COMMENTARY - I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but I have to side with Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com. The news of Ichiro Suzuki reaching 3,000 hits on Sunday is only part of a larger novel written by the Miami Marlins. The bigger story is that this is a team that has reclaimed the second wildcard spot over the St. Louis Cardinals with a 10-7 win over Colorado. While watching Suzuki create history with his triple to get into the exclusive fraternity this past weekend, wins are more important to this franchise – one that has had a misstep or two recently at the trade deadline and lost three in a row to the Chicago Cubs.
Wins get you to the postseason, not individual achievements. While I am a huge fan of No. 51 in your programs, he is still part of a larger picture of 25 men trying to make it to the postseason with a fractured rotation and a lineup that could still use the return of Justin Bour from the disabled list.
I’m not a party crasher, just a realist. Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly would tell you the same thing – there is still plenty of work to be done.
As Ringolsby points out, this is a team that has had six consecutive losing seasons. The Marlins lost 90 or more games four times, including 91 last season and 100 in 2013, and they share, with the Mariners, the distinction of being the only teams to have not been a part of the postseason since 2003. Those are numbers which make you appreciate the season this team is having. Even with issues with its fifth starter and injuries to a lineup that has soldiered on, it could all falter in an instant.
"We realize we have talent," said starting pitcher Tom Koehler. "You also have to credit the process with [Mattingly]. We come to the ballpark every day expecting to win. When we don't, he's upset, and we have fed off that. There's no more accepting losing.
"We feel good enough about ourselves that we expect to win. Sometimes you play not to win but rather not to lose. We are playing to win."
The Suzuki story is just part of the picture. It is a great distraction to the task at hand.
There has been plenty of discussion about the outfielder’s accomplishments, the face he started playing in the Majors at age 27 and the fact he has continued to get better with age. Not a fine wine, so to speak, but one of the greatest pure hitters I have ever watched. I grew up when Pete Rose was scattering hits all over the ballpark and Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs were taking home batting titles like they were part of the shopping list. Suzuki has a sweet stroke, such that one of my former colleague thought if he could ever learn to hit for power, he could challenge home run records.
I’m kind of glad that never happened.
Sunday’s day in baseball needed this kind of event. With the news of Alex Rodriguez’s retirement and the questions still abound regarding the San Diego Padres and their questions about the health of their players prior to trading them last week, Suzuki is the feel good story of the season.
Sorry, Cubs fans.
Now, it’s time to return to the 2016 National League playoff race.
I didn’t have the chance to witness history, but I sure heard about it. Whether it was Miami Marlins in-game reporter Jessica Blaylock or my friend India, whose son Miller is a baseball player, everyone had high praise for Ichiro Suzuki reaching 3,000 hits on Sunday. As a 44-year old fan of the game and someone who never played the game himself, I am in awe of his talents.
There is a part of this job that I love more than anything – the ability to watch baseball in its purest form and write about history as it happen. I am a huge fan of Suzuki for his pure talent.
As India said, “Ichiro is the man. Next stop, Cooperstown.”
It’s a great tribute to a man who has captured the hearts of fans since his arrival in Seattle. But for now, he has conquered one historic event. It’s time to see if his team can do the same and make the playoffs.