For complete coverage of the Ichiro trade , be sure to see our story on the fate of the Ichiro Dog and Keegan Hamilton's take

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The Only Problem With the Ichiro Trade Is That It Didn't Happen Four Years Ago

For complete coverage of the Ichiro trade, be sure to see our story on the fate of the Ichiro Dog and Keegan Hamilton's take on Ichrio's first game as a Yankee and the legacy he leaves behind in Seattle.

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Yesterday's trade of Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees has struck most Mariner fans as bittersweet. Bitter because the Mariners' greatest player of all time is no longer a Mariner, and, worse yet, a Yankee now. Sweet because Ichiro will have a chance to play for a title contender before he retires, and that the M's at least fetched a couple of prospects in return. But had they traded Ichiro as recently as a year ago, they'd have fetched a lot more. And that's the real tragedy of the situation.

Sure, that's easy to say now, you might argue. But we said it in 2008, 2009 and 2011--and we'd have said it in 2010 too if redundancy weren't a concern.

In '08, we wrote: "While he's still the M's best player, his performance this season has been subpar by his ridiculous standards, suggesting that perhaps his best years are behind him. If Ichiro were to be placed on the trade market, he could likely command a slew of exceptional young prospects from, say, the farm system of the Red Sox, who are forever in an arms race with the Yanks...I'm not suggesting the M's trade Ichiro at all costs. What I am suggesting is that if they declare their intention to implode their current roster and start from scratch, thus ensuring that they'll waste the rest of the star outfielder's prime, they should at least open themselves up to the possibility."

Oh, the prescience! But by last year, our plea struck a more desperate tone: "The argument for keeping the 37-year-old Suzuki in blue and white is that he's the Mariners' main draw. Yet the Mariners aren't drawing anyone with him, and they're unlikely to be competitive until he's 40. Every passing day diminishes his trade value, yet he's still spry enough that the Red Sox or Yankees would be likely to expend a ton of prospects to get him. That's another thing: The Mariners' farm system is far from stocked...Trading Suzuki now is the one surefire way to toss more eggs in the spawning stream."

And no, yesterday's haul of two minor-league pitchers does not constitute "a ton of prospects."

When it comes to grading the Mariner front office, it's a simple matter of too little, too late. We're not privy to such insider information, but we imagine the worst owner in baseball, Hiroshi Yamauchi (who has never attended a Mariner game in person, even when they played in his native Japan), was the one who refused to deal Ichiro until he could only fetch dimes on his once-shiny dollar.

It's hard to decide what's worse: Having a high-profile idiot like James Dolan owning your team (in his case, the Knicks), or a clandestine mystery man whose lone baseball-related passion seems to be exporting his countrymen to the States to see how they'll fare. In Ichiro's case, the answer was: very well. But Ichiro's been the exception to Yamauchi's mediocre rule. Too bad the M's can't trade Yamauchi too.

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