(Ichiro interacts with the fans after the Mariners’ 2-0 loss to the A’s on Wednesday night in the 2011 season finale. Photo by Associated Press).
The Mariners’ season is in the books, and Ichiro’s worst professional season is over. He finished at .272, with 184 hits. It’s Ichiro’s first season with fewer than 200 hits since he joined the Mariners in 2001, and his first season under .300 since he hit .188 for Orix in 43 games in 1993, as a 19-year-old. The next year he hit .385 and set the Japanese hit record with 210 in 130 games. Here are his averages, in order, since the .300 streak started in 1994: .385, .342, .356, .345, .358, .343, .387, .350 (first year in Seattle), .321, .312, .372, .303, .322, .351, .310, .352, .315, and…..272.
It’s pretty striking when you list it like that, isn’t it? Which might explain why Ichiro, when asked after the game if it’s good that it’s over, replied, “I can’t say it’s good. All I can say is it’s finished.”
Ichiro hasn’t been doing many interviews lately, but he talked a bit after the game. I wouldn’t say he was expansive, but he did give some telling comments. For instance, when I asked him about the possibility of changing his style next season and trying to hit for more power, as has been much discussed of late, he said, “I don’t understand why you think about that. I’ve been myself, this style, for 20 years. So it’s hard to imagine doing that now.”
Doesn’t sound like an Ichiro re-invention is in order, does it?
Here are some other highlights from his interview session, as translated by Antony Suzuki:
Asked to evaluate his season: “The evaluation I’ll leave to you guys. You guys are the professionals at evaluating.”
His sense of where the team is going with all the rookies he has seen this year: “I look forward to all the positives. You see a lot of raw kids with decent talent and potential. They all look positive, that’s what I like about their attitude. Obviously, we haven’t spent time through the long course of the season since spring training, so it’s hard for me to evaluate how good they are, but I like the way they stay positive. It’s easy to point out the negatives; they’re young. But this game is all about battles. You have to look at the positives, too. When you look overall, there were a lot of positives.”
On whether he’ll change his offseason routine: “I don’t know. I haven’t decided. We just finished our season. I’ve said to you guys all the time, I make my own minor adjustments during the offseason every year. There’s never a time I went through the same offseason. I can say that.”
On what he’ll do tomorrow: “I won’t have to see any of you so I feel relieved. That’s a joke.” (At which point Ichiro interjected, in English, “No, serious.” But with a smile).
On whether he felt pressure to get 200 hits: “It’s a little strange, because this year I’ve never mentioned about 200, ever, during the season or during spring training. Nor did I mention that during last year, too. I feel communication is very tough, because I have never mentioned that nor have I thought about that. Psychology is very interesting from my standpoint, because you never know what people think about you when you don’t show that. So this year I felt like I learned a lot, as a human being, not just as a player, because that’s a part of being who I am, knowing how people around me think, psychologically.”
Asked if we (media) were wrong to think he was feeling that pressure: “Yes, wrong by a lot. That said, I don’t think you guys have enough imagination.”
HIs reaction to the season-opening series in Japan next year: “We just heard about that today. It’s hard to think about how to look forward to that, because we just finished our season now. We have a lot of time until that day. You want to prepare. I’m not set to comment anything about Japan yet at this point.”
On his relationship with manager Eric Wedge: “There’s more to learn from each other. We’ve just been together for one year under our belts. That’s how I look at it. It’s tough to build relationships. Like you guys. We’ve known each other 11 years, and still sometimes we’re not on the same page. It’s not easy to build good relationships.”