Ichiro Suzuki is one of my favorite ball players ever. After nine pro seasons in Japan, he came to the Mariners and, in his first year there, was both AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP. He got more than 200 hits in each of his first 10 years in the Majors. He is now just four hits short of the magic 3000 hit mark in his major league career, a mark surpassed by only 29 others in the history of the game.
One of my partners, Andy McStay, sent me an article that I commend to you. In it, Tommy Tomlinson does a great job of showing how Ichiro has approached the game in a systematic, analytical way that has enabled him to achieve milestones few others have reached. You can read it here and if you like baseball, I recommend that you do so.
In addition, Ichiro has already, if you count his hits from Japan, passed the 4256 total career hits notched by Pete Rose, the major league record holder. Some say it isn’t right to count Ichiro’s Japanese hits, and that may be right. But if you consider that Ichiro got 1278 hits in Japan in nine years, where they played a 130 game schedule (vs. the 162 game schedule in the Majors) or about 1.1 hits per scheduled game, then translate that to a theoretical nine years in the Majors and he would have 177 hits per year for nine additional years or an additional total of 1589. And that ignores the fact that he at a much higher rate when he did get to the Majors. That calculation gives you a glimpse of the talent of the man as a hitter.
There are many stories about Ichiro, some of them in the article I referenced. One I experienced happened in a game the Mariners played against the Red Sox in Seattle. It was the only time I’ve had seats in the top level at Safeco, and they were on an extension of the third base line behind home plate, giving me an excellent view of this play. Ichiro was batting with two outs and two strikes. Mike Cameron was on third, and the two of them obviously had a signal that triggered the play. In a situation that demanded, by both tradition and baseball conventional wisdom, that Ichiro should have been swinging for a single (or better) he instead, as Cameron broke for home, laid down a perfect bunt which he beat out for a single and earned a brilliant RBI. It was a play I’ll never forget.
Unless the Baseball Writers wise up and elect Edgar Martinez to the Hall of Fame, Ichiro will be the next Mariner to get in.