Major League Baseball, fans the world over, current players and, of course, Terry Collins: We blew it.
We had the chance to put Ichiro Suzuki, one of the most entertaining characters to ever play this great game on a central stage, to be honored as he has earned through eight years of Japanese ball and sixteen years in the majors, and we flat out failed.
Oh, to be sure, there were those in the media who called for his inclusion, seen, amongst other places, here, here, and here, but by and large the lead up to the 2016 All-Star game has been conspicuously absent of chatter regarding Ichiro, a man who stands on the cusp of achieving one of the recognized great feats for hitters in baseball, that being the collection (compilation?) of 3,000 hits.
Frankly it's surprising that between Ichiro's quest for 3,000 and his historically excellent fan support from Japan that he didn't get more play on the ballot. Why is this?
Well, for one thing he plays on the Marlins, and let's keep it real, Miami: The Marlins are not the most popular team in baseball. Accordingly, Ichiro is not getting the kind of press he would be getting if he were on, say, the Chicago Cubs. Signs that Ichiro doing his thing with the Fish has caused him to fly under the radar a bit is evidenced by Google search suggestions that came up while researching this article, such as "is Ichiro playing this year?" or "does Ichiro Suzuki still play baseball?"
Certainly not helping his own cause, Ichiro has been quiet leading up to his big milestone and quiet about whether or not he intends to hang them up this year. If he had announced at the beginning of the year that he was going to retire, as so many other superstars have done before him, there might have been more of a public push to get him into this game.
The simplest explanation, however, is probably the correct one: By virtue of his existence this season as a part time player, you had to write in/type in Ichiro at the bottom of the NL outfielder field on the All-Star ballot in order to even get his picture to pop up as an option.
Still, you would think that 24 years of good will built up amongst Japanese and American baseball fans would've been enough to help secure the aging legend a spot. Not to mention Ichiro's entertaining All-Star game history. Who could ever forget the rookie phenom Ichiro leading off the 2001 All-Star game facing prime Randy Johnson, legging out a single past just past the Big Unit's swipe? Or his penchant for delivering hilarious pre-game speeches in the locker room to his teammates?
Or this hit which earned him the 2007 All-Star MVP nod:
Maybe you're one of those people who doesn't think a part time outfielder deserves a spot on an all-star roster. Maybe you vote by the numbers.
May I remind you that Derek Jeter put up -.1 fWAR in his last season, and he was in the All-Star game that year. Cal Ripken had -.5 fWAR, also included in the All-Star game (and honored inbetween innings). Pete Rose was 44 years old in 1985 when he was picked as a reserve in his last All-Star appearance...his numbers did not merit his inclusion, but that was beside the point. Ichiro is playing better than all of them did in their final seasons, batting .337 with 1.3 fWAR to date.
You know who doesn't belong in the All-Star game? Dexter Fowler. A fine gentleman and a good ballplayer...but a legend he is not. Ichiro, by fan vote or peer vote or managerial decision or by sheer creativity by MLB executives could've had a spot in this game. He should've, and we all would've had the chance to potentially see something special happen.
Now we'll never know.