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URL Weaver: Ichiro Forever

Be careful when forming your opinion on Ichiro Suzuki collecting his 4000th professional hit last night. We live in the era of Hot Sprots Takes, where the hotter the take the sweet the juice, or something.

Where Hot Sprots Takes are involved, good sense does not follow. Hot Takes are rarely the stuff of substance. As the great Martin Luther King Jr. once said: I’d rather be judged by the content of my character than the heat of my Sprots Takes.

You see, your opinion on Ichiro’s 4000 hits is a terrific barometer for your relative quality as a person the the hit king serves as a window into your tortured soul.

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Fresh on the heels of the wacky outfielder catch/flip/thing yesterday comes this bizarre Japanese commercial for a vaguely Red Bull product. Reader Gino sent this my way, saying most of the people on the subreddit in which it originally appeared believed it be real.

Real it ain’t. Awesome it is. That’s sort of the way it works with these videos. Take them for what they are: cool ways to Friday away your Friday. FRIDAY!

You know what remains one of the weirdest things? Ichiro doesn’t play for the Mariners any more. He was traded in July and played against the Marines at Safeco and the world kept on spinning. The Ichiro! of 2012 is not the Ichiro we all know and love – the rare player with four elite tools who uses them in a most peculiar way.

Ichiro was better with the Yankees during his two month cameo (and requisite playoff appearance) posting a .322/.340/.454 line in 240 plate appearances. Late career resurgence or dead cat bounce: either way this ain’t the real Ichiro.

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We, along with almost everyone else, have already gone over the amazing Ichiro (!) run-scoring play from the first inning of Monday night’s New York/Baltimore game. While most “analysis” of the play consists of dropped jaws and a barely audible “wow,” there is more to look at than the amazing agility of the 38-year-old Yankees left fielder.

However, before we delve into whether or not this run should have counted, let’s spend a little bit of time adding to the praise heap for Ichiro’s efforts on this play, which represent a level of game intelligence I don’t think I’ve never seen before in baseball. Watch as he dodges one, two and three tags all in the span of less than a three seconds. To someone like me, who has trouble navigating his own bedroom without bumping into a desk or night-stand, Ichiro’s dodging and weaving movements seem beyond human.

In a way, they are. At least the way Ichiro uses his mind is different from how the average human uses his or hers, and this is what allows him to react in the fashion that we see above. Generally speaking, the brains of athletes act more efficiently than regular people’s.

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So the narrative goes like this:

Ichiro Suzuki, despite his standing as one of the greatest, most beloved and longest-lived Mariners in team history (he would have passed Edgar Martinez for the team lead in career plate appearances had he played out the 2012 season, and got 1200 more PA there than Ken Griffey, Jr. did), had worn out his welcome during the team’s recent, especially lean years. He’d grown sullen, selfish, uninterested. In fact, he’d become kind of a jerk.

Then the Yankees came calling; Ichiro was suddenly back in a pennant race, and was revitalized, rediscovering his prime-years self at age 38. Even after a pedestrian 1-for-5 in Sunday’s loss (though he did throw in his 27th stolen base) broke a string of six straight multi-hit games, Ichiro is hitting .331/.347/.481, which falls pretty well in line with the .333/.378/.434 he put up during his stateside prime from 2001-09.

So Ichiro is back with a contender, back in the spotlight, and back to his old self, or so the narrative goes. As Michael Schur/Ken Tremendous put it:

Well, we’re not big fans of narratives around here, and while I love Ichiro and wish him nothing but success (even on the Yankees), this one struck me as quite the stretch.

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As you might expect, the trade that sent Ichiro (!) Suzuki to the New York Yankees has not been without some ripple effects, most notably in terms of merchandise sales around the world. However, what might surprise you is that the increase in the number of Ichiro (!) jerseys being sold in Japan isn’t the result of his countrymen buying up new pinstripe versions of his uniform.

In the most Japanese thing ever recorded, Ichiro joining the Yankees has resulted in increased sales for his old jerseys. Yoko Masuda of the Wall Street Journal explains:

Gen Akiyama, head of the Japanese retail arm of Majestic, Major League Baseball’s official apparel manufacturer, said the store received 15 times the average number of daily orders for Ichiro’s Mariners jersey. Their stock has sold out, meaning those who still want an Ichiro emblazoned jersey will have to settle for one that comes with pinstripes.

Ichiro (!) jerseys that sport the Seattle Mariners logo can still be found online in the shop, but with additional shipping charges and additional taxes that are owed upon delivery, Japanese fans can be forgiven for wanting to buy locally.

As you’re no doubt aware by now, yesterday afternoon, the New York Yankees acquired Ichiro (!) Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners for two Minor League pitchers, after the future Hall of Famer requested a trade from his team of a dozen years. While the deal doesn’t have the same impact that it would have a decade ago when the 38-year old Ichiro (!) was a younger, single slapping, base stealing machine, it’s still a very important transaction for a lot of Mariners fans who grew up watching the newest member of the Yankees lead their team.

In fact, minutes before the Ichiro (!) trade was announced, the Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins made a swap that figures to have a far greater impact on the 2012 season than the one made by Seattle and New York, but the enormity of Ichiro’s legend in both the city he played in for the last twelve years, and also all of baseball, is such that no other trade could overshadow his move. He spoke with reporters prior to taking the field in Seattle last night for the time from the visitor’s clubhouse.

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