Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - A little bit of the spotlight definitely
won't hurt his cause, although he doesn't need it.
Stuck way away from everybody for over a decade, baseball's best hitter was as
anonymous as one could be while doing wondrous things on the field.
For Ichiro Suzuki, playing in Seattle was the closest thing a major leaguer
could get to being in the Witness Protection Program. Unless you had the
satellite baseball package, and didn't mind staying up really late on the East
Coast to watch the Mariners, chances are he was just a name in a box score.
The teams he played on way, way out West were never really good.
The only time the Mariners made the playoffs with him was in his surreal rookie
year of 2001.
Unfortunately for the M's, that postseason lasted only five games before they
After that, except for devoted Seattle fans and a rabid following in Japan,
Ichiro kind of disappeared for the rest of us.
But while we weren't watching, he kept doing what he's always done for 20 years
in professional baseball, and that's hit. And hit. And hit.
His numbers are astonishing:
Ten straight seasons to start his major league career with at least 200 hits.
Nobody has ever done that.
Ten straight seasons of hitting .300 or better. Mostly better because in four
of those seasons he hit .372, .352, .351 and .350. Wow.
A career batting average of .322.
A total of 2,569 major league hits in less than 12 seasons. OMG.
And we haven't even talked about the numbers he put up in Japan before he came
over here at age 27.
In Japan, he had 1,278 hits with a batting average of .353 between 1992 and
2000. Scoff at those numbers because they were done in Japan and you'd be
wrong. Combine the hits and we're looking at 3,847. I don't care where some of
them came, that number is outrageous.
The hitting part of his game we can talk about all day. But have you ever seen
a player with a better arm from right field in the last 25 years?
If you don't believe me, just go to YouTube and type in "Ichiro's defensive
plays." The dude is unbelievable. Ten Gold Gloves can help vouch for that.
But he's still a mystery.
Speaking of that, have you ever heard him speak English? I haven't, but the
rumor is he can but doesn't really want to. He's more comfortable speaking
Japanese (you can't blame him for that) and is apparently a little afraid of
saying something dumb if he tried to say it in English.
Plus, just think of how many English-speaking writers he doesn't have to talk
to? He only has to deal with the ones who speak his native tongue.
Of course, since he's a huge star in Japan, he does get bothered quite a bit by
the Japanese media, but by eliminating most of the American press, he makes his
life a little easier.
When he was acquired by the New York Yankees on July 23, Ichiro fans had to
smile a bit. It seemed, at the time, that the move would give him another go in
The bright lights and juggernaut that is the Yankees would surely have him back
in the playoffs. Albeit, not as the star he once was, but still an important
cog in the Bronx Bombers' drive to yet another World Series.
But now, the Yankees find themselves in a fight to make the playoffs, and
Ichiro playing late into October is not such a sure thing.
The Yankees need to reach the playoffs and let the Japanese star, who will be
39 in late October, have one last go in front of a large American audience.
Not that he needs it because his numbers are first-ballot Hall of Fame stuff,
but it would be fun for the rest of us to get another look.
Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia-
area newspapers for over 25 years.
The Sports Network