Should Mariners Move Ichiro Suzuki from Leadoff Spot?: A Fan’s Opinion

Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge created a lot of waves when he mentioned on Tuesday (Dec. 6) that he might change the role that Ichiro Suzuki(notes) plays on the team in 2012. Fans took to message boards everywhere to weigh in with their thoughts, many of which want the franchise to move on after having Ichiro batting leadoff for the past 11 years.

The exact words from Wedge were, "I'm still not sure where I'm going to him in the order, and I want him to understand that. Because ultimately I'm going to do what is best for our club. I'm going to put out the best nine in the order I see fit to score as many runs as we can."

His words hold a lot of value, but it also leaves him with the chance to bat Ichiro anywhere in the lineup, including in the leadoff slot. The fact is that the Mariners have Ichiro under contract for the 2012 season at a price of $18 million. His trade value probably isn't that high, but there is probably no push from the upper brass to cut the link that the Mariners have with fans back in Japan that really love Ichiro. He isn't going anywhere, and it's up to Wedge to find the best place for him next year.

In 2010, Ichiro saw his numbers slip quite a bit, falling to just a .272 batting average and 184 hits over 677 at-bats. It was the first time that he didn't reach 200 hits during a season, and it cost him a lot of fans along the way. Hopefully he can earn those fans back by putting up good numbers in Spring Training 2012, grabbing that leadoff spot again, and getting his batting average back above .300.

I believe that Ichiro still has something left in the tank and that he could still offer a good option in the leadoff spot in 2012. The leash also needs to remain very short though, with Wedge planning an alternative should he feel that Ichiro isn't living up to his contract. It's hard to predict who the Mariners would try in that spot if Ichiro got moved someplace else in the lineup, but some have thought Trayvon Robinson(notes) could do it. I am not sold on Robinson, but maybe if he got the chance he would find success.

If Ichiro does have that leadoff spot taken away from him, the entire team is going to feel different on Opening Day. Maybe that's exactly what this franchise needs though, in order to take an important step back towards the top of the American League West.

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*Ryan is a lifelong Seattle Mariners fan who never misses an opportunity to attend a game at Safeco Field. He has been attending games since 1985, and has fond memories of The Kingdome, Edgar Martinez, and the historic 1995 team. Sodo Mojo!

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Updated Thursday, Dec 8, 2011