By Steve Silverman
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Baseball fans have heard the speculation about Ichiro Suzuki for years.
“If he really wanted to, Ichiro could hit __ home runs every year. It’s just that he wants to concentrate on getting hits and getting on base.”
Fill in that blank spot with 25, 30, 35 or 40.
That’s just a fallacy.
It really didn’t make sense. Clearly, Ichiro was a brilliant hitter with the Seattle Mariners for so many years after dominating Japanese baseball.
He was good for 200-plus hits every year, an average of .330 or better and one of the best arms of the last 25 years.
But if he was really a home run hitter, he would have hit them. He wasn’t choosing to hit singles instead of home runs. Nobody would do that.
But those who believe Ichiro has always been this power hitter in disguise got some fuel for their argument last night when he belted two home runs against the near-dead Boston Red Sox.
It was as if Ichiro decided to put his singles and doubles swing away and launch towards the short porch in right field. He was quite successful against the fried chicken-loving Josh Beckett.
Ichiro is not going to hit a lot of home runs the rest of the way during the regular season and he may not turn into a slugger during the postseason. But the Wizard can still play.
There was a lot of talk that Ichiro was getting near the end of his Major League run when the Yankees acquired him from the Seattle Mariners July 23. He was hitting .261 at the time after hitting .272 during the 2011 season. He had been at .310 or better in each of the previous 10 seasons and had hit as high as .372 in 2004 when he had a gargantuan total of 262 hits.
Since he has joined the Yankees, Ichiro does not look like a player who is finished. He does not look like he’s going to carry the Yankees on his narrow shoulders, but he sure is good enough to help out. He can play any of the three outfield positions and he can still hit.
Ichiro is hitting .322 and slugging.506 since coming to New York. He is smiling all the time and while there is quite a bit of grey streaking through his air, he is almost wide-eyed as he now calls the East Coast his home.
It’s a pickup that Brian Cashman can take credit for and feel good about. He doesn’t have to worry about future years, but Ichiro is contributing as the Yankees try to lock down the AL East – watch out for the charging Tampa Bay Rays – and he wants a chance to play in the World Series for the first time in his career.
Yankee manager Joe Girardi is happy with the contribution that Ichiro has made since putting on the pinstripes.
He even got caught up in the Ichiro Home Run hype after the game. “If he had been a Yankee all of these years, who knows how many home runs he would’ve hit?” Girardi wondered.
Leave it to Ichiro to add a bit of reality to the situation. He knows exactly what kind of ballplayer he is.
“A guy like my size, it’s still tough to get it out there, even at this ballpark,” Ichiro said.
The Yankees don’t have to worry about home runs from Ichiro. He is putting the bat on the ball and he has become a positive player for them.
He looks like he will be a difference-maker in the playoffs as well.
That’s what he was hoping for after leaving Seattle and that’s what appears to be about to happen.
Will Ichiro be a difference-maker for the Yankees come October? Send Steve hear your thoughts at — @ProFootballBoy.