We Got Game: The MLB All-35+ Draft

If you’re anything like me, I hate it when my favorite team signs an aging veteran free agent. I’ve uttered the phrase, “Please God don’t let them sign that crusty old vet,” too many times to count.

But those “crusty old vets” hold a ton of importance to a team’s success, especially in baseball where World Series-winning rosters usually have a mixture of both youth and veteran experience. Take the World Champion Giants for example. They won because of their young pitching, but it wasn’t Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner who wound up holding the World Series MVP Trophy at the end. It was 35-year-old Edgar Renteria, who was cursed by the SF faithful for being yet another horrible Brian Sabean signing, but wound up being a Fall Classic hero.

Today’s media doesn’t pay enough homage to the older MLB players. In fact, when fellow TSR contributor David Medsker and I were brainstorming ideas for a new feature, the first thing I brought up was that we should do an all 24-and-younger MLB team comprised of…well the idea is pretty self explanatory.

It wasn’t until David and I exhausted that idea before he sent me an e-mail that simply read: “Has anyone done an all 35-and-over team?”

Perfect. The moment I read it I burst into laughter. Could you imagine compiling a team of players that were only 35 years or older when present day teams usually build around youth? I love it.

Unfortunately, the guys over at Off Base Percentage beat us to the punch by compiling their own 35-plus year old team, so David and I decided to actually hold a live draft in order to make two teams. (Take that OBP.)

Below is a round-by-round breakdown of our all 35-and-older MLB draft. We selected a player for every infield position, plus three outfield positions, four starting pitchers (we only had eight to choose from), three relievers, one DH and two bench spots. Once the draft started, David and I quickly developed different strategies for building our rosters, so it was interesting to see how the draft played out. Take a look and let us know if you would have gone a different route.

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Ichiro becomes first player with 10 straight 200-hit seasons

Seattle Mariners fans hold up signs for Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki as he trots out to right field in their MLB American League baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto September 23, 2010. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

In what can only be described as a horrific year for the Seattle Mariners, at least Ichiro Suzuki gave them something to celebrate on Thursday…albeit in another loss.

Ichiro became the first player with 10 straight 200-hit seasons in a 1-0 loss to the Blue Jays today. He reached the milestone with a single (how fitting) to center in the fifth inning off Shawn Hill, which was the first pitch he saw in the at bat.

Ichiro now has more 200-hit seasons than any player in American League history, which breaks the record he shared with the Tigers’ Ty Cobb. Pete “Tha Gambla” Rose is the only other player to record 200 hits in 10 seasons.

Baseball fans will always love the long ball, but it’s easy to appreciate what Ichiro has done over the years when you look at his numbers. He’s led the majors in hits in each of the past four seasons and has done so a total of six times in his 10-year career. He’s been the model of consistency since he came over from Japan and his stats don’t waver too much from year to year.

Too bad the M’s can’t field a better lineup behind him so all of those singles stop going to waste.

Is Ichiro the most overrated hitter in baseball?

The Chicago Tribune polled a couple of writers on which hitters were the most overrated in MLB. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun said Jose Reyes, while Mandy Housenick of The Morning Call went with Carl Crawford and Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times noted J.D. Drew.

While some of the names were a little surprising, the award for biggest head-scratcher went to Phil Rogers of the Tribune, who said Ichiro was the most overrated.

What’s the definition of “most overrated?” You could look at it just in terms of hitting ability, but in my opinion major league baseball is always about the money, so l’m going to consider it in relation to a hitter’s value to a team. That makes this an easy question, as Ichiro Suzuki — who you can argue is the best pure hitter in the game — is clearly the most overrated.

What do his 200-plus hits every season — heavily loaded with singles — do for the Mariners? He had a majors-high 225 in 2009 and they scored the fewest runs in the AL. He’s again leading the majors with 58 hits (including 48 singles), and Seattle is 14-26. Singles hitters, even those with speed, need to be in deep lineups to realize their value.

The drop in power numbers in recent years makes the guys who do regularly drive the ball to walls, and over walls, as valuable as they’ve ever been. A singles hitter in a bad lineup is a hood ornament on a beater. These days, that’s Ichiro.

Rogers is basically penalizing Ichiro because he’s not what Adrian Gonzalez is to the Padres. Because he doesn’t hit for power, he can’t carry the M’s like can Gonzo can for San Diego, so therefore he’s overrated.

Sorry, but that’s some backwards logic.

Ichiro has never been considered a power guy and there’s a reason he has always hit at the top of Seattle’s lineup: He gets on base. That’s what the club pays him for and while Rogers may think that the M’s overpay for that service, Ichiro is what he is. It’s not his fault that the rest of the Mariners’ offensive is a collective of hot garbage.

Plus, the Mariners have been built on pitching and defense because of their home park. They play small ball and Ichiro is the catalyst for their offense. Again, it’s not his fault that Seattle averages a fraction of a run every night. He’s doing his job, so what is Rogers looking for?

Of all the names listed in the article, I’d have to agree with Shaikin’s choice of Drew for the most overrated. He’s making $14 million this season to essentially, as Shaikin so aptly put it, be a complementary player. The last time I checked, Drew hasn’t finished with an average over .300 since 2004, unlike Ichiro, who hasn’t hit less than .300 once since he’s been in the majors.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Report: Several Mariners players wanted to beat up Ichiro

Ichiro SuzukiAccording to a report from The Seattle Times, several Mariners players don’t like Ichiro Suzuki and at one point during the season, even weighed the option of beating him up.

And it was a clubhouse in need of some direction, given the problems engulfing it as the season came undone. When it came to Ichiro, who got off to a typically slow start in April and part of May, the internal turmoil nearly hit its boiling point.

“I just can’t believe the number of guys who really dislike him,” said one clubhouse insider. “It got to a point early on when I thought they were going to get together and go after him.”

The coaching staff and then-manager John McLaren intervened when one player was overheard talking — in reference to Ichiro — about wanting to “knock him out.” A team meeting was called to clear the air.

It was a repeat of May 2007, when Mike Hargrove was in charge and a team meeting had to be called during a series at Tampa Bay because of clubhouse bickering over Ichiro being a “selfish” player.

Well, considering the Mariners are collectively batting only .265 this season, they might as well hit something.

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