Ichiro recorded his 4.000th hit on Thursday. Congratulations.
Here are the things we need to remember for trivia questions in the future: the opponent were the Toronto Blue Jays. The pitcher was R.A. Dickey. The inning was the first. Robinson Cano was on deck. It was a clean single to left field, a hit that represented everything what Ichiro stands for. And it was great.
It was great how the people in attendance rose to their feet to give him credit for what he achieved. It was great that his own teammates came out of the dugout to congratulate him. It was great to see the joy on the face of Munenori Kawasaki, obviously proud to be part of the game in which Ichiro recorded #4.000. It was fitting.
What’s somewhat not fitting is the ongoing discussion about whether those first 1.278 hits he recorded for the orix Blue Wave during his time in Nippon Professional Baseball were legit. Which, let’s be honest, is the same condescending way of thinking that leads Americans to label their basketball champion “World Champion” or the Yankees to use the phrase that they are the most successful sports club in the world. I know a lot of people don’t agree with this, but still. So it’s nice that there are articles which put things in perspective. Even though Pete Rose might want to object. But there are also people making a case for recognizing his great achievement. Let’s put it this way. He became one of the select few to record 4.000 hits in the majors and other leagues combined. And those are really only a few. Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Arnold Statz. (I apologize if I forgot someone). That’s not a lot.
Ichiro hat 1.278 hits in NPB from 1992-2000. His career high in Japan were 210 hits in 1994. Before he came over stateside he was actually getting worse, slapping “only” 141 (1999) and 153 (2000) hits over his last seasons with the Blue Wave. He has a career slash line of .353/.421/.522 in Japan. And once he got to the majors he went on a tear. The rest is, as they say, history. Whether you like it or not. And he will end up in the Hall of Fame. If he doesn’t the whole voting process is a farce.
To be honest, I always liked Ichiro as a baseball player. The way he hits, the way he fields, the way he stretches in the outfield between pitches, the way he pulls back his sleeve to get into his batting stance. Unique. Just as his fashion style. But that’s a different story.
He’s also very concious of the history of the game. It is said he’s visited the Hall of Fame quite a few times. He’s visited George Sisler’s grave.
He is just a complete ballplayer. He can field.
He can hit.
He can even hit balls that bounce in the dirt.
Hell, he can even pitch!
And on top of that, he seems to have a great sense of humour.
(Unfortunately I don’t think there’s any recording of the speeches he used to do before the Allstar Games. THOSE would be interesting!
He’s just the real deal and while I really would have liked him to stay with the Mariners and lead the club to the postseason once more, it’s just great to see he’s still playing. I hope he stays healthy enough to keep on playing for a lot longer.
イチロー、四千安打、おめでとうございます！ ｍ（＿ ＿）ｍ