The impossible, or what I thought was the impossible, or maybe what I had hoped was the impossible, happened Monday afternoon.
Out of nowhere, I got a text from my friend Jimmy, who isn't a baseball fan but apparently works with somebody who knows somebody in the Mariners' front office. He said Ichiro was being traded to the Yankees. I didn't believe Jimmy and told him so — between furiously checking Twitter and tuning into Seattle's ESPN Radio station, that is. About 10 minutes later, the first blasts came through. They lasted for the rest of the day.
At 7 p.m., I saw Ichiro in a Yankees uniform for the first time. I felt sick. At about 7:45, I watched him hit a classic Ichiro line-drive single to center at Safeco Field, then steal second base. I knew he was going, the Mariners knew he was going, everybody knew he was going. He still made it in plenty of time. I got emotional, because even if he isn't the player he used to be, there are still flashes. But Mariners fans don't get to enjoy those flashes anymore. Yankees fans (the worst of the lot, I tell you what) do.
As a lifelong Mariners fan, I have a lot of thoughts about Monday's developments. Some practical — yes, Ichiro is declining, his salary is too expensive, and the Mariners needed to get something in return for him if they weren't going to re-sign him in the offseason; some nostalgic — you never want to see a team icon leave, especially to the Evil Empire; some angry — we traded the MLB's single-season hits record-holder for just a soft-tossing righty and a minor league pitcher who's been DFA'd twice already?; and some selfish — I just bought this awesome T-shirt (pictured below) with the likenesses of Ichiro and King Felix on Friday, and suddenly it was rendered useless after one wearing (very similar to the Great Cliff Lee Jersey Shirt Debacle of 2010).
But the most prevalent thought in my mind is, What now? We have 2 1/2 more months to go in the season, and the Mariners' on-the-field product just got a lot less entertaining. We're talking going from 'Not Entertaining' to 'Open Oven Insert Head' territory. Since Felix only gets on the field every fifth day, I guess I'll have to fully commit to the John Jaso Bandwagon (love me some John Jaso) — but is that enough to keep me interested in this pitiful team into October? Probably not. I'll try, but I'm not optimistic.
The trouble is, I'm emotionally attached to Ichiro. I loved that, in a way, his request to be traded was selfless (he wanted to give the younger guys the playing time they needed). I loved that he cried in his press conference when asked about his favorite moments with Seattle. I loved that he started his career with New York by giving the Mariners fans one last great memory. I want him to win a championship — it really hit me when he mentioned in the press conference that he couldn't speak about a potential World Series championship since he'd only been to the playoffs in 2001 (let that sink in). But with the Yankees? With A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira, Granderson, Sabathia — all those overpaid stars, most already with rings, sell-outs (NO FACIAL HAIR???) past their prime?
But maybe this time, the potential 28th championship in New York Yankees franchise history, I'd be just OK with it. For Ichiro.
But only this once.