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Ichiro Might Try Pitching

Ichiro gave a rare, extended interview to Jon Saraceno of USA Today in which he revealed a lot about himself. In the article, Ichiro says the possibility of leaving the Mariners would be a touchy subject. The entire article is well worth a read if you want to get inside the head of the Mariners outfielder. But there was one part that stood out to me, potentially more than anything else. Ichiro says he’s considering pitching.

“Once I turn 40,” he says, “I can become a pitcher. I’m kind of serious about it. But I’ll have to learn to throw a knuckleball. Right now, I could be a ‘normal’ pitcher,” who can top out at 95 mph with a fastball.

As my buddy GP John said, “How f***ing gangster would that be? Ichiro would immediately be my favorite player.” You know what, that would be a stretch for most players. But Ichiro is unlike most players. He’s special. He takes care of himself better than most players. He stays in incredible shape, and has a tremendous arm. I’ve heard that if Ichiro wanted to change his approach at the plate, he could hit 25 home runs a season — based on the way he clubs in batting practice. Combining all this information makes me think Ichiro could be a valuable pitcher if he chose to. I already was a big Ichiro fan — now, I’m even more of one. How sweet would it be to see Ichiro pitch?

(Thanks to Ballhype and Gaslamp Ball for directing my attention to the article)

King Felix Hernandez Stole the Show

On what was supposed to be Dice-K vs. Ichiro night, it was the other pitcher who stole the show. In what was supposed to be the biggest regular season game by Japanese players in Major League Baseball, it was the wrong pitcher who shined. He was supposed to be an afterthought, an ignored man. He was supposed to allow an 8th inning home run to Manny or Papi so that Matsuzaka could get the win in dramatic fashion, following 8 scoreless innings in front of hundreds of media members. Papelbon was supposed to come in and shut the door, putting an exclamation point on Ichiro and Kenji’s combined 0-8 night. It was supposed to be a glorious night in Boston, with the Fenway faithful rejoicing and celebrating the legend that is Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Instead, what they got was putrid hope. Mere begging that the beloved Red Sox could muster a hit, just one single, measly base knock for that $80 million offense. Felix Hernandez wore his crown proudly Wednesday night, shedding his prince shoals, and ascending to his rightful throne.

On the biggest stage possible, with the whole baseball world watching, Felix Hernandez was brilliant — for the second straight game, only this time, it went noticed.

This time, nobody could help not noticing. King Felix was unbelievable. Two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana doesn’t show that type of stuff. Roy Oswalt doesn’t show that type of stuff. Maybe five years ago Randy Johnson had it. Because that’s how good Felix Hernandez looked, embarrassing the Boston lineup. Hernandez dialed his fastball to the upper 90s all night long, hitting 97, 98, and 99 on the gun with regularity, even touching triple digits on occasion. Couple that with pinpoint control, and a filthy breaking ball, and it’s no longer a fair match for the batter. I can’t remember a pitcher looking so dominant since Randy Johnson five years ago. Maybe Kerry Wood before all the injuries.

May health bless this man Felix Hernandez. I can only pray that in three years we won’t be talking about that stud who once threw a one-hitter against the Red Sox killer lineup. I truly hope that Felix Hernandez has taken the step into brilliance — distinguishing himself from the pitchers with potential — to the men who are memorable. I hope your reign atop the baseball land is long King Felix, because I was truly in awe.

Baseball Preview: Seattle Mariners

Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.

Seattle Mariners (78-84, 4th in the AL West) +3 games

Get Crunked: 1-6 this can be one of the top lineups in baseball. How about this, you take the best seasons that Ichiro, Beltre, Sexson, Ibanez, Jose Guillen, and Kenji Johjima have all turned in, and you’re talking about a lineup comparable to the Yankees. The question is, can they all put it together at the same time? The rotation is solid, and it’s led by youngster Felix Hernandez who can be the next top pitcher in the AL. JJ Putz came on as one of the top closers in the league after Eddie Guardado blew nuts last year.

Party Foul: Consistency is the issue for this team. Will they get the end of ’05 King Felix, or the one who got bombed last year? Will they get the ’05 3.20ERA Jarrod Washburn or the 4.67ERA of last year? The Jeff Weaver cut by the Angels or the Jeff Weaver who won the World Series for St. Louis? The list goes on and on…’03 Jose Guillen, ’04 Beltre, who will show up? That is the question for Seattle.

Adrian Beltre is a model of the Mariners inconsistency

What’d my GM do: He locked up JJ Putz for 3 years at a reasonable amount. Miguel Batista was signed for 3 years at $25 million and will be a cheaper alternative to Gil Meche. Jose Guillen was an excellent bargain at $5.5 mil for one year since he has a ton of upside. Jeff Weaver at just over $8 mil is a bit pricey, but as long as he keeps his ish together, they should be fine. I actually was fine with the Rafael Soriano trade to Atlanta, because the Mariners needed Horacio Ramirez to fill out the rotation.

Lay it on me Straight: If all breaks right for this squad, meaning those free agent a-holes who were brought in over the last two seasons actually play the way they were paid to, this team could win the division, no joke. But the likelihood of that happening isn’t great. HOWEVA, the Mariners will see a vast improvement over last year, and they’ll be back in the division hunt once again.

So where my boys gonna finish right now: At .500, not too far behind the A’s and Angels, who both will probably be worse than last year.

Can we be better than that: Heck yes — this team has the potential to take the division (but not go too far in the playoffs).