With one of this generations greatest hitters on the verge of his 4,000th career hit, we take a look at just how amazing the accomplishment actually is.
Sure, when praising Ichiro Suzuki on his 4,000th career hit, many will gravitate towards the fact that 1,278 of those hits came over the nine season that Ichiro spent in Japan’s Pacific League. While this fact certainly detracts from the accomplishment somewhat, there is no denying that Ichiro is one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game.
Yankee’s manager Joe Girardi wieghed in on the significance of the milestone yesterday after Game 1 of the Yankees double-header against the Blue Jays.
"“I didn’t have 4,000 hits my whole career, and you can go back to tee-ball.”"
What makes Ichiro such a facinating player extends well beyond his skills on the diamond and into the fanatical preparation and ritual that he brings into his approach, recently described by ESPNs Jim Caple:
"He famously keeps his bats in a humidor containing a chemical rod that prevents the bat from gaining or losing moisture. He does not allow batboys to carry his bats. He was so particular about keeping his game bat in a select spot in the Mariners’ dugout that Seattle drilled a hole in the bench for it. Early in his Japanese career, he lost his temper after an out, threw his bat to the ground in frustration … and then felt such remorse for this abuse that he took the bat back to his hotel room in apology. Call me nuts, but I find that a more compelling story than taking Madonna to your hotel room.He is a man of ritual and careful preparation. While in the on-deck circle, Ichiro stretches in a semi-Sumo crouch that would burst Bartolo Colon’s hamstrings. He steps to the plate, points his bat skyward and touches his shoulder in what became as much a signature Seattle gesture as a barista pulling an espresso shot."
Currently there are 28 members of MLB’s 3,000 hit club, and Ichiro (2,721) could join them some day. Added to his 1,278 hits he recorded in nine seasons in Japan, he would become the third player to record 4,000 professional hits, joining Pete Rose and Ty Cobb.
While Suzuki recognizes that 4,000 professional hits is a huge career milestone, numbers do not seem all that important to the future hall of famer, who spoke about his place in baseball history
"“The 4,000 is just as important as any other number for me,” Ichiro said. “Not necessarily just the 4,000 but just the fact that you are getting a hit in a game. If you don’t produce, you’re not going to play in games so me producing in games is what’s good for me.”“Baseball was born here and as I play the game and as I have been able to have some of my numbers go up against some of the greats, I love to know about them, about their history,”"
After a couple years of being a solid major league hitter it’s easy to forget just how dominant of a hitter Ichiro was in his prime. Had Ichiro started his career in the major leagues there is no doubt that he would have still been able to reach the 4,000 career hit mark. However, when all is said and done Ichiro will likely land somewhere between 25th-30th on the MLB’s all-time hits list, which is no small accomplishment on its own.
So while we spend most of our summer dissecting the daily oddities that make up the Alex Rodriguez drama, and occassionally pause to honor the games all-time greatest closer as he winds down his final season, we should also take a moment to honor Ichiro, who changed the opinions of many baseball fans around the world, and helped open the door for future Pacific League hitters such as ex-Yankee outfielder Hideki Matsui to have a chance to play in the major leagues.
So enjoy him while you still can, because while there may be many other great hitters to come in the future, there will certainly never be another Ichiro Suzuki.