By now, everyone knows about the quirky Gilbert Arenas is (though some disagree). Not everyone, though, realizes that Ichiro brings nearly that same quirk to the table. First, a quick overview of some of Agent Zero's finer moments in quirkery (and if I haven't mentioned it, Wizznutzz gets credit for that amazing nickname):
- Began yelling "Hibachi!" every time he made a shot.
- Then replaced "hibachi" with "Quality Shot" during a Suns-Wizards game in 2006.
- Won a $20,000 bet with teammate DeShawn Stevenson. The terms: Gil could hit more college 3's one-handed than Stevenson could hit NBA 3's two-handed. (One of the best videos ever)
- Had his house converted to the atmospheric pressure of a Denver-esque altitude, so he could be "always above sea-level."
- After hitting a game-winning 3-pointer claimed, "My swag was phenomenal!"
- Sponsors his own video game team, the #1 Halo team in the world, Final Boss.
- Had this amazing quote: “The hibachi is coming to a city near you. I’m cooking chicken and shrimp, but if you want to throw a double team my way, filet mignon gets cooked too"
- On a missed fly ball: "The ball became the same color as the sky, so I wasn't able to see it," he said through his interpreter. "It's not like I had my eyes closed."
Then, he continued.
"I was sending mental signals for the ball not to come my way because at that time of day, it is impossible for me to see. I was lacking mental signals. Usually, I don't think about these things, but this was the first time I said to the ball, 'Please don't come my way.'"I lacked mental signals and that's what I regret."
- On how he convinced himself to get a hit: "Yesterday when I played, inside my head I said 'I want to go home quickly,' and I swung and I was able to get a hit because I wanted to go home," Ichiro said through a translator. "Today I thought, 'I want to hurry up and get something to eat,' and I swung and got a hit today."
Seriously?"That's true," he said in English, sporting a big grin
- On breaking out of a hitting slump: "Yesterday, I ate two ice creams," he said through an interpreter. "Usually I only eat one."
- On the city of Cleveland: "To tell the truth, I'm not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to," Ichiro said through an interpreter. "If I ever saw myself saying I'm excited going to Cleveland, I'd punch myself in the face, because I'm lying."
- On coming to the states to play in the MLB: "When I came here to play, I didn't know where I would be or where I wouldn't be."
- On fans at Wrigley: "Before the game started, the fans were nice and polite, and that was nice," Ichiro said. "But after the game started and they started drinking beer, lots of beer, their personality changed. And that was fun for me to see."
- On the Tao of Ichiro: "I have many different Ichiros inside me," the center fielder said. "I'm always one of them. At different times, I have different personalities."
What does it Mean?
I find it impossible to think of anyone in Major League Baseball more like Gilbert Arenas than Ichiro. MLB could take a lesson from the NBA and try to learn from Gilbert. The NBA has worked quite hard to promote Gilbert this year, and interest was definitely up when he was playing. That interest = more TV Revenue, more ticket sales (across the league), and more money from endorsements (both for Gil and the league). The MLB ought to try the same thing with Ichiro. The problem for them will be convincing Ichiro to play along. He is notoriously focused on baseball, but of late has started to show a bit more of the public face he has in Japan. There, he hosts a game show, stars in ads, and has a museum dedicated to him. Maybe if baseball can tap into that personality, they can use Ichiro as a tool to help fans forget the steroid problems, the broadcasting rights issues, and just remember that baseball is supposed to be fun. It worked with Agent Zero, why not Agent Fifty-One?