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May 18, 2007 at 5:19 PM

Hit and run job

Figured I’d ask Mike Hargrove about his decision to call for that hit-and-run in last night’s seventh inning with Ichiro on first base and nobody out. Hargrove’s answer was exactly what I suspected — that he was trying to stay out of a double-play — but I asked the question anyway in light of Ichiro’s comments last night.
For those of you who missed what Ichiro said, through interpreter Ken Barron, here it is:
“It was a situation where we wanted to get runners on base because we were down by three,” Ichiro said. “So, when I got the sign, I kind of had a bad feeling about it.”
That, in any language, is what is commonly refered to as second-guessing one’s manager. There’s more though, with Ichiro expressing pride at being able to predict the dismal outcome. What he didn’t say, of course, is that the guy calling for the hit-and-run obviously did not share that same gut feeling.
“The fact that I was able to predict that made me kind of happy,” Ichiro said. “In the game of baseball, feelings like that are very key. Because baseball is not just a game of what you see. There are many things you can’t see that are going on inside the game of baseball. So, that I was able to see that something like that was going to happen made me happy.”
Ichiro did maintain that he would never disobey his manager and ignore a sign, in spite of his feelings.
“I could never do that.”
No, but he sure can talk about it afterwards and make sure that everyone knows it wasn’t his idea. No matter what you think of the call Hargrove made — and I’ve heard compelling arguments on both sides — this really isn’t the time for finger pointing. It’s great that Ichiro has such fantastic baseball insitincts that he can predict when Bartolo Colon is going to miss his target by two feet and leave his catcher in a situation akin to a pitchout. Maybe the Mariners should use Ichiro’s predictive skills to help them out the next time they sign a free agent starter. But honestly, I’d rather see him just play the game the way he does best. This “my gut told me” stuff really leaves a bad taste.
And besides, what about the hitter, Jose Vidro, a guy affectionately (I’m sure) dubbed “Turbo” by some Seattle fans due to his lack of speed? He was a legit double-play candidate in that situation. So, starting the runner does make sense, especially when you have a guy at the plate who — above all else — has shown a propensity to put the ball in-play to the right side. If that happens on Thursday night, the M’s have runners at the corners with none out. They have those badly-needed runners Ichiro is talking about. If you don’t make the second baseman scamper over to cover his bag on a hit-and-run and “Turbo” hits into a 4-6-3 double-play, how many screams of protest would we be hearing the other way?
“He handles the bat real well and the last time I looked, he’d hit into quite a few double-plays,” Hargrove said of Vidro. “So, that was it.”
Hargrove said he was sorry to see Ichiro’s 45-game consecutive stolen base streak come to an end.
“I think it was an amazing streak,” he said. “I think it was a good streak. I’m sorry that it ended the way it did. But that’s baseball. I wish he had gotten 45 more. But all things are meant to end at some point in time and I can’t — I don’t think anybody can — go into a ballgame and try to manage to keep a certain streak alive.”
No, they can’t. Yes, it was a good streak. An even better streak would be seeing this team win more than one or two games in a row. But that takes more than a hindsight-filled crystal ball.
Anyhow, the lineup is what it usually is tonight when everyone is healthy. Raul Ibanez feels better tonight and is back hitting third, with Richie Sexson again batting cleanup. Maybe Ichiro knows when Sexson will get his average over the .200-mark? Now that’s a prediction I’m sure all of you are waiting for breathlessly. No more interleague cracks, I promise. Many of you have spoken and if it’s cool with you, it’s cool with me.

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