Bringing in Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners is a pennant-winning move by the New York Yankees, even if he can’t pitch. Although Ichiro is 38 and although he was batting a career-low .261 when obtained, I think he will be energized by the trade and could light up New York like Broadway during the closing weeks of the season.
Suzuki is a unique and special talent and although all of his indicators over the last couple of seasons point to him being on a downward slide the Yankees (who needed pitching more) were wise enough to take a chance on him for the remainder of 2012. It is not far-fetched to think that Suzuki can rejuvenate his production and be a daily difference-maker for the Yankeees between now and the end of September.
And if not, little ventured. Suzuki’s contract expires at the end of the season and he can be a free agent. The Yankees have a history of making late-season pickups that pay off and this one well could be one of those bargain deals that prove so helpful.
Given that the Mariners have been bottom feeders in the American League West for several years now and are rebuilding with 20-somethings left and right, as much as Suzuki’s heart belongs to Seattle he knew it was best for him to let go for baseball reasons. The fact that the Yankees are in first place in the AL East and have a legitimate chance to play in the 2012 World Series has got to rev up Suzuki.
Picking up Suzuki for a couple of prospects and only being on the hook for $2 million-plus of his salary is a typical Yankee type move, reaching into the war chest and farm system to take a chance on an older, established ballplayer. Rumors abound around the majors in July, but I didn’t hear anything percolating about this trade in advance.
Funny Ichiro trade story: A guy I know by sight was sharing a copy machine with me this afternoon. I am presently in upstate New York and TV baseball fare for the most part is the Yankees and the Mets. Well, this guy was staying up late Monday night to watch the Yankees at Seattle. He hadn’t heard any news all day. It was getting kind of late to be viewing this West Coast game and he started to nod off. Suddenly, he shook his head and regained his bearings in time to watch Ichiro to step to the plate. For the Yankees. He thought he was dreaming.
Anyway, this acquisition has a chance to be a sweet dream for Yankees fans. Lest we forget how great Ichiro has been in his 12 years with Seattle, this guy is going to the Hall of Fame eventually. And we should also remember that Suzuki did not make his American debut until he was 27 after a long, successful career in Japan.
The first Japanese position player in the majors as of right now has a .322 lifetime average with 2,534 hits collected in the U.S., a phenomenal number for the time period covered. Ichiro began his Mariners career with 10 straight 200-hit seasons. Outrageous. He also set the Major League single-season hits record of 262 in 2004. Although at his age it’s difficult to believe it is still true Suzuki has been acclaimed as the fastest runner in the game.
Ichiro is a 10-time All-Star and in 2001 he simultaneously won the American League rookie of the year award and the Most Valuable Player award.. He has two batting titles on his resume and one stolen base title, as well as a total of 439 stolen bases. A terrific fielder, Suzuki has also won 10 Gold Gloves.
So even if he has been fading the last two seasons, I think he can help the Yankees down the stretch.