He got it out of the way early. In his first at-bat of last years NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, Ichiro Suzuki became just the third player in professional baseball to eclipse the 4,000 hit plateau. The other two? Hall-of-Famer Ty Cobb and Pete Rose.
The difference for Suzuki is that 1,280 of those knocks came while he was still playing in Japan, his native land. So really Ichiro now has 2,722 at the Major League level. But that doesn’t take away from what he’s done. To say the 1,280 in Japan diminish the mark is absurd. He is still approaching the magical 3,000, something only 28 other players have done here. And those 2,722 are the most in a 13 year span in MLB history.
Suzuki has been a model of consistency ever since he brought his lithe frame to America. He was both the MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, helping the Mariners eclipses the 98′ Yankees for most wins in a regular season, winning 116. He has won 10 gold gloves (tied for an OF record), had 200+ hits in his first 10 seasons and has a lifetime batting average of .320. From 2001-2012, he only missed 32 games. All marks that have Hall-of-Famer written all over them. Not to mention the numbers he may have had if he had started his career here and not in Japan.
At 39 (he turns 40 in October), Suzuki is in his first full season with the Yankees and while he isn’t a .300 hitter anymore, he’s still a hit machine. You can still see him stretching in the outfield, the dugout and everywhere in between. Still see him hustle to beat out a ground ball, because without that hustle, he’d wouldn’t have those 500-plus infield hits. He can still dazzle in the outfield, though most of his magic comes in right for the bombers.
So now that he’s hit the magical 4K, what’s left? It’s simple. You can’t play forever, though if someone could, Ichiro and his magical rubber limbs could probably make a good run at it. In his 21 years as a professional ballplayer, Ichiro does have one championship ring, from the 1996 Japan Series. But in 12+ years here, he’s been to just one ALCS, when the Mariners were defeated by the Yankees in 2001.
Suzuki and the Yankees of 2013 still have a shot (however small) to make it to the playoffs thanks to a hot streak here in August. And he is signed through next season. His window is closing, but there may still be enough room for his small frame, productive bat and above average glove to slip through to the promise land.