We bought the boys two Mariners shirts a few years ago: one was #51 Ichiro and the other was Johjima. Since then Ichiro's been as consistent as always but Johjima's lost a bit of power, been injured, and been in a sort-of-spat with one of the starting pitchers blaming him for some bad starts (in my assessment not really Joh's fault, more the other player-who-will-not-be-named-later). He was already showing signs of decline when suddenly he was signed to a big three-year contract that has the fingerprints of "forced by the ownership" all over it. I was still a fan, but it didn't seem to be working out, and I was hoping for a turnaround.
The turnaround happened in an altogether suprising way. Johjima walked away from the guaranteed two years' salary to return to Japan, be with his family and play every day. Worries of an albatross contract turned into that all-too-rare feat in baseball: a graceful exit.
When you look at the numbers you see we got more than our money's worth out of Johjima. And now that I see his own sense of honor in the face of imperfect circumstances, I'm happy to have my kids wear his shirt again, just like I still wear John Olerud's All-Star shirt from 2001. Nice job.
Now, if we can start talking to Carlos Silva about just pay ... (Don't tell the player's union!)