With a payroll that exceeds the national budget of 35 countries, many observers don’t give Brian Cashman much credit for what he does. When you have that much money to play with how can you make the wrong decision? And if you hiccup it’s cleaned, stored away, and forgotten. Kei Igawa, anyone?
But, Cashman deserves some supreme kudos for the heist he pulled off on July 23. In exchange for cash and minor leaguers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar, the Bombers received future Hall of Fame outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.
I can honestly say, I wasn’t expecting the world when the Yanks acquired him. Mired in one of his worst statistical years (.261 average at the time of the trade), he wasn’t that hot shot kid that swept baseball off its feet anymore. It wasn’t 2001 and the gray hair that now covered his head told a story of a player fading quickly into the sunset.
But like most of the time, I was wrong. In his 66 games with the Yankees, he was reborn and once again flashed the skills that made him an all-time great. Suddenly, the Yankees have a consistent base stealer, bunter, world-class hitter, and defensive wizard all in one player.
Yes, Ichiro will be 39 years-old in just a few weeks, but he’s not hanging up the cleats or leaving New York just yet.
Watching him man the outfield has been a pleasure for all baseball fans. That probably explains his ten Gold Gloves since entering the league from 2001-2010. He might not be as quick as he used to be, but his wheels roll faster than most.
While he primarily was a center-fielder during his career, Ichiro has manned both right and left field for the Bombers and has been nothing less than superb.
With the suddenly “sensitive” Swisher most likely leaving town at season’s end, resigning Ichiro would form one of the best defensive outfields in all of baseball with Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson.
Resigning a guy because he can bunt sounds downright silly. But, when the reliable home runs aren’t flying out of the park, this team struggles to play small ball. In so many situations where a bunt is the perfect move, the Yanks stray away from the sacrifice.
In reality, there are only a few players on the Yankees roster that have a remote chance of bunting: Jeter and Gardner. Ichiro brings that rare combo (especially at 38 years old) that keeps the pitcher guessing if he’ll swing away or bunt.
As the Yankees have certainly experienced the last three postseasons, they can rely on the long ball so much.
After over a decade of playing the doldrums of the Mariners organization, Ichiro was suddenly on a first place team overnight. For years, his talents wasted away on a far off coast on an irrelevant team.
But now he’s on an annual playoff contender in the Yankees, a team that has missed the playoffs just once in the last 17 years.
Through his entire career, he has achieved nearly every accomplishment a player can render except a World Series championship.
There aren’t many places in the bigs that offer this kind of shot.
We all know that for the majority of the Yankees speed is not their thing. So the idea of stolen bases is many times lost in the shuffle during the anticipation of big bombs into the seats.
Ichiro Suzuki played in 66 games for the Yankees this year and stole 14 bags while wearing pinstripes. The soon to be 39 year-old led the team for the year with that number. Yes, you heard me—led the team!
In 36 attempts this year, Ichiro reached base safely 29 times, which is an 80.5 percent clip. His speed for an entire year could jump start a sometimes struggling team hell bent on homers.