Back in the beginning of the offseason, we did our free-agent predictions. Like most of the stuff here, it was a post that took me hours and hours, with each prediction carefully crafted after extensive meditation. One of those predictions was that Ichiro would go to the Giants. I don't know how I thought I'd get away with it, but people noticed. That's something you have to commit to, predicting Ichiro to the Giants. It's a big name, even if the production isn't big these days.
And before we go any further, let's stop and make sure we're all together on this:
If that player's name were Bill Barnsblatt, you would make the sign of the cross when you read his hame, and you'd move down the free-agent list. But it's Ichiro of Ichiro fame. So you stand on your head to look at the numbers differently. Because you want Ichiro to work. So you might note that with the Yankees over the last three months, he hit .322/.340/.454, ran the bases well, and played a good outfield. Well, I think he played a good outfield. Defensive Runs Saved hated him last year, but UZR loved him. Those two kind have have a Judean People's Front/People's Front of Judea kind of relationship.
He'll be 39. That should probably end the debate. The stats plus the age equal, in technical terms, a lol-no player.
But in the safety of the offseason, I can't help but be intrigued. Right now, because there's still that championship smell in the air -- smells like persimmons and the lamentations of their women -- I can't fathom another championship run. Simply can't fathom it. More than that, I can't fathom how that's the end goal. I don't know how Yankees fans do it every year. In the words of Bern Hembrook … "I've been on the moon. Did a push-up, ate an egg on it … what more can you do with it?"
This will change in the middle of next year. The bloodlust for the playoffs will come back, as will the desire to see them driven before us. Surprising players will emerge, rooting interests will be massaged, and we'll invent more reasons why the Giants deserve the championship for baseball's sake as the champions of what is right and pure.
Right now, though, I'm thinking the goal of next season is for the Giants to be exciting. Unless they rip off a 116-win, historical season, there's no way the 2013 Giants will be as exciting as the 2012 Giants. But I'll pull the following percentages from my nether regions, and guess at the likelihood of Ichiro being worth a starting spot:
The ol' Ichiro! - 2 percent
An exciting variety of Ichiro! - 10 percent
A productive, Gregor Blanco-like Ichiro - 20 percent
The equivalent of Steve Finley in his season with the Giants - 50 percent
Really, really bad - 16 percent
So bad, even Bruce Bochy benches him - 2 percent
Your made-up percentages may vary. But the idea remains the same. The odds are against an exciting Ichiro. The odds are against a productive Ichiro. If I had to pick a likely outcome, it would be a tolerable Ichiro. He was worth around two wins last year -- the Blanco comparison wasn't an idle one, as the two outfielders were comparable in value.
But from a winter perspective, the Giants can play for style points right now. And I'm entranced by the best-case scenario. Ichiro ripping triples into the gap. Ichiro beating out infield hits. Ichiro hitting .330 in a dead-cat bounce of a season. It would have that same kind of feeling that Joe Morgan brought with him; you would be fully aware that he was past his prime, but you could still hope for a last pinch of Hall of Fame dust.
And from a spring perspective, when Ichiro is hitting .225/.285/.310 as of May 30, you would want to kick the winter perspective right in the perspective-maker.
What it is, then, is an emotional case vs. a logical case. As such, I'll set down on the side of logic. I get the upside is uniquely thrilling, but see that part up there with the stats and the age? If that trend were to continue, man, it would be tough to watch. And you know he'd play every day. It takes a while for the skipper to notice when a player goes full Tejada.
So I'll pass on the idea of Ichiro -- and it should be noted there haven't been any rumors linking him to the Giants -- but I'll reserve the right to be irrationally excited and curious about him. I remember thinking Omar Vizquel was going play like the desiccated remains of Omar Vizquel, but for two years, that move sure worked out. I've already given up on evaluating average-dependent players, so I could get used to shutting my brain off and rooting for Ichiro, even if I know it's probably a foolish, foolish thing.