Ichiro Ten Years Ago

Reading old articles is one of those things I don't think any of us do often enough. We're always on the lookout for what's brand new, or what happens next, and it's because of our ceaseless push forward that we leave so much behind, forgotten the instant it's finished.

So you can imagine my delight when, during a search for information on the posting system, I stumbled across this Sports Illustrated article by Michael Farber from December 2000. It's an article about Ichiro's transition overseas from Japan to North America, and you'll recall that December 2000 was the December prior to his rookie season with the Mariners. Needless to say, a lot has happened since then, and it's interesting to read something written before the whole Ichiro phenomenon ever came to the States.

I recommend you read the whole thing, because it's fascinating, and it's not very long. But I'm going to go ahead and highlight three choice excerpts:

Ichiro plays to the crowd and sometimes with the crowd. While his manager interminably argued a call last season against the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ichiro charmed the Nippon fans in the rightfield seats by playing catch with them.

Can you even imagine him trying the same thing here? The first time he'd throw a ball into the stands, some superfan or soulless collector would pocket the ball and run away. Alternatively, if Ichiro kept it up, someone would inevitably get hurt, and Ichiro would face a fine and suspension.

Seattle general manager Pat Gillick, who has seen Ichiro play only on tape, calls him a "Kenny Lofton-Johnny Damon type," but Ichiro, who probably will bat first or second for the Mariners, doesn't have Lofton's whippet body.

These were two very flattering comparisons. Lofton was one of the best leadoff men in the 90s, and Damon - who had just turned 27 - was coming off a year that saw him bat .327 with 16 home runs. Based on video, Gillick figured that Ichiro would be among the league's most effective table-setters. All he's done since then is bat .331 over nearly 7,500 trips to the plate. Ichiro didn't just equal Lofton and Damon - he surpassed them. Sure, he doesn't have Lofton's patience or Damon's late power. But the worst Ichiro's ever hit is .303.

Ichiro had been asking out since playing against touring major leaguers in the the autumn of 1996. "I wanted a change of circumstances in my life," Ichiro said last week. "I saw these good American players, and I wanted to play against them."

Ichiro said he wanted to play against those good American players. He didn't say anything about wanting to play with them. Mission accomplished.

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