Chone Figgins has had a career year by any and all measures, playing Gold Glove-caliber defense while racking up some historic numbers of his own, like good buddy Bobby Abreu.
Combining at least 100 runs scored, 100 walks, 180 hits and 40 steals, Figgins said he was informed he has done something only Ty Cobb accomplished. Figgins came into Saturday’s game against the Athletics with 114 runs, 182 hits, 101 walks and 42 steals.
Cobb did it in 1915, the only season he accepted at least 100 walks. It was one of the dominant seasons in history: .369 batting average, then-record 96 steals, 144 runs, 208 hits, 115 bases on balls.
Rickey Henderson, the greatest of all leadoff men, never made it to 180 hits in a season. He fell one hit shy in his epic 1980 season when he combined 111 runs scored with 100 steals, 117 walks and 179 hits.
Barry Bonds had 181 hits, 126 walks and 129 runs in 1993 but fell 11 steals shy of 40 – not because he wasn’t trying. He was caught stealing 12 times.
Abreu fell 10 hits shy of achieving the feat in 2001 with the Phillies when he had 118 runs, 106 walks, 36 steals and 170 hits. In 2000, he had 182 hits and 100 walks along with 103 runs, falling short with 28 steals.
The remarkable seasons of the Angels’ twin catalysts come into sharper focus every day. This is a tandem at the top of the order matched by few in history in terms of getting on base and moving around those bases.
Abreu on Friday night became the fifth player in history with at least 30 steals and at least 100 RBIs in a season, joining Cobb, Honus Wagner, Hugh Duffy and Barry Bonds.
Ichiro is as hip, stylish and in step with the times as any player in Major League Baseball, even if he doesn’t express it in fluent English.
Before the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium last season, Ichiro willingly gave me a brief taste of hip-hop. I’m no music critic – although I did once review a Bruce Springsteen concert for the late, lamented Los Angeles Herald Examiner — but it sounded dead on to me.
“Ichiro is as cool as it gets, man,” Reds manager Dusty Baker had told me. “He’ll bust out some Snoop on you.”
The Mariners’ superstar, alone at his locker in the ancient home clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, was just starting to feel it before I was ushered away, deprived of more Ichiro unplugged by pre-game time constraints.
Now here he is, on the verge of reaching 200 hits for the ninth consecutive season, meaning every season he’s played in the Major Leagues of this country. We’re fortunate that it could happen here, at Angel Stadium, because this is a performer to savor, one for the ages.
As contemporary as he is on every level, Ichiro, more than any other current player, takes us back to another time, another century.
If you’re younger than dirt and would be curious to know what Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, greats of those early times, played like, Ichiro is your ticket.
He slaps and dashes. He laces line drives everywhere. He runs as if swept by a quiet storm. He makes difficult plays routine and has a cannon for an arm. I’ll never forget the throw he made his rookie year to erase Oakland’s Terrence Long trying to reach third base on a single. I was thinking, that’s Clemente, Roberto Clemente.
Ichiro has pounded out and beat out his singles on wonderful teams (2001) and dismal ones. He has been as consistent as the weather in the Pacific Northwest. You know it’s going to rain base hits when this guy is on the field.
Ichiro is much like Pete Rose in that way, without the fury. Ichiro is a better hitter than Rose was, with all due respect, and much faster. Defensively, it’s no contest. Ichiro is among the best ever; Pete took his talents to physical limits that never constrained Ichiro.
If Pete was Charlie Hustle – and he was – Ichiro is Mr. Cool, in any language.
Seattle likely will finish no better than third in the American League West this season, but it led the division in legends with Ichiro and Ken Griffey Jr. The Mariners also own perhaps the game’s most gifted young pitcher in Felix Hernandez, who takes his place right alongside Tim Lincecum.
Griffey has been, in my judgment, the player of his generation. Nobody ever had more fun playing the game than The Kid, and nobody ever was more fun to watch.
Ichiro Suzuki has been simply unique. His value can be measured with statistics that will carry him to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but there’s never been a number that defines style and class packaged in the one dynamic frame.
I’ll settle for No. 51, the one worn by the great Ichiro, a blazing star for several continents and all time.