Nikkan Sports is carrying an interview with Ichiro Suzuki. Below is a translation of the interview.
What are your plans the off-season?
Golf. I've never had problems with blisters when playing baseball, but I have a ton of them now. I guess in golf, just as in baseball, bad players have [blisters] on their hands.
Every year around this time you're usually taking BP and playing catch...
I haven't really touched a bat or ball [this off-season]. I keep hitting the golf ball all over the place that I'm actually running up a pretty good workout.
Maybe you aren't doing well because you haven't swung a bat?
I don't feel good when my tee off doesn't fly straight. It's been 10 years since I started playing [in the Majors] and I figure maybe the timing is good for me to start playing golf.
Your batting average and hit totals for the month of July were at a career low. Did you have a tough summer?
I wasn't feeling very good since April. And I kept playing under this cloud that it would get worse at some point. I'm surprised I was able to keep things together. Every season I figure April is the month when I get a feel for things. And so even if I don't do well in April, there are times I'll end up having a good season. If I do well from April, it's harder for me to make adjustments because I don't know if it's necessary and then it gets even more difficult as the season moves forward. In terms of hitting, things are always changing so it's not good to stick with just one thing. It's about figuring out how to get a good balance of things. It's not a simple thing to do.
Things didn't look too good for the Mariners from the start. Wakamatsu, Griffey... Important parts of the team left as well.
When Randy Johnson threw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day, a couple of my former teammates, like Dan Wilson, Edgar [Martinez], [Jay] Buhner, and [Ken Griffey] Junior, all gathered at the mound. I was really envious of them. At the same time, I also felt like I didn't have that same kind of presence, even though I've played in Seattle for such a long time. And I started the year thinking how nice it would be to work towards helping Felix [Hernandez] and [Chone] Figgins become players like that, but we had a bad start from the beginning.
The biggest shock was perhaps Griffey's retirement...
He's a player that'll make the HoF. And even though he looked like a flashy person, he was really a modest guy that was always looking out for people. It was tough dealing with his absence. And I never thought I'd ever have a chance to play alongside him. I always felt like every moment we spent was special.
The team lost 101 games with a young group of players...
Players that were with the team two year ago weren't there anymore and everyone knew things were changing. But for me, after being here for 10 years, a part of me felt like we've been stuck at this stage [in development]. But I felt we made good moves and we had a lot of hope. And despite that, this is the year we had, and I felt as if it wasn't a good idea to state your goals so easily.
10 consecutive seasons of 200 hits. What do you think of when you look back at the time you headed to the US?
I really wanted to get to the Majors as soon as possible. And for that, the posting system was the best way. I figured I'd have an awful time waiting for free agency.
Your agent, Tony Attanasio, has said that you didn't care about which team won the bid or your contract and that you were prepared to play in any type of situation.
You can't pick which team you want to go to. And there are time limits on negotiations. It might look like it's a bad system for players, but then I realize it's not like I had any experience in the Majors. You need to accept the risks in posting, otherwise you shouldn't be allowed to be posted.
After you, a lot of players headed overseas and Japan won two consecutive WBCs. There are some that consider the gap between Japan and the US to be closing.
Is that really "a lot" of players? Enough players haven't made it to the Majors and there's still not enough history there. Is there really a person that can judge how big the gap is? I still think more time needs to pass.