J-SLANTED: A Milestone or a Millstone?

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By JORDAN IKEDA

Amidst the harshest criticism and worst season of his career, Ichiro Suzuki continues to surpass milestones. With a vintage performance Tuesday night, Ichiro led off the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks with his 2,500th career hit and finished 4 for 5 with two doubles, two runs and a pair of RBIs.

“If you look at me now and if you look at me when I first got here in 2001, if I said my first day that my goal is to hit 2,500, on that day people would say that I was crazy,’’ Suzuki said through an interpreter. “Now looking at it, things do come true.’’

Between his nine seasons in the Japanese Pacific League and his 12-plus seasons in Seattle, Ichiro has 3,781 hits, the third most among professional players in either country, trailing only Pete Rose and Ty Cobb.

His achievement came the night after Seattle manager Eric Wedge had given Suzuki his second day off of the season — something he termed “regrettable” and “tough for me.” The unfortunate reality for the 38-year-old is that days off are most likely going to be an ever-increasing part of his life moving forward.

The Mariners opened the season with Ichiro in the 3-hole but after 52 games, he had driven in only 17 runs. Since returning to the top of the order, he has been even less productive. Before Tuesday, he was hitting .206 and still hasn’t walked in his 16 games from the leadoff spot.

Even after his four-hit virtuoso performance, Ichiro is only batting .265 on the season, a far cry from his .323 career average. In fact, his average since the start of 2011 is .267. So, the $17 million he is currently making has given even the most ardent Ichiro faithful a reason to grumble, while those who never liked him have looked prescient in their two-year-long call for him to be traded away.

This is the last year of his contract, after which he and the Mariners will be free to explore other opportunities. But for right now, both can at least celebrate a truly phenomenal accomplishment by the franchise’s all-time leader in hits.

Jordan Ikeda is a former Rafu sports editor who writes from Torrance. He can be contacted at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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