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Ichiro opens up, says he ‘felt desperate’ in worst season

Jan 4, 2012, 3:08 AM EDT

Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki, 38, had the worst season of his MLB career in 2011, notching career lows in average (.272), hits (184), on-base (.310) and slugging (.335) as his Seattle Mariners struggled to a 67-95 record and second straight last-place finish in the AL West.

Ichiro talked about his disappointing year with the Nikkan Sports newspaper, and Reuters picked up the story.

As is usually the case with Ichiro, the story out of Japan is far more illuminating than just about anything that ever appears in the US press. Just a matter of being comfortable in your environment, I suppose.

Among the highlights in the story:

  • Ichiro didn’t feel right for much of the season, even in April while racking up an AL-best 39 hits. But he couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and the uncertainty kind of drove him nuts. “I felt desperate last season. That doesn’t happen to me very often. Mental stress is a lot worse than physical stress.”
  • He doesn’t take too kindly to those that suggest his drop-off is simply a natural part of the aging process. “Sometimes I feel I’m getting older, or more sensitive to what they say on TV,” he said. Can you hear the crankiness in his voice? He is getting older! Next thing you know he’ll be telling us all to get off his lawn. Ichiro did follow up the comment with this gem, however:

“Yes my skin gets dry but it’s a lame conclusion to blame everything on age. People are quick to point to age. Those kinds of people don’t interest me. But if you’re going to call yourself a professional, you need to put up results.”

  • Another nugget glossed over in the Reuters story is this: Ichiro has been linked to the general manager’s job at his former Japanese club Orix.

Very interesting. Ichiro’s contract is up after the 2012 season, so I suppose he could be looking for front office gigs back in Japan. But the scuttlebutt is that he’ll be looking for an extension from the Mariners as he chases the 3,000-hit milestone. With 2,428 career MLB hits, he would need to average 190 over the next three seasons to get to 3,000. Unless Ichiro continues to decline, an idea that surely makes him bristle, I’d bet on something getting done, possibly before the end of the 2012 season.

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  1. brewcrewfan54 - Jan 4, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    I’m not usually in the market for Ichiro quotes but these are interesting. First off I always wonder if there’s anything lost in the translation. Second, I hope he does stick around to go for 3,000 hits. If he gets it in 3 seasons thats gotta put him close to being the fastest ever to accomplish it. And the GM thing is quite interesting but I dont know how much stock to put in it.

  2. aaronzona2011 - Jan 4, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    i don’t understand why he’s so upset about people throwing around age accusations. it’s totally natural that players decline the longer they’re around.

    • wlschneider09 - Jan 4, 2012 at 10:25 AM

      Try that logic with your wife/girlfriend/available female and see how it flies.

      Nobody denies the effects of aging, except in themselves.

  3. natsattack - Jan 4, 2012 at 6:48 AM

    Who is Bob Harkins?

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 4, 2012 at 1:44 PM

      He’s the guy from Mario Bros and Roger Rabbit.

      • marshmallowsnake - Jan 4, 2012 at 2:44 PM

        Close…

  4. skids003 - Jan 4, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    I wish he could have came over sooner. I bet he could have beaten Pete Rose’s hit record. Would have been interesting to watch Pete’s reaction as it happened.

    • JBerardi - Jan 4, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      People talk about Rose’s hit record being unbreakable, but I’m not so sure. It’s not like a Cy Young 500+ victories thing where baseball has changed so much that it’s literally unapproachable. If a player like Ichiro can exist in modern baseball, then Rose’s record can be broken.

      Starlin Castro is something like 350 hits ahead of Rose’s pace. If he can just stay healthy and productive for the better part of the next two decades, we might have something….

  5. Old Gator - Jan 4, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    Ishiro obviously doesn’t read Mishima. What he should have done was take the owners and executives of the Mariners hostage in their skybox, climbed out on the sill and delivered a rousing speech about how baseball has lost its honor and its soul to steroids and big business, then committed seppuku along with the rest of his teammates – except for King Felix, who should be kept around to cut their heads off all while being covered by Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and an Idoru of Howard Cosell on Fox Sports.

    Now that would have made for a great thread here on Circling the Bases, wouldn’t it?

  6. hgfrombc2 - Jan 4, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    I’ll take a full lineup of players that have an “off” season that includes 184 hits!

    • thefalcon123 - Jan 4, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      Or, alternate phrasing:

      “I’ll take a lineup of players that have an “off” season that includes a .645 OPS!”

      Because that .645 OPS would have been the 2nd for any AL *team* last year…ahead of only the Mariners.

      • thefalcon123 - Jan 4, 2012 at 11:15 AM

        EDIT: It would have been 2nd TO LAST

    • ptfu - Jan 4, 2012 at 11:34 AM

      You might want to read this then…

      http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/yes-but-its-an-empty-.300/

    • marshmallowsnake - Jan 4, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      Even when 154 of them are singles?

  7. denny65 - Jan 4, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    Only in Ichiro’s world can 184 hits be considered a “worst season.” I hope he stays with the Mariners at least through 2015.

    • thefalcon123 - Jan 5, 2012 at 4:33 PM

      Only Ichiro fans can imply that a .645 OPS is anything other than really awful.

  8. nothimagain - Jan 4, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    As a Seattleite I hope Ichiro takes a giant declining step in 2012. It may sound bad rooting against someone in your town, but the selfish overrated prima donna is unworthy of admiration or support. The Mariners will be one of the best Ewing Theory contenders ever the day the GM is given the okay to sever ties with that washed-up over-glorified infield singles hitter.

    • slopmcflop - Jan 4, 2012 at 6:16 PM

      Dude, I can’t possibly imagine the emotional torment that this Ichiro guy put you through in order for a comment like that to be tapped out. What did he do? Kick your puppy? Backhand your child? I’m curious, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone talk about Ichiro with such malice, especially in the Seattle area.

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