Ichiro Suzuki Challenges Baseball History, But Is Anyone Paying Attention?
If a Seattle hitter breaks an MLB record, will the rest of the country be awake enough to hear about it?
Mariners hitter Ichiro Suzuki is about to become the first player in MLB history to have nine consecutive seasons of 200+ plus hits. But unlike Yankee star Derek Jeter’s chase of Lou Gehrig’s all-time Yankee hits record, which has been such a big story this month, most MLB fans may not even be aware of the record Ichiro is chasing.
Nor are even many fans aware that when the Seattle hitter reaches 200 hits this year – he is four hits away from doing so – he will have as many total 200+ hit seasons as Gehrig did in his entire career.
But even the Iron Horse never had more than two seasons in a row with 200 or more hits, while Ichiro is about to have nine. And the Seattle star also reached 2000 career hits this week, the second-fastest ascent to that number in MLB history.
Ever since Ichiro moved to the United States in 2001 to play in the major leagues after being a star in Japan, he’s been historic – and it’s not just because he was the first Japanese-born player to be an MLB position player. Ichiro won both the AL MVP and AL Rookie of the Year honors in that first year.
Starting with that 2001 season, he has had over 200 hits every single year. Ichiro is currently tied with 19th century player Willie Keeler for the most-ever seasons with 200+ consecutive hits. Keeler, a Hall of Famer, had eight consecutive seasons of over 200 hits a season from 1894 to 1901. And if you combine his 2000 MLB hits with his 1278 hits in Japan, he already has 3000 career hits.
Yet Ichiro, who is still closely followed in Japan, may be better known in the U.S. for having his first name instead of his last on his jersey than for his remarkable consistency. The attention he gets here is as slight as his frame, which is a real shame, since having even one 200-hit season isn’t easy. There have only been 470 such seasons since 1900, which means fewer than five MLBers per year have reached that plateau.
To put Ichiro’s career in perspective, look at these statistics, courtesy of baseball-reference.com:
* Ty Cobb had eight 200-hit seasons, as many as Ichiro currently has. But Cobb was never able to go more than three seasons in a row with 200+ hits.
* Pete Rose, MLB’s all-time hit king with 4256 hits, also never hit more than 200 hits in a season more than three years in a row. He had ten 200+ hit seasons, a record Ichiro can tie next year if he finishes this season with 200 hits, and does the same in 2010. And Ichiro, not Rose, also has the single-season hit record.
* Ted Williams may have been the last MLBer to hit .400, but he never had a 200-hit year, not even in 1941, when he hit .406.
* Babe Ruth, considered the greatest hitter ever, only had a 200-hit season three times, but he did not do it in 1927, when he hit 60 homers.
Yet despite Ichiro’s consistent greatness – he’s never hit under .300 as an MLBer, has led the majors in hits in five different seasons, and also has eight Gold Gloves - he just doesn’t get nearly the attention for being one of baseball’s greatest hitters in the way Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter and Manny Ramirez have.
So why do Ichiro’s achievements get comparatively little notice? Here are some reasons:
* He’s not a power hitter – he only has 81 career homers.
* Nor does he have a lot of RBIs – the perennial leadoff hitter has never driven in even 70 runs a year.
* Seattle hasn’t made the playoffs since 2001, and has struggled in recent years, losing 100 games in 2008 (although they have improved this season.)
* Thanks to the Mariners playing on the West Coast, with a 10:1o p.m. East Coast starting time that goes past many fans’ bedtimes, MLB fans don’t get to follow what’s happening with them the way they do other teams. And that goes for the New York media market as well.
* Unlike Los Angeles, which also has those West Coast games, Seattle is a small media market.
Ichiro and the Mariners face the Texas Rangers in Arlington this weekend, and there’s a good chance that Ichiro, who has been in a rare slump as of late, will set the record this weekend.
Hopefully, the 35-year-old will start getting some attention for his quiet career greatness. He recently told MLB.com:
“Nothing in baseball is easy. I am always playing at a fine line between beating the opponent or being defeated.”
But Ichiro has made getting 200 hits a year look easy. For that, and for having such a great career, he deserves some attention for his remarkable run at baseball immortality.
Photo by panacheart
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook