Dan's Dugout: Ichiro Deserves All-Star Salute • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Ichiro Deserves All-Star Salute

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If Ichiro averages a hit a day from now til the All-Star break, he’ll join the 3000 Hit Club.

And that’s just hits in the American major leagues; he had 1,278 with the Orix Blue Wave of the Japan Pacific League before jumping to the Nintendo-owned Seattle Mariners in 2001.

At 42, he’s the oldest position player in the major leagues. But he doesn’t act like it.

In fact, Ichiro is enjoying a renaissance nobody could have predicted.

Giancarlo Stanton used to be known as Mike

Giancarlo Stanton

The 5’11”, 174-pound lefthanded hitter entered the season as a fourth or fifth outfielder for the Miami Marlins. With Giancarlo Stanton sidelined, however, Ichiro has stepped in as the regular rightfielder and leadoff man. And, with 3000 hits in sight, he’s hitting National League pitching at a healthy clip.

As the season turned to June, Ichiro’s average increased to .314. He’s no threat to win his third batting title or lead his league in hits for the eighth time. But he definitely deserves an 11th trip to the All-Star Game, where he is the author of the only inside-the-park home run in All-Star annals.

Ichiro’s resume is remarkable. In his first season, 2001, he duplicated Fred Lynn’s feat of winning the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player trophies in the same season. He also hit a league-best .350 in his first look at pitching in the American major leagues.

Three years later, he broke George Sisler’s single-season record with 262 hits while winning another batting crown (.372).

He’s tied with Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons (10) and also has 10 Gold Gloves and 10 All-Star

Pete Rose

Pete Rose

selections. He led the American League in singles 10 times and scored 100 runs eight times.

Ichiro, who answers only to his first name, is virtually certain to become the first Japanese import to reach the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. Even if he doesn’t reach the Rose record of 4,256 hits, he already has more safeties — combining his American and Japanese totals puts Ichiro over the top by an eyelash. He’s already ahead of Barry Bonds on the U.S. hit list.

Though his speed his faded, Ichiro remains a fine contact hitter. He fanned only five times in his first 95 at-bats this year.

Whether Ichiro returns after this season is uncertain. His contract carries him only through the 2016 campaign. And what team would consider a 43-year-old outfielder who can’t play every day simply because the ravages of time have intervened?

Ichiro, who spent two-and-a-half years with the Yankees, hit only .229 in his first year with the Fish last season. But that was just a blip on radar screen filled with spectacular achievements.

The baseball world should salute him in San Diego when the All-Stars gather next month.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis

After Atlanta traded him with unkind words about his defensive skills, Evan Gattis has not only become Houston’s regular catcher but also its cleanup hitter and the leader of its current surge . . .

No sooner do pitchers stop the 29-game hitting streak of Jackie Bradley, Jr. does teammate Xavier Bogaerts compiled a 26-game skein . . .

Defending AL strikeout king Chris Sale owns the White Sox club record for strikeouts in a season . . .

Versatile Martin Prado, a fine No. 2 hitter, is an impending free agent who would be a great addition to the Mets, Royals, or any team needing help at third base . . .

So many Mets were sidelined at once that manager Terry Collins had to use Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom as pinch-hitters . . .

Detroit starter Justin Verlander, a supporter of daily drug testing, says cheaters should be banned for life.

 

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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