Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has been barnstorming with Japan's national team in the WBC for so long, he lost out on all the fun at Mariners camp. He's missed Russell Branyan leaving upper-deckers in manager Don Wakamatsu's private bathroom, Erik Bedard giving Brandon Morrow the hotfoot at least twice a week, and the time Adrian Beltre fell asleep in the back of the team bus and ended up in Cody, Wyoming. That was quite the gaffe, Adrian!
So our favorite Seattle beat writer Geoff Baker finally had a chance to converse with Ichiro (well, to converse with Ichiro's interpreter) for the first time since last September. He skipped the nonsense "how are you feeling" questions and went right for the meat of the matter. Baker asked about Ichiro's reactions to former teammate J.J. Putz' comments that the M's had some stubborn players who weren't "team guys", citing Ichiro's lack of leadership.
"This is major league baseball,'' Ichiro said. "We're all professionals here. Is it really at a level where I have to explain to other people what the reasons are that I do some things? We're all professionals. It makes me feel like..that's like the level of a Mom telling a child 'This is why I do things.'
"So, the problem once again is, we were still at that level. Maybe that was the problem. That we were still at that level. Isn't what a professional is, that you look at other things and you try to (borrow) other things by watching and learning from others?
"This is so silly that I hate to be wasting time with this kind of thing,'' he added. "I'm surprised at this. I'm surprised.''
Burn! Either Ichiro is truly a professional and private player in the mold of Cal Ripken who prefers to let his bat and glove do the talking and sleep on separate floors from the rest of the team in hotels guarded by a dozen black ninjas, or he's just a total asshole. You decide! He also said he never felt like he was a leader of the Japanese team either, citing a more individual approach to success:
"We're baseball players ... who want to improve themselves as baseball players and also want to improve themselves as human beings. That's what's important."
This is similar to the time Ossie Vitt called out Ty Cobb for being a sour prima donna on the 1915 Tigers, except that Cobb responded by calling Vitt a dastardly coward and shooting him in the kneecap.