VIDEO WEEK: Ichiro’s Cannon

Bizarre Baseball Culture: Mariners Mojo, in which a baseball team fights a Sasquatch Invasion

Robinson Cano is now a Mariner. I did NOT see that coming. And they paid a ridiculous 240 million dollars for him, which is absurd, especially given the long length of the deal and the fact Cano is already in his thirties.

However, that, along with the fact that the Mariners are apparently not going in hard to get David Price (amongst others), means there is perhaps no better time than now to be remembering how back in 2002 the Mariners saved humanity from a grand Sasquatch Invasion, which is easily one of the ten worst types of invasions to deal with. And they did it in TWO issues! Yeah, some teams would stop with just one issue, but the Mariners released TWO in 2002. That is true devotion to giving the fans what they…. want? And, what’s more, They were available outside of the stadium too, available at local McDonald’s! That way, you wouldn’t even have had to go to the park to get your hands on these comics!

Oh, and yes, it was done by Ultimate Sports Entertainment/Ultimate Sports Force, why do you ask?

Both comics were written by David B. Schwartz, who’s Twitter account calls him a “entertainment lawyer by day, comic book writer by night.” He’s recently been doing things for independent comic companies like Aspen, where he most recently wrote a title called Idolized, if my research is correct. Since he’s a lawyer, I’m going to be extra-careful not to say anything that might cause him to sue me. Thankfully, he does a pretty good job with these comics, given the circumstances that surround comics like this.

Doing the art for the first issue- and the covers of both issues- was Brian Kong. Kong has done a ton of stuff over the years, from comics to cards to recently illustrating a children’s book about how baseball teams got their names. In part two, the art was done by Dennis Calero, a prolific artist who co-created Cowboys and Aliens, which was later very-loosely adapted into a movie, as well as work with DC and Marvel. Like with Schwartz, they do okay given the circumstances.

Anyway….

Go below the jump and let’s get started on the stories themselves:

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Ichiro’s 4000 professional hits are impressive, regardless of the league some of them came in

Awhile back, Game 7 of the 1960 World Series was on MLB Network, having been found in an old wine cellar that had once belonged to Bing Crosby, who owned the Pirates at the time. And while, of course, it was one of the greatest games of all time in it’s own right, and had perhaps the greatest home run of all time in Bill Mazeroski‘s walk-off blast, what fascinated me was Roberto Clemente. I heard about how great Clemente was, I could see the old footage, but this was the first time I could see Clemente in a taped television broadcast since his death, as far as I knew.

And a weird thing happened: whenever he came up to the plate or a ball came towards him in the outfield, my eyes could not leave the television. Despite the fact the game had happened decades ago, despite the fact he only went one for four in the game… I could not take my eyes off the television. Because, well, I just knew there was a possibility he’d do something amazing (I hadn’t checked the box score before watching the broadcast, so I really only knew the broad strokes of the game).

To me, Ichiro Suzuki, the man who goes by only his first name, is the closest thing we have had in our lifetime to that sort of player. The player who’s talent is so great that you want to watch the TV not just when he’s at the plate, but when he’s about to make a fielding play as well, or on the basepaths. Oh, he’s left-handed (although naturally a righty, he bats lefty as a way of getting that slight head-start of running to first), and he’s Japanese and not Puerto Rican, but in most other ways the comparison fits: Ichiro, like Clemente, isn’t much of a power hitter (Ichiro averages about nine homers every 162 games while Clemente averaged about 16) but can definitely hit one when needed. Ichiro, like Clemente, has a cannon from the outfield that can stun even the fastest of runners. Ichiro, like Clemente, can make excellent catches in the outfield. And, finally, Ichiro, like Clemente, is a large case of “what if?”

For Clemente, it is a a tragic what-if of what may have happened had he not died that Christmas off the coast of Puerto Rico. For Ichiro, it is a bit more benign: what if he had played in Major League Baseball from the start?

As Ichiro got his 4000th combined hit yesterday, and in the run-up to it, some poo-poo’d him, saying that the 1,278 he had in Japan were meaningless, and that if we were to count them in any way we might as well count minor league statistics, or postseason statistics, or spring training statistics. This is ignorant of both the quality of the NPB (which, while not of MLB quality, is still better than even the best of AAA) and how dominant Ichiro was there (Jeff Passan notes that sabermetric wiz Clay Davenport found that Ichiro’s stats in Japan don’t translate downward that much when converted to MLB), as well as just how hard it is to get 4,000 hits in any league or combination of leagues.

In fact, as far as I can find, only seven players with good verifiable statistics have had 4,000 professional hits including every level: Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Jigger Statz*, Minnie Minoso, Stan Musial and now Ichiro. Regardless of league, evel of competition or era, the fact that only seven players out of the thousands upon thousands of professional players in North America, Latin America, Asia, Australia and Europe have had 4,000 professional hits is proof of just how hard it is and how impressive it is that Ichiro has done so.

And, even if you want to totally ignore the Japanese hits, your forgetting the fact that with his hit yesterday, he passed Lou Gehrig (another player with a large “what-if”) on the all-time MLB hit list. And that, on it’s own, is impressive.

