At seven seconds after 10:40 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time today (Sept. 23), Ichiro Suzuki slapped the first fifth-inning pitch he saw from Toronto’s Shawn Hill to the left of the second-baseman and the record was his. Number 51 had amassed at least 200 hits during each (Ich?) of his 10 major-league seasons: an unequaled feat.
By any measure this is a remarkable achievement. Baseball fans' love of the home run probably will result in less of a national fuss about the record. But even certain "sabermetrics" scoffers who criticize the value of prodigious base-hit hit totals will have to concede that Suzuki now owns one of the most enviable records in professional sports. Hitting 200 or more just once requires skill, discipline and luck; doing it every year is something like winning 10 consecutive Oscars, though obviously much less subjective.
There are acknowledged great offensive players who never hit 200 times during a season. Only 17 among the thousands who have played in the bigs have done it five times, with just Derek Jeter (seven times) and Michael Young (five) the only active players other than Ichiro.
The right-fielder, of course, joins Pete Rose as the only to have 10 above 200. He did it with a week of the season to spare, aided by a four-for-four night Tuesday in Toronto.
Suzuki came into September with some fans wondering whether he'd be up to the task of hammering line-drive singles and eking out his patented infield base hits. An "Ich-o-Meter" at Safeco Field apprised fans of the plodding progress toward the mark.
Lately the Japanese press corps had expanded in anticipation of the record. If certain American fans greet the feat with indifference, in Japan the accomplishment has become yet another reason to deify one of the most hailed celebrities in the nation's history.
Suzuki’s next goal no doubt is playing during the post-season, which has eluded his team since the year he was a 28-year-old big-league rookie. With his inclusion someday in the Baseball Hall of Fame generally considered a certainty, Ichiro's remaining personal goal no doubt is to reach the 3,000-hit level. His 200th this year gave him 2,230, meaning he could "slack off" to a mere 190-something during each of the next four seasons and make 3,000 before he turns 41.
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