Siberian Baseball

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ichiro closes in in 3,000 hits... sorta

Not to take anything away from Ichiro, but MLB is trying to hype up a milestone of 3,000 hits split between Japan and the United States.


Heading into Friday night's series opener against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, where he is a .333 career hitter, Ichiro has 2,995 hits as a professional.

But his achievement has an unusual breakdown, with 1,278 during his career with the Orix Blue Wave of Japan's Pacific League, and another 1,717 with Seattle after coming across the Pacific in 2001.

So, five hits from now, we'll have an odd little statistical burp for SportsCenter to mention.

In honor of this, I was trying to find the account of Lou Piniella managing Ichiro in his first Spring Training - after he signed for the low, low price of $14 million in posting fees - when no one knew how good Ichiro really was.

Of course, I'll find this story tomorrow by accident, but the basics are that Ichiro kept slapping the ball to left field time after time during his first few weeks of training. It got to the point that Piniella sat Ichiro down and asked if he could pull the ball or if that was as much as the Mariners could expect from their new bonus baby.

Ichiro calmly explained that he was trying to be as boring as possible at the plate so that opposing pitchers wouldn't be able to get a book on him until the season began.

This is what I love about Ichiro - he's such a talented and mysterious character that stories like that are completely believeable and only add to his legend.

When Wayne Gretzky was still Canada's treasure and was driving to a game with his agent, they were talking about the last game, where Gretzky had scored from an impossible angle. His agent couldn't figure out how the puck got past the goalie and a sleepy superstar told him that it was simple - he just needed to put the puck up on its side to have enough room before drifting off to sleep.

Whether or not Gretzky could actually do that is beside the point, much like Ichiro's ability to seemingly place a ball with his bat more accurately than many players are able to do with their arms.

So, whether or not this milestone causes more than a small stir with fans is irrelevant. It's all about what he appears to be capable of. Personally, I'll just wait a bit for him to hit 3,000 all on one continent - I have a feeling it won't be very long.

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