Ichiro Suzuki: Baseball's Most Underrated Star
Ichiro Suzuki. Does the name ring a bell?
Unless you live in Seattle or watch the MLB All-Star game, you’ve probably never even heard of the guy.
He’s not as anonymous as, say, Jeremy Hermida (whoever that is) but considering Ichiro has been one of the best, most consistent hitters in baseball for 10 years, he’s been flying awfully low under the radar throughout his career.
Ichiro has had a batting average of over .300 in each of his MLB seasons and in seven of his eight seasons of play in Japan. He has 2,238 career MLB hits (add to that more than 1,200 hits from his Japanese team) and is second on the Mariners' career hits list. Impressive, right?
So why is it that we rarely hear about him?
Because he’s on the Mariners. And in case you weren’t previously aware, the Mariners aren’t very good these days.
Not only do the Mariners have the worst record in the AL this season, they’ve finished last in their division four out of the past six years and haven’t reached the playoffs since 2001.
They weren’t always so bad; in 2001 the M’s went 116-46, setting the AL record for single-season wins. But since then, the Mariners haven’t exactly been the team to beat in the AL West.
In 2008, they were the first team in the league to lose 100 games and to be officially eliminated from playoff contention. Not the kinds of races a team wants to win.
It’s no secret that good players on bad teams get less recognition than good players on good teams.
Ichiro, Nnamdi Asomugha and Chris Bosh (pre-Miami) are just three of the players in the world of professional sports who are underrepresented because of their team's record.
The Mariners know exactly how valuable the 10-time All-Star is though. They signed him to a five-year contract extension in 2007 that made him one of the highest paid players in baseball. And stars like him tend to find ways to shine bright on their own from time to time.
That's exactly what Ichiro did last week, when he made history by becoming just the second player in league history to have 10 200-hit seasons and the only player to do it consecutively.
He was also named AL MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, is a 10-time all-star, has won the AL Silver Slugger award three times and has nine Gold Gloves. Nine.
It’s clear that Ichiro has been one of the most consistently effective players since he graced the league with his presence in 2001. So why is it that we’re always hearing about Derek Jeter?
Because he’s on the Yankees. And the Yankees are good.
But really, the only significant difference between a player like Jeter and a player like Ichiro is the name on the front of their jersey. The Yankees win championships. The Mariners fade into obscurity.
Aside from the occasional broken record or assault allegation, the only way for a good player on a bad team to get recognition is to become a good player on a good team, whether by demanding a trade or waiting around for his teammates to catch up.
Ichiro's not one for demanding a trade, and his teammates aren't catching up anytime soon. So it looks like he'll continue to be the underappreciated hero for a few more years.
On one hand, that's a shame. On the other hand, if I were getting paid $18 million a year like Ichiro, I’d be just fine flying under the radar too.
To reach writer Kamille Simmons, click here.
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