Michael Bennett is no longer a member of the Seattle Seahawks, after he was reportedly traded to the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles for a modest return. This trade, frankly, sucks.
It sucks because Michael Bennett is great on and off the field. He is by most accounts a great person and teammate. He is a tireless advocate for social justice, and even as his production has declined slightly, a Pro Bowl-caliber pass rusher. If money, age, and racism were not issues, he would be the sort of asset any NFL team would want.
Of course those things are all issues. While it is unclear the degree to which they each specifically came into play in the formulation of this deal, all three were likely factors. The Seahawks do need to get younger on defense, as football is a brutal game that sees its best players decline quickly as they age. The team needs to get cheaper as the league’s hard salary cap makes the current roster constitution a little too old and vulnerable to injury, as we saw last year.
Also there have been whispers that Bennett’s protests of structural racism and police brutality have been too loud for the team’s taste. If that is the primary factor in Bennett’s move, it is incredibly disappointing. If it is a factor at all in his move, it is incredibly disappointing. Have I mentioned that this deal sucks?
Michael Bennett is still really good. The team’s pass rush depth is limited, and the return was insufficient to paper over his loss, especially given that there will be little in the way of salary cap relief this upcoming year. Not only is he no longer a Seahawk; he’s now a member of the best team in the NFC. Not good!
Writ large, the move signifies the end of an era for the Seahawks. The team is no longer built around the constellation of defensive stars that brought the franchise its first Super Bowl. Not only is Michael Bennett gone, but Richard Sherman is rumored to be on the way out, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril may never play again, and even Earl Thomas’ name has been floated in trade rumors.
That is not to say the Seahawks’ Super Bowl window has closed; any NFL team with a quarterback of Russell Wilson’s caliber and the defensive mind of Pete Carroll running the show is at most two years away from contending. The Bennett deal makes some sense even if the return is insufficient. Heck, all of these potential moves (sans an Earl Thomas deal) make some strategic sense. There is a plan in place for the team to restock and come back stronger.
But it will be a very different Seahawks team taking the field next year, a team devoid of the players that defined this era. Frankly, even if it all makes sense in the larger scheme of things? This sucks. Did I mention this sucks? It does.
Something that doesn’t suck? The Mariners have brought back the ageless wonder, Ichiro Suzuki. It’s great. Well, it’s not great, per se. But it’s good. It’s fine. It’s good and fine.
Let’s start with this: there is nothing wrong in signing Ichiro at this point in his career to be a fourth outfielder. He’s still okay, and the Mariners have a need with Ben Gamel’s recent injury. Also, in so far as sports are designed to provide us with a modicum of joy (entire history of the Mariners organization aside) the move actually makes a great deal of sense. It will be fun to watch even a diminished Ichiro patrol the outfield again.
It’s just not great because… well… I don’t really get what the Mariners are doing. From a broader competitive view, their roster construction makes no sense. The lineup is centered around an aging yet productive core designed to win now. Adding Ichiro as a stopgap fits that philosophy.
However, the pitching staff is in injury prone shambles, the sort of rotation only a team planning on tanking would roll out this close to opening day. Ichiro, for all of his strengths, is not a pitcher. And given that the team has denied they’ll even consider splurging on the free agent pitcher they so desperately need, watching them spend anything on another position, even if its a small amount of money on a beloved franchise icon, feels off.
I don’t want to root for a baseball team that exists to remind me of better times that frankly weren’t even all that good. I want them to try to win, or, barring that, lose so much they get a great draft pick. This team is nursing the longest playoff drought in American sports; a coherent plan to be anything other than mediocre is not too much to ask for. But it’s the Mariners, so here we are, mired again in mediocrity.
And yet… it’s so good that Ichiro is coming back. I’m psyched! I love Ichiro! And if he’s got anything left in the tank at 44, I want him to spend it on getting the Mariners some wins.
I root for laundry, yes, but I root for people too. Michael Bennett’s departure makes more sense than Ichiro’s arrival from a strategic perspective, but if I’m being real, I’m pissed as hell Bennett is leaving, and stoked Ichiro is coming.