to those of Jeter and David "Big Papi" Ortiz - he just wants to play, and if you ask him, he'll tell you that he wants to do so until he's at least 50 years old (you GO, Ichiro!). The only downside of having Ichiro in Seattle is that he won't get much TV coverage unless the Mariners make it to the playoffs, but hey - it's just nice knowing that a decent guy like Ichiro will be around for at least one more year.
Sigh! Now about Scott Boras... For those of you who don't know him, Boras is a greedy, selfish, money-hungry and arrogant sports agent with clients such as Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and yes - Iván Rodriguez. He's a "player's agent" - the guy who will get you the lucrative contract and will "show you the money". But the downside to that is when you put a price tag on a player and that price is too high (especially when the player is a pitcher). This is the case with Jake Arrieta, a free agent who is currently unemployed. This former Oriole and Cub has a Cy Young award, a championship ring, and All-Star game appearances. At the age of 32, his fastball has slowed down just a tad, but not enough for him to be unemployed at this point in the off-season. Yu Darvish (also 32 years old) was able to sign as a free agent (even after Tommy John surgery and a not-so-stellar job in the playoffs with the Dodgers). Why was Yu able to get a job and Jake is still sitting around waiting for Boras to do something? I just think that Boras is asking for way too much money. Teams don't want to spend a lot on a pitcher when they know that players like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Clayton Kershaw will become free agents at the end of the upcoming season (and no team wants to pay the luxury tax). So why not lower the price on Arrieta? Because Boras is an idiot! The Nationals, Phillies, and Brewers have all shown interest in signing Arrieta for less than what Boras is asking, so why not lower the price on the poor guy a little? This is what annoys me about professional sports - when they're treated like cattle!
Oh, and one more thing about Boras: He has a Doctorate in Pharmacy and a law degree. There's nothing wrong with that (says the woman who has a Masters in Sports Management but owns a kitchen shop!), unless you use both degrees to work defending pharmaceutical companies against class-action lawsuits. I won't even GO there or tell you about the many cases he defended and millions of dollars he made for pharmaceutical companies - let's just say I have very strong opinions regarding pharmaceutical companies, and now that I know that Boras was involved, I'm not surprised.
So what do us die-hard baseball fans do to not get disheartened by the ugliness of the business side of baseball? Well I, for one, have been listening to Spring Training games during the workday, and that has me excited for the upcoming season. We have a lot to look forward to - the All-Star game being played at Nationals Park, Manny Machado trying his hand at shortstop, Shohei Ohtani making his US debut with the Los Angeles Angels, and the Miami Marlins trying to put together a team now that most of last year's players are gone (I'm guessing J.T. Realmuto will play all nine positions at once!), Adam Wainwright just being his hot and sexy self... Whether it's Ichiro making $750,000 or Darvish making $21 million, we just want to watch these guys play. Just a few more weeks to go until we hear "Play ball!"