It’s true; the hubbub is warranted. Ichiro has proven Paul Molitor and myself wrong and done well in doing it his way. Don’t be fooled by the paucity of my Mariners posts, I’ve actually been intently watching the multi-hit wonder Ichiro since mid-August (and afraid to say anything for fear of jinxing it), scrupulously analyzing and computing any number of scenarios into my head, factoring in a vast number of statistics (I even finally learned what OBP and OPS mean).
This year was different. Unlike summers past where Ichiro faded and the Mariners fooled us Seattlites into one more foolish daydream of ALCS games at Safeco, the world has been turned on its head (well, of course not the almighty senior commentators at ESPN, who have seen this like everything else in clairvoyance from Michael Jordan’s third return to OJ’s acquittal) [Ditch the chip on your shoulder, Gammons! He’s good dammit!].
“They have five days to get the magic back — two more against the Ichiro Suzuki Dancers, and then three against the Angels with all the chips in the middle of the table.” — Ray Ratto, speaking of the A’s end of the season against the Mariners.
Yes, the Mariners pitching took the season off, half due to injury and half to age (be it mental or physical), which left the offense in the dubious position of saving the team (which has really almost never happened for lack of playmakers and sluggers). And after all but a few promising prospects had melted or been traded away, we were left with the insanely great, methodical hitting Buddha, Ichiro.
You probably won’t believe me when I say that my earlier prognosis was actually drawing greatly from the need to express disappointment with every member of the team (I didn’t _want_ to be so hard on the guy), because of course we all know that an annual thirty five stolen bases and two hundred hits are a crying shame to the Bud Selig tomfoolery that is the institution of baseball. But yes, Ichiro gave me something I have been complaining about lacking to my mother of late, he gave me a hero again. Someone to look up to, someone to emulate. Someone who was so much better than me but enough the same that I could see that internal conflict behind his eyes.
I’ve burned every frame of that striking, imposing setup into the back of my mind.
Two hundred and sixty two hits.
A league-topping .372, confusion and befuddlement to virtually every pitcher, mystery, prowess, amazement, and five more hits than anyone EVER made in the professional sport over the course of a season. And yes, even the great Ted Williams could feel the wind changing, blowing ever so slightly from the northwest, or was it the far east?
“In the first inning when I ran down the line, I was really dizzy and didn’t know if I could even run straight. To me, it felt like having four beers, for me. The next time it was three beers, the next time it was two beers. It didn’t go to zero beers. Maybe the last time was one beer.” — Ichiro, after being hit in the head by a pitch
So Ichiro, I thank you. I thank you for the hopes and the dreams you’ve rekindled in my own expatriate soul. I thank you for the weekly lunch visits to the Ichiro-loving curry house with satellite, so I could watch you live in good company. I thank you for doing exactly what you strive so unflaggingly for, being the very best hitter in baseball.
I thank you with the scores of headline-bearing newspapers I scrambled to find the day after, I thank you with my thirty one days’ of Ichiro goatee growing, to celebrate those thirty one in August that were fifty seven. I thank you with my beaming proclamation that we’ll have a drink downtown together one day. I thank you with the way in which I visualize how productive I will be this week at work, going 4-for-5 today and bug fixing .428 for the week.
So thanks Ichiro, thanks so much.
“I don’t feel like I’m in a zone. I’m going out and doing the same things I always do… I’ve kind of run out of things to say. You could say that I’m happier than happy.”
Happier than happy.