First off, I need to apologize to Justin Bopp. Justin's our editor around here, and while I know that Justin probably wants me to have a hot take on the wild card games last night or tonight, all I want to talk about is Ichiro Suzuki re-signing with the Marlins. So...yeah...I'm expecting huge traffic with this.
When the move was announced yesterday, there was pretty universal mockery heaped on the Marlins. After all, the once invincible Ichiro hit an abysmal .229/.282/.279 this year in Miami, a 56 OPS+. At 41 years old, there is simply no way for Ichiro to be a productive player anymore. He is coming back, presumably, so that he can accumulate the 65 hits he needs to reach 3000 for his career, but given that he only had 91 this year and that he unexpectedly topped 400 plate appearances, the march to his milestone is going to wind up a crawl.
Still, none of us should begrudge him the opportunity. He's earned that right, and if somebody wants to pay one of the most remarkable athletes to come through the Major Leagues to continue to play baseball, he should absolutely do it.
And, frankly, nobody should be terribly upset at the Marlins. Now, listen, making fun of the Marlins (and especially Jeffrey Loria and former terrible Survivor contestant David Samson) is one of my favorite pastimes. Nobody enjoys shooting those barrel fish more. And sure, the move to bring Ichiro back is blatantly about enticing more people to come out to Marlins Park for the final chase, and not about making the team better.
But what kind of damage can Ichiro do to their attempt to maybe, sort of, halfway try to put a respectable team on the field this time? Assuming Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna are all healthy, Ichiro is a pinch hitter and 4th outfielder at most. Teams shouldn't dole out big money on backup outfielders. Ideally, they would have one to promote from the minors, but they really are short on Major League ready hitters. And if Stanton, Yelich, or Ozuna is down for all or part of the year? Well, then the Marlins are sunk anyway, and Ichiro at least gives fans something to care about, especially if they make him into a part-time reliever.
And, really, if winning is not in the cards for them in 2016 (and looking at that roster, it's hard to imagine that it would be), giving fans reasons to come out to the park should absolutely be one of their goals. The team's decision to move the walls in is part of that as well, as fans continue to dig offense and Miami has one of the most dynamic offensive players in the game already in Stanton. Why would you blame the Marlins for that, given that they've been last in the National League in attendance every year since 2006, with the exception of 2012, when they opened their new park? They have to get fans to come out somehow if they're ever going to develop a sustained interest in putting a decent team on the field.
Look, I know all of us are sick of Loria and Samson and the rest of the clown show that is the Marlins leadership. I know that anything that helps them financially makes them more likely to maintain their stranglehold on a franchise and a market that has never been given a chance to succeed. But let's be fair. The decision to bring back Ichiro is the right one, from a sentimental standpoint, and from a baseball one. Don't criticize it just out of habit. After all, there will be plenty of other opportunities to laugh at the Marlins' foibles this offseason.
For instance, let's talk about Dan Jennings...