Saying goodbye to a superstar: The first step

Aug 30, 2011, 9:04 PM | Updated: 10:59 pm

Ichiro-wide
Ichiro has built a Hall of Fame resume in 11 seasons with the Mariners, but is it time for the team to move on? (AP)

By Tom Wassell

Addiction. In the early stages of abuse, nobody ever has a problem. They’re simply enjoying the highs of a newfound substance and having a bit of fun. Life is great. But at some point, that substance becomes EVERYTHING. So all-consuming that there isn’t room for anything else in life.

Has Seattle reached that point with Ichiro?

When we first saw him, he was the most electrifying leadoff in the majors since Rickey Henderson (minus the power). He took his place as the spearhead of a balanced offense that had already been established and fans of the Mariners couldn’t have been more excited. And who could blame them?

Ten years later, all that’s left of those idyllic days is … Ichiro.

He’s the star player that everyone has clung to for survival in the world of Seattle baseball. His (legitimate) greatness has, over time, become an excuse for lack of productivity on the part of just about every other underachieving player and failed roster move that the Mariners have subjected their fans to since about 2003 — the last time this team truly competed for a title.

There is a phenomenon in sports that deals with the departure of star players from a given team and within a year, said team becomes a contender. Let’s look to history for a few examples of teams that essentially LOST (meaning they had been dealt or were gone because of injury) their superstars either the year of or the year before making THE LEAP back to contention and/or a championship.

1983 Orioles — Earl Weaver (yes, I’m counting a manager) / WON World Series

1986 Angels — Rod Carew / WON AL West

1988 Dodgers — Fernando Valenzuela & Pedro Guerrero / WON World Series

1990 NY Giants — Phil Simms / WON Super Bowl

1991 Braves — Dale Murphy / WON NL Championship

1996 Yankees — Don Mattingly / WON World Series

1994 49ers — Joe Montana / WON Super Bowl (Montana’s last year with SF was ’92)

2001 Patriots — Drew Bledsoe / WON Super Bowl

2004 Red Sox — Nomar Garciaparra / WON World Series

2005 White Sox — Frank Thomas / WON World Series

2007 NY Giants — Tiki Barber / WON Super Bowl

There are other examples of this, but you get the point. The idea that this team needs to have Ichiro as a part of it to win a championship is simply incorrect. He has been a tremendous player for over a decade, but the Mariners need a breath of FRESH AIR — something all of the teams listed above needed and received in a big way.

Yes, his salary is a hindrance to Jack Zduriencik’s ability to acquire other parts, but if we take a step back, we realize that what Seattle REALLY needs is a clean slate. More than money, more than attitude, more than his status as an icon, the Mariners need to turn the page on a Hall of Fame career, recognize Ichiro for what he meant to the franchise during a tough period and let a new generation of M’s fans (as well as the team itself) find their own identity.

Seattle has been dependent on (and addicted to) the greatness of Ichiro for so long. It’s been a fun time. But at some point, we all need to make changes in our lives so that we can mature and become better people.

This is that time for the Mariners.

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