Yanks shake off Oakland and add Ichiro
Sheesh! I cannot leave this team for a minute. I was in Cooperstown, N.Y., the past four days for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, and the Yankees end up losing each day to the Athletics by one run. What a stunner.
Okay, let’s settle down. Not even the Yankees could have stayed as sizzling as they have been in recent weeks. Credit Oakland with some first-rate pitching and defense against the Yankees, who continue to have trouble hitting with runners in scoring position that caught up with them against the A’s.
Now it is off to Seattle where they will welcome a new teammate. Ichiro Suzuki will walk from the home clubhouse to the visitors’ quarters at Safeco Field. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman pulled off the deal for one of the game’s hitting machines at the cost of only two 25-year-old pitchers, D. J. Mitchell and Danny Farquar.
With Brett Gardner out for the remainder of the season and Nick Swisher out of the lineup in recent days with a strained left hip flexor, the Yankees were in need of outfield help. They have designated DeWayne Wise for assignment to make room for Ichiro, who burst on the American scene in 2001 by winning both the American League Most Valuable Player and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards, a feat accomplished by only one other player, Red Sox center fielder Fred Lynn in 1975.
The question of the day, naturally, is how much does Ichiro have left at the age of 38? He was a magnificent player in his first 10 seasons in the majors as the first Japanese-born position player. He piled up one 200-plus hit season after another. That streak ended last year when he fell under .300 (.272) and 200 hits (184) for the first time. In 95 games and 402 at-bats this year, Ichiro has 105 hits and is batting .261.
The hope, of course, is that Suzuki will be rejuvenated by getting onto to a contender and that he will be helped by making hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium his home over pitcher-friendly Safeco.
Howard Lincoln, the Mariners’ chief executive officer, said late Monday afternoon that Suzuki had recently requested a trade.
“On behalf of our ownership group and everyone in the Seattle Mariners organization, I thank Ichiro for the great career he has had here in Seattle,” Armstrong said in a statement. “Several weeks ago, Ichiro Suzuki, through his long time agent, Tony Attanasio, approached [team president] Chuck Armstrong and me to ask that the Mariners consider trading him. Ichiro knows that the club is building for the future. He felt that what was best for the team was to be traded to another club and give our younger players an opportunity to develop.
“Ichiro will be missed. He owns a long list of Major League Baseball and Mariners club records, has earned many prestigious awards, and in my opinion, he will someday be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I know that I speak for all of Ichiro’s fans, here in the Pacific Northwest, around this country and also throughout Japan, in wishing him and his wife Yumiko the very best as he continues his baseball career with the Yankees.”
Suzuki is a .322 career hitter in the U.S. with 2,533 hits, including 295 doubles, 79 triples and 99 home runs. He has scored 1,176 runs and driven in 633. Ichiro has a .366 career on-base average with 513 walks, plus 438 stolen bases. Since his American debut 11 years ago, he has 330 more hits than any player.
Ichiro will become the sixth Japan-born player in Yankees franchise history, joining Hideki Irabu (1997-99), Hideki Matsui (2003-09), Kei Igawa (2007-08), Hiroki Kuroda (2012) and Ryota Igarashi (2012).
Suzuki has won two AL batting titles (.350 in 2001, .372 in 2004) and has led or tied for the major-league lead in hits seven times (2001, ’04, ‘06-10), which is tied with Ty Cobb and Pete Rose for the most such seasons. Ichiro is the only player to do it in five consecutive years. He finished first or second in his every season from 2001 to 2010 and placed ninth in 2011.
In 2004, Suzuki totaled 262 hits to set the all-time modern era (since 1900) single-season hits record. Along with his 242 hits in 2001 and 238 hits in 2007, Ichiro owns three of the top 20 single-season hits totals in major-league history. He had at least 200 hits in 10 straight seasons from 2001 through 2010, tying Rose for the most 200-hit seasons in a major-league career.
Suzuki’s 2,533 career hits in the States are the most by any player through his first 12 seasons. At the conclusion of all but one of his 12 seasons, Ichiro has held the distinction of having more hits to start a career than any other major leaguer. The lone exception occurred after his third season, when only Lloyd Waner (678) had more hits than Suzuki’s 662 (according to data at http://www.baseball-reference.com).
Ichiro has made 1,790 starts as an outfielder (1,525 in right field and 265 in center field) and has a career fielding percentage of .992 with just 33 errors in 4,181 total chances. He has won 10 Gold Gloves for fielding. The Yankees now have two of the six outfielders to have won 10 or more Gold Gloves. The other is 10-time Gold Glove winner Andruw Jones. Willie Mays and Robertp Clemente won 12 each, and Al Kaline and Junior Griffey 10 apiece.
Prior to playing in the majors, Suzuki spent nine seasons (1992-2000) with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan’s Pacific League was named the league’s MVP three times (1994-96). He hit .353 and led the Pacific League in batting average for seven straight years (1994-2000).
It is as impressive a resume as a player can have. The question remains, how much is left in that tank? We shall find out.