The Mariners made a controversial move this week that has a lot of fans talking. In trimming their roster, they chose to keep Ichiro Suzuki over a younger, more productive player. KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about why he thinks it happened and what it means for the season.
The Mariners sent versatile outfielder Guillermo Heredia to AAA Tacoma and kept Ichiro Suzuki on the roster, despite Heredia having a better batting average than Ichiro and performing better defensively.
Thiel believes the move came from the Mariners ownership. Former majority owners Nintendo of America still have a seat on the board, and Thiel thinks they want to see Ichiro play the entire season to honor his contribution to Major League Baseball, the Mariners (where he began his career), and Japanese baseball and culture.
No Exit Strategy
"I don't think the Mariners have an exit strategy on this one. It all seems awkward to me," Thiel said.
"You don't want to cut the guy, cold, but you really can't afford to keep him if you're serious about this season."
Sentiment Over Winning
"There's a real dichotomy, I think, in the fan base. There are fans that want to win at all costs. And, after 16 years out of the playoffs, I understand that."
"But there's another segment of the fans who say, 'We love to see Ichiro play. We can take our kids and grandkids to say, hey, there's one of the great players in baseball history.' I get that. It's not like it's wrong."
"But the whole thing with the Mariners has always been that many people think that the club ownership is about sentiment more than winning."
"I think that changed with John Stanton's ascension as CEO. But this is a throwback. And I think a lot of fans see this as the Mariners operating the old way, where the ballpark experience and lots of sentiment around the past govern personnel decisions."
"I think people really do want to see a competitive, winning effort every time with every roster spot. So, this is not going to work out well, I don't think, because keeping him or cutting him is going to leave a lot of people with some hurt feelings."