I've learned to stop being surprised by the ridiculous things the Yankees do in order to win some ball games. Bringing Ichiro into the fold is just the Yankees being the Yankees and whether or not you love 'em or hate 'em for the outlandish personnel decisions they're able to make because of their hefty wallets, you still have to rationalize this trade from a normal person's standpoint. Who are the Yankees really getting?
Ichiro is a 38-year-old outfielder who from 2001-2010 was the most consistent hitter in baseball. We all know from the 10 years of 200-plus hits, the MVP/RoY in 2001, the lifetime .322 avg, the spring in his step...I could go on about this Ichiro.
What they Yankees are getting is a .261 hitter with a .288 OBP and a marginal base-stealing threat.
Clearly, this isn't a long-term solution (though I still wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees decided to ink him to a 10-year, $200 million contract, you know, because they can). The Yanks have pretty much borrowed Ichiro hoping to finally fill the collective void left permanently by Brett Gardner—and temporarily by Nick Swisher—with a solution that doesn't involve Dewayne Wise.
Ichiro is a fine presence in any clubhouse. The guy is allegedly more regimented and hard-working than anyone out there, even if he does do weird things like visit George Sisler's grave. Numbers aside, I'm sure most teams wouldn't mind an Ichiro on their squad.
Buuuuuut what to do with a man with a .288 OBP, a player whose stats from 2011 and what he's on pace for this season indicate that he's just an average singles hitter? It's not hard to get excited about him, but it's just as easy to be wary of the real production he'll bring to the Bronx.
Also, leave it to Yankee fans, who were ready to burn Ichiro at the stake if he even stepped foot near that No. 51 jersey that Bernie wore so proudly. Jesus could resurrect himself, hit a home run every time at the plate, want to play for the Yankees (because what other team would Jesus play for, amirite?), insist on wearing 51 because let's face it, I've just made it Jesus' favorite number, and Yankees fans would still vilify him for disrespecting Bernie Williams' legacy.
The Yankees were serious contenders without Ichiro and they're serious contenders with him. The impulse buy (Brian Cashman resorts to his crippling shopping vice whenever the Yankees lose three or more in a row) is not what will push the Yankees forward in October. That was, is, and will always be starting pitching.
As is always true with the Yankees, we'll have to wait 'til October to see how this really all plays out.