|A clean-shaven Ichiro Suzuki acknowledges the ovation|
from the Seattle crowd before his first at-bat with the
New York Yankees.
While the sight of Ichiro Suzuki in a Yankees uniform is emotionally grotesque, the trade makes sense for all three parties.
The Mariners have resolved what I call "the Ripken dilemma" — the issue of what to do with a fading face-of-the-franchise.
Ichiro, nearing the end of his brilliant career, gets a shot at the World Series.
The Yankees get a reasonable replica to fill in for the injured Brett Gardner.
Ichiro is no longer Ichiro!, and that was a problem for the Mariners. They could no longer be built around him — not effectively, at any rate — and their shared history made a secondary role for him almost impossible.
The Yankees aren't tied to his past. And they don't need him to be great (although they certainly won't object if he has a three-month flashback to his prime).
Gardner is a pale imitation of Ichiro at his best, but at this stage of their respective careers, a healthy Gardner is better than Ichiro. Gardner being unable to play, Ichiro is an upgrade on the Yankees' alternatives.
Ichiro is said to have initiated the trade himself, and it's believable if only for the checklist of concessions he agreed to:
- He'll play left field, not his accustomed right.
- He'll hit at the bottom of the order, not at the top.
- He'll be clean-shaven.
- He'll wear No. 31, not his favored 51.
So this works for everybody, except for those of us sentimentalists who'd prefer to know the star only in one uniform.