(Photo by Ken Carozza)
By Howard Goldin
The days are winding down before the trading deadline of July 31. Teams that are currently in contention for a berth in the post-season are looking to obtain outstanding players to fill the positions in which they are weak from teams no longer in the running to be in the playoffs.
On Monday evening, it was announced that the Yankees obtained outfielder Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for two 25-year-old right handed pitchers in the Yankees minor league system, D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.
The recent announcement that leftfielder Bret Gardner needs surgery and most likely will not return to active duty this year and a recent injury to Nick Swisher have greatly depleted the Yankees outfield corps. Acquiring Ichiro will greatly upgrade defense in the outfield and the batting order for the Yanks. It is easier for Ichiro to more quickly join the team as the Yanks are currently playing a three game series in Seattle.
The 38-year old has compiled one of the great records in baseball history. During nine seasons, 1992-2000, in the Pacific league in Japan, Ichiro batted .353. He led his league in batting average seven straight seasons and was MVP three times.
He left his native land in 2001 to prove what he could accomplish in MLB in the United States. He wasted no time in exhibiting his talent as he was the second player in major league history to be chosen Rookie-of-the-Year and Most Valuable Player in his rookie year.
In his first 10 seasons in the majors, Ichiro was elected a member of the American League All-Star Team. His prowess in the outfield cannot be denied as he was a Gold Glove recipient in each of those 10 seasons.
Speaking of moving to left to replace Gardner, Ichiro commented, “I haven’t played left for a long time, to be honest with you. But the last time I played left was a playoff game, my first playoff game in Yankee Stadium, so it’s a very memorable position for me for that reason.”
After wearing #51 since he joined the Mariners, Ichiro chose #31 as he recognized wearing the number worn by Yankees icon Bernie Williams could prove to be an embarrassment.
After receiving a standing ovation from the Seattle fans on Monday evening before his first trip to the plate as a Yankee, Ichiro raised his cap and respectfully bowed to the crowd. The .322 lifetime average batter rapped a single to center. The hit was his 106th of the season and his 23,534th in the majors. He then showed the danger of allowing him to reach base as he stole second. The steal was his 16th in 18 attempts in 2012 and his 439th career steal.
The hit and steal will, almost surely, be the first of many for his new team in the Bronx. The new Yankee should get a big welcome when the team returns to the Bronx on Friday.