SEATTLE, WA - Ichiro Suzuki of the New York Yankees warms up during batting practice after being traded to the Yankees from the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Ichiro Suzuki is on the Yankees now. He's old and not very good these days, but you can be sure this will work out for the Yankees somehow.
As a man of logic, I don't believe in curses. Don't believe in fate, destiny, or the baseball gods. The Cubs have been without a championship over the last century for thousands of different reasons. None of those reasons have to do with billy goats, curses, or spooky sky wizards.
As a man of baseball, I believe in curses, superstitions, and everything in between. The Cubs lose because that's their destiny. I don't talk about no-hitters while they're in progress. I tend to wear the same underwear a lot, possibly in a baseball-related context.
These two sides of my brain are in a constant battle. Seriously, these curses, gut feelings, and hunches are nonsense. But when you grow up watching players jump over foul lines, and announcers deftly navigate around the term "no-hitter", you get sucked into it. I fight against it. But I'm not completely innocent.
Most of my columns suckle at the teat of logic. Mmmmmmmm, rational lactose. But here's one that veers way off into the other direction. Because there's no way the Ichiro trade isn't going to work out for the Yankees. I can just feel it. You can just feel it. It's predictable and illogically sound. It's all about guts, hunches, and rain's-a-comin' predictions. Feel it in yer bones, you do.
Because here's the logic: Ichiro is 38. Last year, he was pretty bad. This year, he's worse. You can see where that line graph is going. It's not pretty. When a 38-year-old outfielder declines, he usually declines hard. Put it this way: Duke Snider never made it to 38. When he was 37, he was a pinch-hitter for the Giants.
The odds are that Ichiro isn't going to be a plus-hitting corner outfielder with the Yankees. For one, he's been a below-average hitter for the past year-plus. For another, his role as a starter isn't guaranteed. He could be a bat off the bench. Could depend on who's swinging the hot bat. The Andruw Jones/Raul Ibanez platoon has been working fairly well this season, plus it sounds like this idea wasn't exactly something that Brian Cashman or Joe Girardi came up with:
Cashman on Ichiro trade: 'We were not on any level of this a week ago.' Initial conversations started with both club's presidents.— Pete Caldera (@pcaldera) July 24, 2012
Everything points to a marginalized, glossed-over, bench-bound Ichiro. He'll get his pinch hits. There will be good ones. There will be bad ones. The odds suggest there will be far more bad ones than good ones.
But what do you expect? What do you believe, deep down in those roiling innards of yours? Ichiro, resurrecting his career at just the right time. Ichiro, becoming a thing in New York during the stretch run. Ichiro, acting as some sort of New York-approved agent of divine intervention, arriving at just the right time to give those long-suffering Yankees fans exactly what they were looking for. They're going to co-opt another franchise's icon, aren't they? This is Wade Boggs riding on a police horse all over again.
There is no analysis behind this proclamation. No PITCHf/x derring-do, no spray charts, and no laborious exposés into what makes Ichiro tick. He's a 38-year-old outfielder working on his second-straight bad season. He's probably done. Them's the odds.
In June, I wrote this:
But there's always something. There's always a Cano. There's always a Gardner. There's always a Bartolo Colon or Ivan Nova or Andy Pettitte doing things you weren't expecting. There's always a Nick Swisher getting snapped up after his worst season, and there's always a Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon defying normal aging curves for just one more year.
There's always something. There's always something that makes the Yankees be the best team -- or close to it -- in baseball. There's always something that shouldn't happen that you expect to happen that shouldn't happen that does. It's not something that leads to a championship every season. Don't be ridiculous. The baseball gods aren't that obvious. It happens only ever four seasons or so.
Honestly, I'm expecting a .350/.370/.430 finish with a couple of big playoff hits. Just because. There's no supporting evidence. You're still feeling it in yer bones, though. Of course you are. This scares you. It scares me, dammit.
But analyze those BABIPs. Study those age/production curves. Dig through the annals of the Hall of Fame to find the proper comp. Whatever. Ichiro is going to be a thing for the Yankees -- an anachronistic, unexpected, and perception-altering thing -- and there isn't a damned thing you can do to stop it.