Mariners Insider Blog

LINKAGE: Ichiro in a slump? Not again

AP Photo

Since I'm like many of you - reduced to reading about baseball instead of watching it - I thought I'd give you a glimpse into some of the stuff I've been finding on the internet over the last few days.

It seems that Ichiro Suzuki is battling a hitting slump as the Japanese team prepares for the World Baseball Classic. Obviously, Ichiro not hitting is mildly newsworthy, but come on, it is spring training. Still, not hitting for the Japanese national team and defending WBC championship team is big news around Japan. And reporters were quite interested in Ichiro's latest game where he went 0-for-5 against the Yomiuri Giants.

The Japan Times has this story on it.

Check out this excerpt ...

Knowing it was just an exhibition and he has time to adjust his issues, Ichiro still had room to smile when he walked through the mixed zone after the game and jokingly responded to reporters' questions by saying, "I can't hear."

But then apparently Ichiro - as he always does - took questions from the Japanese press and had this quote.

"I'm vexed that I've not coming up with (positive) outcomes," Ichiro said. "I think that way every time, but especially in tense games like this I think so indeed."

First of all, kudos for using the word vex. There's just not enough use of it these days.

In keeping with that idea, it does not vex me that the Japanese media is making a big deal about this. I think it's hard for people to quantify his popularity in Japan. A couple of Japanese reporters compared him to Tiger Woods or Muhammad Ali in that regard. Basically, they said Ichiro could start walking down a block and wouldn't make it halfway before the crowd that would gather around him would make it impossible.

And he's keenly aware of this. He knows he's the face of Japanese baseball. He takes it very seriously. He's also aware of the pride Japanese baseball fans felt when Japan won the WBC in 2006 and how much his playing affects the chances for a repeat. But it's more than just representing the country. He also knows the importance of performing when he's on the field, which he also mentions later in the story.

So that is why he's a little more frank when discussing the situation.

It's a far cry to last spring when many of the local media were reduced to writing a similar story about Ichiro being hitless in his first 21 at-bats of the spring. That day, Ichiro and then manager John McLaren were positively vexed when we started asking questions about the situation. Here's a few quotes from my story:

From McLaren "I know I am obligated to answer these questions, but how many batting titles has he won?"

From Ichiro with a sarcastic grin on his face: "To tell you the truth, some of this is kind of fun," he said. "To be in a situation this early in spring training and have this kind of a little bit intense environment is something I couldn't experience before. Basically, it's a situation where I need to battle within myself mentally. That's something I haven't experienced this time of the year. ... This is great for me."

More Ichiro, well, being Ichiro: "Part of me said, 'Go through so it can be a hit,' " he said. "But the other part of me said, 'Make this an out so the streak can continue.' "

The Daily Yoimiuri Online also had a similar story, which led with Ichiro going o-fer, but also mentions that Kenji Johjima got a two-run single in the game.

Here's another story on Ichiro, dealing with how much media has covered him in preparation for the WBC. It also mentions that some people connected with the Japanese team and a couple of tabloids weren't happy that Ichiro was perceived to have so much influence over the selection of the team's manager.

Okay, enough of this. The guy is going to hit. In fact, I bet he has two hits in the first official WBC game.

Let's go around baseball ...

Staying along the WBC lines, ESPN's Jayson Stark has this preview of the US Team. In the latest roster shuffle, the US has added Nationals closer Joel Hanrahan, newly acquired DH/slowpitch player Adam Dunn and LaTroy Hawkins to the roster to replace B.J. Ryan, Joe Nathan and Grady Sizemore. Um, those odds of having the US as 2-to-1 favorites might need to be modified slightly.

Former Mariner Joel Pineiro is ready to rebound from last season for the Cardinals. Well, I think we've seen that headline before with Joel.

Tim Dierkes of lists the 45 worst contracts in baseball. Surprisingly, Kenji Johjima's deal made the list.

Ok I'll admit, I saw this post on Larry Stone's blog at the Times. But I thought I would share with you, if only to torture you. But Stephen Strasburg had a pretty solid game the other day, hitting 102 mph six times in one game.

The blog Bleeding Blue and Teal looks at Strasburg's pitching mechanics.

The LA Times has this story about the growing notion of the A's catching the Angels.

ESPN's Jerry Crasnick stopped by Angels camp and wrote about the team's need for more offense. It cost them in the playoffs and now they are missing Mark Teixeira.

Speaking of the Angels, SI ran this excerpt from the book Odd Man Out, written by Matt McCarthy - a former pitching prospect. I found it pretty interesting, but the NY Times has found some factual issues in his reporting for the book.

The A's continued to add their team, signing free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera. What does this mean for the oft-injured Bobby Crosby?

Cubs manager Lou Piniella wasn't happy with something ESPN analyst Steve Phillips said. Um, Lou, that line forms around the corner and down the street.

From the blogosphere ...

Baseball Analysts has this interesting look at payroll versus wins achieved. Well, it's interesting unless you are an M's fan, then it's just painful.

The Hardball Times released their top 100 baseball prospects along with the rankings of each organization's farm system. For quick reference - Carlos Triunfel 51st, Greg Halman 67th, Phillippe Aumont 71st. Oh and Chris Tillman was 24th.