Despite past failings, Marlins ownership right with Ichiro
By JON ALBA
College Contributor Network
It's not often that Miami Marlins ownership is held in high regard.
Jeff Loria has become a man personified by bad decisions and insincerity. He hit and quit the Montreal Expos' franchise, nearly leading to the team's contraction and eventually, played a strong hand in destroying a relationship between the league and city. Then, just a year after nearly sinking them into the ground, he jumped ship to Florida and inherited a championship team.
Then, he destroyed that a year and a half later.
And remember the dream acquisitions of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Ozzie Guillen, brought in to supplement the ongoing rage over a deli-slicer-looking, mostly publicly-funded stadium? That lasted about as long as the XFL.
But I'll lay off Loria for today. Because he and the Marlins have done something right. Everyone, even as Martin Brodeur shows us, deserves to go out on their own terms. And Miami is letting Ichiro Suzuki do just that.
Not long ago, I wrote of a new era in baseball looming in front of us. It insinuates that there are players, in rarity, who come around and help define the game. They are faces of the sport, and the distinction is handed down from generation to generation.
Yet there has never been a player like Ichiro. And because of the radical changes in foreign free agency since his American arrival, there will never be again.
With 156 more hits, the 41-year-old will reach the iconic 3,000 mark. That'll put him at 4,122 for his career counting his years in Japan. And though he's not getting younger, he still has time to strive for more.
The goal of course? Well, that number stands at 4,256, Pete Rose's iconic total. A number that, should Ichiro come even remotely close, will be refuted because of the "differences" in the Japanese and American styles of baseball. As if one era of Major League Baseball has been equivalent to the other. For all we know, Ty Cobb and Mark McGwire basically played on the same field.
Regardless, Ichiro deserves even a shot at it. At one year and $2 million, this is one signing I'll stand completely behind for the Marlins. Low-risk, with opportunity for incredibly high reward. And while he's unlikely to hit .330 as the No. 4 outfielder, that high reward comes in other forms.
In yet another case of "only in Loria's world," Miami somehow seems poised for potential playoff success. "Somehow" is a result of natural farmhands coming to the main roster, a startling long-term (though in actuality, another case of a six years, hit-and-quit) contract for Giancarlo Stanton, the return of Jose Fernandez and the acquisition of veterans like Dan Haren, Mike Morse, Dee Gordon and Mat Latos. Throw in Ichiro, and this team doesn't look all that different from the championship teams of 1997 and 2003. And while the next installment of "As the Loria Turns" will feature the main character trading off 85 percent of the cast by Season 3, there seems to be an ensemble that could win them an Emmy in its pilot season.
Maximizing Ichiro's potential in the outfield will be key. I was surprised he logged on with a National League team due to the lack of a designated hitter, but his speed and athleticism has never been questioned, even at his age. In 2014, with the DH position in play, Joe Girardi logged the former MVP his fewest at-bats in a season with just 359. With a sport based largely off rhythm, it is marginally hard to establish consistency in such a role, as he was often used in the loose-leaf-binder-driven, infamous Girardi platoon. Still, he put up a respectable .284 average while still notching 15 steals.
In short, the guy can still play.
With an outfield full of talent in Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, finding the Japanese star playing time will be difficult, though given the double-switch tendencies of the NL, not all that impossible. Miami has a man who can be of great assistance to the young guns in the clubhouse and still a role-player on the field.
And of course, make no mistake about it. As Ichiro chases 3,000, and potentially even the all-time hits total, Loria & Co. will capitalize. The 3,000 celebration tape that will air on the jumbo-tron will include great Marlins Ichiro highlights, such as his first at-bat as a Marlin, his second at-bat as a Marlin and maybe even his third, all while the fish in left-center does flips with pyros going off. Remember the "Ichi-Roll" at Yankee Stadium? Well get ready for the "Ichi-Cuban Press."
Besides, if it doesn't work out, when Loria trades him midseason to the Tigers for cash, at least Dave Dombrowski will do it right with the "Motor City Ichiromodel" car giveaway. All of the stowaway orange "3,000" t-shirts can go to the parts of Miami paying off the stadium debt.
But that's all fine. Because from taking the risk on him to even making the trip out to Japan to announce his signing, I give credit to the Marlins for making this deal happen. It gives a man most deserving of going out on his own terms an opportunity to do so, and even make an impact on young talent in the process.
Here's to you, Miami. Make the most of this, as Ichiro certainly will.
Jon Alba is a senior at Quinnipiac University. There he serves as general manager of the school's television station, Q30 Television. Find more of his work on his official website. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAlbaSFC.