I hesitate to use any trends or chatter I see on Twitter from #Mariners (sorry force of habit), Mariners fans as indicative of what the fan base thinks as a whole. I just don't know that the technologically proficient and social media inclined group that uses the #Mariners hashtag to offer their thoughts on the team, and the group of loyal followers that tweet comments to me speaks for the fan base as a whole.
That being said, from that group of people, along with the people you listen to call into sports talk radio (often not the best example of sanity) and people you receive e-mails from or talk to in daily life, there's seems to be a growing sentiment that Ichiro needs sit down a game or two.
Three years ago, you would have never heard such talk. Perhaps it's a testament how much Ichiro is struggling that a growing of number of people think that it should happen.
But will it?
Mariners manager Eric Wedge has been non-committal about such a move.
"That may be,'' he said about a possible day off for Ichiro. "That's always a possibility. I'm looking at everything right now. But I think he's feeling better. He's still not having the results that he needs to have, but he's feeling better up there. That's the positive part about it.
He's benched Jack Wilson for asking out of a game about a week into the season. He benched Jack Cust for a few days because of lack of production. He moved Chone Figgins down in the order and then sat him on the bench for a lack of production.
Well, Wedge hasn't benched him. Is there cause to give him a day off to "sit and watch a big league ball game" as Wedge likes to say. Well, yes. Ichiro is hitless in his last 13 at-bats. He has just three hits in 34 at-bats. His batting average has dropped to .252 and his on-base percentage to .292.
Sadly, .252 is still the third highest batting average amongst Mariners regulars.
But because his swing and his approach is so vastly different than the norm. It's hard to point out certain things that are wrong. You can't say pitch selection because he's always hit bad pitches well and get hits out of them. You could say the timing is off, but Ichiro's timing has never been normal by comparison. It has to be in his head a little. For the first time in his career, he's truly struggling and hasn't been able to hit his way out. In the past when he would have an extended slump, he would put together a couple three hit games and pop right out. But the last time he had three hits in one game was April 23. That's 41 games since. Last season he hat 13 3-hit games.
It isn't just at the plate where we've seen struggles. The defense hasn't been great. We can look at ultimate zone rating and new metrics that show he's one of the worst defensive right fielders in baseball. You can also see it. He's hesitant on plays at the wall. He's a step slow and almost hesitant because of it.
Are we seeing the signs of age catching up to him? You have to think they are a little.
Look, I think Ichiro has earned the right to get the benefit of the doubt for a little while. This isn't a matter of effort or preparation. We know that Ichiro is fanatical about being ready to play. It's just a matter of him understanding that some things aren't working and an adjustment in approach and mentality has to be made. The mortal baseball players have had to do that throughout their career. He hasn't been mortal at times. His way has always worked. But right now, it's not working.
Should he get a game off? It couldn't hurt. Will he get a game off? If anyone could or would do it, Wedge is that guy.