Not much has gone right this season for the Seattle Mariners. They are dead last in almost every major offensive statistical category and sport a dismal 54-72 record, good enough for last place in the powder puff American League West.
According to my twitter feed, Ichiro Suzuki needs 62 hits in his final 37 games to reach the 200 hit plateau for the 11th consecutive time. Let’s face it: this is unlikely- considering Ichiro has 62 hits in his past 56 games. Suzuki is batting a career low .269, yet remains a constant at the top of Seattle’s lineup. Perhaps this is an indicator of the Mariner woes? Do you think Jacoby Ellsbury would still be leading off for the Red Sox if he was flirting with a .300 on base percentage? I doubt it. The former Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player still leads his team in batting average, runs scored, and stolen bases.
With Suzuki’s 200+ hit streak likely to end, it is time for fans of America’s pastime to appreciate his greatness. For the past decade, Ichrio has done it all: he’s racked up an MVP award, rookie of the year, multiple batting crowns, ten all star selections, has led the league in plate appearances four times and at-bats seven times, and even paced the Bigs in Intentional Walks thrice!
Hall of Fame resume? Check.
But what Ichiro has done goes far beyond numbers. You cannot quantify the pressure of having an entire nation (Japan, population: 128 million) rooting for you AND having the cajones to deliver. There is no statistic to measure the popularity he had worldwide, and how he inspired a baseball crazy continent to keep following Major League Baseball, and, for that matter, American sports. He was the Japanese version of Yao Ming- if only Yao Ming had Shaquille O’Neal’s basketball credentials.
Ichiro is thirty-seven years old. He is likely on the back nine of his baseball career, and there are plenty of signs pointing that way. He wasn’t an All Star in 2011, he “only” has thirty steals, his once famous cannon-arm has noticeably declined (seven putouts in 116 games) and his fielding percentage is the lowest it has been since 2006.
It’s true. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Just ask Seattle.