Those are the words of a former teammate of Ichiro’s from the Orix Blue Wave. They come in a must-read article by Wright Thompson in ESPN the Magazine about the 44-year-old future Hall of Famer’s drive to keep playing.
That drive paid off in the form of a major league deal offered by the Seattle Mariners which Ichiro accepted last week. Most people are viewing it as a nostalgia trip for the Mariners and the only way Ichiro can keep playing in America. That may or may not be true, but the desire — which teeters on the edge of desperation — is chronicled in detail by Thompson, who was granted access to Ichiro that no one in this country has ever had.
It’s a fascinating story giving us a glimpse at an Ichiro who, for as major a figure he has been in major league baseball over the past 17 years, is someone we know relatively little about. And even if we knew a lot about him, it chronicles a chapter of his career — perhaps his last offseason before his whole life becomes an offseason — for which perhaps the most prepared baseball player in the past several decades seems shockingly unprepared.
If you read nothing else today, read this.
The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.
Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.
The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.
In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.