So, congratulations Ichiro.

*Statz got most of those in the minor leagues, where he was a constant presence for the Los Angeles Angels for years.

Random video of the undetermined amount of time: Ichiro is awesome, sells wine doing so

Is this real or fake? Does it matter? Click the link below if it doesn’t show up correctly for you.

#sato #yunker #ichiro suzuki #health and beauty… by JPCMHD

BOOK REVIEW: “Baseball Is Just Baseball: The Understated Ichiro” by David Shields

The most famous baseball player since 2001 is almost certainly Derek Jeter. But perhaps the most interesting player of the time period is Ichiro Suzuki. Or, rather, Ichiro… no last name needed. The first and greatest Asian everyday-player in MLB, Ichiro has dazzled with his quick baserunning, excellent defense, and the hitting that will lead him to be the first Japanese player to make it to Cooperstown.

And along the way, he’s amused and inspired baseball fans with his wit and wisdom. Perhaps it is because of his unique perspective on our culture, perhaps it is because of the way his translator interprets what he says in his native tongue, or maybe he just has a good way with words. But no matter what, through the years, Ichiro has been giving the world some great quotes. They have ranged from profound life-mottoes like “Failure is the mother of success,” to insults, such as “If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.” {sic}

(Ouch!)

For that reason, Baseball Is Just Baseball: The Understated Ichiro, by David Shields, is a book that, had it not existed, somebody would have had to create it. Originally published in 2001- Ichiro’s debut year on our shores- this new edition from Blue Rider Press (part of the Penguin Group) adds more quotes (bringing it up to his arrival with the Yankees) and a introduction by the author.

And, overall, it is a great read, providing the reader with bite-sized amounts of Ichiro wisdom. Starting with Shields’ introduction, which talks about how he first came to love watching Ichiro play, Baseball Is Just Baseball is a non-stop love letter to the outfielder, almost entirely made out of quotes by him, with some anecdotes here and there to provide context.

If the quotes had been simply placed in a random order, or even in some type of chronological order, the book may have seemed disjointed. Thankfully, however, Shields instead collects the quotations in a somewhat flowing style, where each quote is connected to those around them. The quote about Cleveland, for example, comes immediately after a quote about a time he missed a fly ball in Cleveland. This gives it something of a “plot” to follow, watching many of the quotes merge into each other and connect, showing how Ichiro’s opinions have shifted or have remained the same and also providing some humor to the proceedings (such as the aforementioned Cleveland quote).

However, it isn’t perfect. For one thing, it is heavily weighted towards quotes from Ichiro’s early years, likely a result of how this book was originally written in 2001. In addition, those who expect it to be a biography would end up being greatly disappointed- although Baseball Is Just Baseball makes no claim to being such a book.

However, all-and-all, I would recommend this book, especially for fans of Ichiro or of good baseball quotes.

FULL DISCLOSURE: THE COPY OF THIS BOOK USED FOR THIS REVIEW WAS PROVIDED TO ME BY THE PUBLISHER.

Images of Game One of the ALDS

Baltimore was miserable on Sunday: it was cold, the sky was dark, and then it rained. And rained. And rained. And then, finally, Game One of the American League Division Series, which was eight innings of exhilaration and one of the loudest crowds I’ve ever been in followed by another inning where Camden Yards became a morgue. And my camera’s batteries were rather finicky, totally ruining many other opportunities for photos.

So, here we go (after the jump):

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Random Video of the Undetermined Time: Before Ichiro, there was Maddux

As I work on my recollections and photos from Game 1 of the American League Division Series between the Orioles and Yankees, perhaps now is a good time to talk about perhaps the signature play of Game 2: Ichiro’s dancing avoidance of Matt Wieters to score the first run of the game.

Ichiro has had many signature moments, but that play may be one of his best, it was something that nobody had ever seen before.

Except, well, this is baseball, so something like that had happened before. But who could have pulled off such a acrobatic feat of contortionist baserunning? Rickey Henderson? Pete Rose? A young Ken Griffey?

Would you believe Greg Maddux? (You have to click on the image below to get to the video)

The Yankees are just trying to play their role now

The Yankees have traded for Ichiro. A few years ago, this would have been earth-shattering news that would have caused large amounts of hair to be pulled out, rioting would have engulfed the Northwest (it still might- they still are justifiably angry about losing the Sonics) and every person with a keyboard would have declared this another sign of the inequity of baseball’s markets.

Now though, it seems almost as if the Yankees are doing this just to remind everyone that, yes, they are the Yankees, and, yes, they are willing to get well-known players who are past their prime in order to aid in the yearly quest for a world title.

This isn’t to say this is a bad deal: Ichiro still definitely has his moments, and has enough talent that he could easily go on a tear for the rest of the season. In addition, the two pitchers they gave up (D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar) don’t seem to be anything special- it’s not like they are trading Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps. It’s just that I don’t this is the big deal that some may make it out to be. Ichiro is a legend, a future HOFer, and still one of the best quotes and most exciting players in baseball on his best day, but this is hardly the deal that will win the Yankees the pennant.