Ichiro opens up, says he ‘felt desperate’ in worst season

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Ichiro Suzuki, 38, had the worst season of his MLB career in 2011, notching career lows in average (.272), hits (184), on-base (.310) and slugging (.335) as his Seattle Mariners struggled to a 67-95 record and second straight last-place finish in the AL West.

Ichiro talked about his disappointing year with the Nikkan Sports newspaper, and Reuters picked up the story.

As is usually the case with Ichiro, the story out of Japan is far more illuminating than just about anything that ever appears in the US press. Just a matter of being comfortable in your environment, I suppose.

Among the highlights in the story:

  • Ichiro didn’t feel right for much of the season, even in April while racking up an AL-best 39 hits. But he couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and the uncertainty kind of drove him nuts. “I felt desperate last season. That doesn’t happen to me very often. Mental stress is a lot worse than physical stress.”
  • He doesn’t take too kindly to those that suggest his drop-off is simply a natural part of the aging process. “Sometimes I feel I’m getting older, or more sensitive to what they say on TV,” he said. Can you hear the crankiness in his voice? He is getting older! Next thing you know he’ll be telling us all to get off his lawn. Ichiro did follow up the comment with this gem, however:

“Yes my skin gets dry but it’s a lame conclusion to blame everything on age. People are quick to point to age. Those kinds of people don’t interest me. But if you’re going to call yourself a professional, you need to put up results.”

  • Another nugget glossed over in the Reuters story is this: Ichiro has been linked to the general manager’s job at his former Japanese club Orix.

Very interesting. Ichiro’s contract is up after the 2012 season, so I suppose he could be looking for front office gigs back in Japan. But the scuttlebutt is that he’ll be looking for an extension from the Mariners as he chases the 3,000-hit milestone. With 2,428 career MLB hits, he would need to average 190 over the next three seasons to get to 3,000. Unless Ichiro continues to decline, an idea that surely makes him bristle, I’d bet on something getting done, possibly before the end of the 2012 season.

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Bryce Harper activated from the disabled list

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The Nationals have activated Bryce Harper from the disabled list.

They were expected to activate Harper yesterday but they didn’t because Harper was suffering from an illness. He’s better today so he should be in the lineup against the Phillies.

Harper has been out since August when he slipped on a wet first base bag and was diagnosed with a bone bruise in his left knee. That interrupted an MVP-caliber season in which he was hitting .326/.419/.614 with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances. While the postseason awards are out of his reach, the Nats will be content to get him back up to speed in time for what looks to be a first round playoff matchup against the Chicago Cubs.

Someone stole Trevor Bauer’s drone

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Last year Trevor Bauer‘s playoff availability — and performance — was impacted in a major way by a drone injury. Specifically, Bauer lacerated his pinky on the outside of his right hand while repairing one of the drones he designs, builds and flies.

Now, a little over a week before the Indians begin the defense of their American League pennant, Bauer is embroiled in further drone drama. He tweeted this afternoon that his drone “IronMan” has been stolen. He has implored the public for Iron Man’s safe return so that he need not risk his pinky finger with yet another October drone injury:

I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the Indians themselves stole the drone so that Bauer does not mess with it anymore until the season is over. They need him too badly.