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Wednesday, October 01, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 10/3/2004

Very few care that Ichiro is hitting machine

Ichiro Suzuki isn't some guy out there padding his statistics. Yeah, Seattle is a bad baseball team, but Ichiro was putting up great numbers when the Mariners were good.

Ichiro is to singles what Barry Bonds is to home runs.

Ichiro became the hits leader for a season when he singled in the third inning Friday night. He topped George Sisler's record of 257 hits that stood for 84 years.

Ichiro hits the ball into open spaces with more frequency than anyone in the history of baseball.

It's too early to call Ichiro the greatest hitter of all time. But he's the best among those playing right now.

Ichiro handles a bat the way Refrigerator Perry handles a knife and fork. He attacks the ball with gusto while displaying perfect hand-eye coordination.

Ichiro beats the ball into the ground for hits. He chops the ball over the infield for hits. He drives the ball into the outfield for hits.

He's like the Green Bay Packers' legendary power sweep. Even though the other team knows what's coming, they can't stop him.

When Ichiro goes hitless for a couple games, the first thing Seattle manager Bob Melvin should do is take his temperature or check his pulse. He's a hitting machine.

No player has more hits in his first four seasons than Suzuki, who's also the first major leaguer to collect at least 200 hits in each of his first four years.

Now, ask me if anyone cares.

Outside of baseball purists, Seattle Mariners fans and the entire population of Japan, probably not.

Comparably speaking, a base hit to left isn't terribly exciting. It doesn't have the same sex appeal as, say, a 450-foot home run.

Base hits are an important and necessary part of baseball. But the truth of the matter is, if you're seen one single, you've seen them all.

In fact, the only time we were ever told otherwise, that the person at the business end of the bat was somebody special, was during Pete Rose's climb to overtake Ty Cobb as baseball's all-time hits leader.

That was a long time ago. Ichiro is here to remind us of the lost art of hitting.

I used to think Rod Carew had the best bat control I'd ever seen. Nine times out of 10, Carew could slap the ball through the same hole between first and second. Carew, however, didn't have Suzuki's speed, which allows the Mariner to leg a simple infield chop into a single.

Ichiro purposely drives the ball into the ground because he knows he can beat it out for a hit.

Ichiro is one of the fastest players in baseball. He has the good sense to beat you with his bat or his feet.

His unique gift, however, is his ability to take something as simple as a base hit and do it over and over again with numbing efficiency - until the sheer volume of the act itself becomes overwhelming.

Of his 259 hits entering last night's game, 222 were singles.

Friday night, Ichiro went 3-for-5 with three singles. No home runs.

Some people count sheep to help them sleep. Ichiro probably counts his base hits.



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