Honoring a legend
With news today of the Seattle Mariners trading Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees, a historical era has come to an end. Say what you will about Ichiro, about the trade, and about the Mariners over that time.
You can’t take away from the fact that Ichiro did more for this franchise than almost any other player in team history.
And despite the way it ended, Ichiro’s place in the Hall of Fame is already solidified. Let me explain.
Here’s 4 reasons why you have to love Ichiro’s tenure in a Mariners uniform.
He was our rebound superstar
With the Seattle fan base up in arms about the loss of Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro came in and became the city’s knight in shining armor. Fans were feeling angry, dejected, lied to, and sad about how A-Rod up and left Seattle for the prospect of making a lot more money on a terrible team.
He chased the money, leaving Seattle in 2000, paving the way for Ichiro to come to town.
Ichiro’s arrival in 2001 immediately made fans forget Alex Rodriguez. Ichiro was a breath of fresh air in a city that was grieving. He brought hope to a team that had the wind taken out of their sails. And boy did Seattle enjoy the fresh air.
I keep drilling this point home, but you cannot argue the fact that Ichiro was a beacon of light when he entered Major League Baseball. He gave Japanese players hope and paved the way for several of them to make their way to the United States.
Ichiro established that Japan COULD play baseball and pioneered an entire movement.
That movement was one of the best thing to happen to Seattle and to Major League Baseball. With the popularity of Ichiro already high in his homeland, his popularity skyrocketed when he came to the US.
He drew Japanese fans from cities all over the country to come cheer their favorite player – a feat that was not considered to be feasible at the time.
Ichiro’s starpower drew thousands of new fans each year who flew into Seattle to catch a glimpse of baseball’s next great hitter. Tourism in Seattle shot through the roof when baseball season came around and the MLB saw a spike of interest from international communities, particularly Japan.
It paved the way for the MLB to frequent Japan to help continue the movement Ichiro started.
While the number of fans has slowly decreased over the last couple years, the Ichiro fans still came out in full force.
Hey, it wasn’t HIS fault the whole team was tanking.
Ichiro’s first season was a crazy one. 2001 was one of the greatest seasons by a player EVER, not just a Mariner. The stellar right fielder took not only Seattle by storm, but shocked the entire league. Each city the Mariners visited, signs and posters with Ichrio’s face and/or number were to found in several places throughout the crowd.
And why wouldn’t they? It was a historical season for Ichiro, the Mariners, and Major League Baseball.
Ichiro went on to bat .350 in 157 games in 2001. He had 242 hits including 34 doubles, 8 triples, and 8 home runs. Ichiro swiped 56 bases over the course of the season, the most of his so far 12 year MLB career.He had 69 RBI and 127 Runs.
Those statistics are mind boggling. Despite his success in Japan, people did not believe anybody could make the transition that quickly, especially in their first year in the United States.
Ichiro was named AL Rookie of the Year, AL MVP, was the AL Batting Champion and the AL Stolen Base Champ. The list goes on. He was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove and won a Silver Slugger award that season as well.
Not too shabby.
Awards, Accolades, Accomplishments
Ichiro could fill an entire house with the awards he has won in his tenure in pro baseball.
In Japan, Ichiro was a 7 time All Star, 3 time MVP, 7 time Gold Glover, 7 time batting champ, and the 1995 Stolen Base AND RBI champ – among many other accolades.
THEN he came to America.
Besides his record setting 2001 season, Ichiro earned 9 more All-Star nods, 9 more Gold Gloves, 2 more Silver Slugger awards and a second batting title.
He was the fastest player ever to get to 1,000 hits in Major League Baseball history. He was the MVP of the 2007 All Star Game.
He won the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award in 2005. In 2009 he was the second fasts player to 2,000 hits.
He had an AL record 45 straight stolen bases.
And to top it all off, he set the Major League record for hits in a season with 262 in 2004. He now sits at 2,533 career hits in MLB, just short of the elusive and monumental 3,000 hit milestone.
Despite the “decline” of the last couple seasons, Ichiro kept Seattle in the landscape of baseball. With no other “star” on the team, Ichiro brought attention, honor and glory to the Seattle Mariners. He brought excitement to lackluster teams and brought fans who cheered louder than Mariner lifetime faithful.
He was frequently the only starting representative for Seattle in the All Star game.
Hate him or love him, you can’t deny what Ichiro has done in Seattle.
Sayonara, Ichiro. Thank you for the memories.