Ichiro gunning for history

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:45 PM ET

The argument has been made time and again. Which is a more compelling accomplishment?

Is it Barry Bonds reaching 700 career home runs?

Or Ichiro Suzuki chasing the single-season hit record of 257?

Well, since the San Francisco Giants slugger has already accomplished his and since everyone likes to stand up and "admire that one" until it plops into McCovey Cove, Bonds usually wins most arguments.

Yet, Bonds is the first to hit his 700th since Henry Aaron of the Atlanta Braves in 1973.

That was 31 years ago. Suzuki, the Seattle Mariners right fielder, is chasing George Sisler's 84-year-old record for most hits in a season.

Bonds' accomplishments came over 19 seasons, Suzuki's over a 162-game schedule. Neither is chopped resin bags.

It's not like the chicken and the egg argument, but similar as to which is more difficult: Pitch a no-hitter or hit for the cycle?

Suzuki had his fourth 5-for-5 game Tuesday to join Willie Keeler (1897), Ty Cobb (1922), Stan Musial (1948) and Tony Gwynn (1993) as the only major-leaguers to have five hits in a game four times or more in a season.

He's 14 hits shy of Sisler's record set with the St. Louis Browns in 1920, with 11 games remaining heading into last night's game in Anaheim.

The M's acquired Suzuki by submitting the highest-sealed bid to his Japanese club, the Orix Blue Wave, a whopping $13.125 million US at the general managers meetings in 2000 at Amelia Island, Fla.

It was a GM's meeting remembered for baseball execs going to bed after being told that former Texas Rangers managing partner George W. Bush was the next president of the United States. They awoke to anchormen saying they didn't know whether Al Gore or Bush had won.

The sealed bids for Suzuki was the highlight of the meetings, on the baseball side.

"One club tried to submit a bid and wound up voting for Pat Buchanan," Sandy Alderson, executive vice-president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, said.

Pitchers from Japan never had a problem getting outs in the majors, but a position player, well Suzuki was a first.

This is his fourth season and he has 905 career hits. Gwynn was in his sixth year when he went over 900 hits. George Brett was in his fifth when he made it. Gwynn and Brett entered the majors as true rookies, while Suzuki was an established pro.

Suzuki arrived as a clone to former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Brett Butler -- a slap hitter who could run and bunt.

No one knew how well he could slap.

Jim Colborn deserves credit for the M's landing Suzuki. He'd been the pitching coach with Orix, learned to speak Japanese and then returned to the U.S. to work for Seattle. He knew Suzuki's personality, ability, thought he could handle the change in culture and pushed for Seattle to sign him.

Colborn also signed 2000 AL rookie of the year Kazuhiro Sasaki and as well as Suzuki, the 2001 MVP and rookie winner.

Although Seattle has the third-worst record in baseball -- better than only Arizona and Kansas City, directly in line behind the Jays -- there's a race going on and it has nothing to do with the M's trailing Oakland by 30 1/2 games.

Seattle took a winning percentage of .377 into last night's game and Suzuki a .372 batting average. He has an outside chance of becoming the 10th player since 1940 with at least 350 at-bats and fashion an average higher than his team's win percentage.

If he hits higher than Seattle's winning percentage, he'd be the first to do so since four New York Mets (Charlie Neal, Felix Mantilla, Richie Ashburn and Frank Thomas) posted higher averages than their team's pathetic .250 winning mark (40-120) in 1962.

Better than the Mets and the most hits ever!

Now that's an accomplishment.


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