Sure, he’s made numerous All-Star games. Everyone knows he’s a hit machine. But, as one of the guilty parties, how many of us have really recognized what Ichiro Suzuki has done since arriving in Seattle in 2001?
As an NL guy, I rarely get to see him play outside of the midsummer classic or the postseason (which hasn’t been in the cards for the M’s since Suzuki’s 2001 rookie season). Add in the very real east coast bias of the national media, and it’s easy to occasionally forget what this man is doing (and has done) in the Pacific Northwest.
Because he’s not blasting home runs, we don’t see him night-after-night on SportsCenter. In fact, we don’t see much from Seattle period (goes back to that whole ESPN Sox-Mets-Yanks lovefest thing). Since he’s not a loudmouth or malcontent, he doesn’t make headlines in the gossip columns or rumor mills. What’s the point of all this? We need to stop and look. The microscope needs to be dialed up and focused on #51. I did, and I was blown away.
Last summer, Erie’s Scribe sang Ichiro’s praises after catching a few Tribe-Ms games. He gushed actually, saying: “woe is the fan who hasn’t seen the Ichiro experience, damn you Seattle for keeping it to yourselves.” He’s right. Only they haven’t kept him from us per se, we’ve just chosen not to pay attention for whatever reason. Admit it. When I say “best players of the decade,” unless you’re from the Emerald City, chances are good Ichiro Suzuki isn’t coming out of your mouth first…or second…or maybe even at all.
Here’s why it should. Baseball is a sport whose culture – for better or worse – is all about stats. Stats and accolades. And while chicks may dig the long ball, there are plenty of other statistics in the game. So when judging a player, we frequently consult the numbers to tell the story – if not at the very least the Cliff Notes-version. It doesn’t matter how you slice Ichiro’s tale. His accomplishments from 2001-2009 are absolutely ree-freakin’-diculous. Consider…
- We’ll start off with some figures that may not get you to the Hall-of-Fame directly, but they sure are helpful in terms of acheiving the milestones that do. These also get a ton of respect from me, someone who’s watched a walking wounded Mets crew all season. Games played. 157, 157, 159, 161, 162, 161. 161, 162. Ichiro’s played in 78 so far in 2009.
- How ’bout hits? Many are aware Ichiro is a one-man hit parade. Over 200 hits every season and on-pace to crush 200 again this year (currently at 125). Has led the League in hits five of his eight completed seasons, and betting on six of nine is showing pretty good odds.
- One of only two players (Fred Lynn being the other) to win Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in same season. During that 2001 campaign, Suzuki hit .350 with 56 steals during a Gold Glove regular season. He hit .421 in ten 2001 playoff games.
- .332 career average. He’s yet to finish a season under .300 (.303 lowest, .372 highest).
- Nine of nine All-Star games
- Eight of eight Gold Gloves
- Two Silver Slugger awards
The list goes on and on. It’s not preposterous to put him in the conversation of some of MLB’s best all-time leadoff men. The only questions that may linger around Suzuki are “what ifs?” What if he’d started his career in the States? Would he already have reached 3,000 hits? Would he have a shot at Rose? What if he’d been on a winning team for all these years? What if he played in a bigger media market?
Regardless, of the “what ifs” Ichiro’s greatness should be without question. It’s about time a few more of us started to recognize it.
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About the Author: Cecilio's Scribe is the founder of The Legend of Cecilio Guante and a generally pessimistic fan of the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers. A fine NYC-based gentlemen who hones his marketing skills as his primary trade by day. Husband, chef, father of a newborn and after-hours blogger by night. Proud alum of the mighty Big Red of Cornell. University. Hot sauce devotee. Staunch protester of the continued wussifcation of American sports. Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick.