Mariners Blaming...Ichiro?

Joe GSenior Writer ISeptember 26, 2008

This should come as no surprise to anybody who has been following baseball this season, but all is not well in Seattle.

News reports today claimed that one Mariner's player allegedly threatened to "knock out" Ichiro at one point during the season.

A 'clubhouse insider' was interviewed by the Seattle Times and said, "I just can't believe the number of guys who really dislike him. It got to a point early on when I thought they were going to get together and go after him."

Apparently John McLaren, who was still the club's manager at the time, had to intervene.

The reason behind the threat? Rumor has it that some players believe that Ichiro is selfish and more interested in his hit totals than winning.

Are you kidding me?

These players believe that Ichiro, a guy who has reached 200 hits in eight straight seasons, is not doing all he can to help this Seattle team win. A Gold-Glove quality outfielder who steals bases, takes walks and gets hits like they're going out of style is being accused of selfishness.

What, exactly, would these players rather have him do? Shoot for lower statistics so the rest of the team doesn't feel bad? Lower his play to the level of the rest of the team so Seattle is even worse?

Please tell me that I'm not the only one who thinks this is ridiculous.

Please tell me that I'm not the only who sees this as a case of frustrated players pointing fingers out of jealousy.

Ichiro puts up great numbers with the bat because it's what he is paid to do. He's been the toughest out in baseball since he came to Seattle in 2001 and is getting called out because his team fell well short of expectations yet again and his teammates want to find somebody to blame.

Rather than examine their own poor numbers, they've decided to go after a man who puts up numbers head and shoulders above his teammates. Based on their logic, I should be able to blame my professors when I don't get a 4.0 on a midterm because, hey, they're smarter than I am, they should be responsible for carrying me.

Mariners closer, J.J. Putz, was the voice of reason.

"You're talking about a guy who is more prepared to play than anybody probably in this game," Putz said. "He goes out every single season and has 200 hits and scores 100 runs. All of a sudden people talk about knocking him out. That's the one thing that's usually sacred in there. You have something to say about somebody, you walk up to them and say something."

Now, the player who allegedly made the statement has not been named in any of the news reports I've seen so far. It's probably a safe bet that he was one of the many who didn't pull their weight in Seattle this season, though.

If the Mariners want to blame anybody for their failings this season, they need to do some serious self-examination before throwing teammates under the bus.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Raul Ibanez is one of only a few other Seattle players (Jose Lopez being the other that comes to mind) who you could say had a solid year at the plate. He has hit .297 with 23 home runs and 108 RBIs so far. So maybe we should single him out for posting numbers that are only slightly above his career averages? Nahhh.

The real problems on the field were Richie Sexson, Kenji Johjima and an underwhelming pitching staff. Felix Hernandez managed to post a sub-3.50 ERA and will finish the season with a losing record because his teammates couldn't give him run support if their lives depended on it.

Sexson has never been a great contact hitter, but sank to a new personal low this year. After hovering around the Mendoza Line for the past few seasons, the Mariners finally decided to release him (a wise move!) after he had been hitting .218 with just 11 homers.

After impressing mightily in his first two seasons, Ichiro's countryman Johjima posted a .223 batting average and a .272 on-base percentage despite only striking out 33 times! Baffling.

It's not completely fair to blame the players. For the last several years, Seattle has had baseball's equivalent of Matt Millen and Isiah Thomas making personnel decisions. That's right, Bill Bavasi could easily go down as one of the worst GMs in sports history.

Look at some of the trades Bavasi made: Freddy Garcia for Miguel Olivo, Carlos Guillen for Ramon Santiago and Randy Winn for Jesse Foppert, a pitcher currently playing triple-A ball in the San Francisco organization.

I won't even mention the fact that Bavasi also signed a man who believes that dinosaurs are just a myth. Of course, that signing is still probably a better one than Jeff Weaver.

Thankfully for Mariners fans everywhere, Bavasi was fired in June, offering a bit of hope for the future.

I hope the Mariners can turn things around some day soon. I grew up when Ken Griffey, Jr. was hitting everything in sight and the M's could rub Jay Buhner's bald head for good luck every night. I believe that if Edgar Martinez doesn't get into the Hall of Fame someday, it will be an injustice outdone only by the wrongful conviction of Hurricane Carter.

But for now...Ichiro, you may as well let your teammates take their shots because they probably couldn't hit you anyways.