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Don’t be upset Ichiro didn’t reach 3,000 hits during 10-game home stand

Ichiro has a very specific role on this Marlins team.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Chicago Cubs Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Ichiro Suzuki’s quest for 3,000 hits has brought extra attention to the Marlins during each road game. It’s made them the team to watch in Japan, with international television affiliates carrying Marlins games.

And in a year during which the Marlins are competing for a Wild Card spot, it’s made things even more exciting.

Ichiro brings a distinct voice to Miami’s clubhouse and has a work ethic that impresses both his veteran manager and younger teammates. He wasn’t re-signed only because the Marlins wanted the big name. He was re-signed because he has a distinct role on the team.

Ichiro had an opportunity to reach the 3,000 hit mark at Marlins Park last week, as the Marlins began a 10-game home stand that opened with a weekend series loss to the Mets and ended with a series split against the Cardinals.

He fell just short, ending the home stint two hits shy. You can’t be upset that he didn’t get there, though, and you can’t be upset Manager Don Mattingly didn’t play him more often.

It might seem like this was another opportunity to get fans to buy tickets only to have Ichiro come off the bench for one at-bat. In an ideal world, Miami’s front office likely would have wanted to see Ichiro achieve the feat in front of its home crowd. But the fact he didn’t indicates a distinct change in the power and direct influence of Miami’s owner and baseball executives.

If Ichiro is starting games routinely, things aren’t going well for the Marlins. That much was made clear when Giancarlo Stanton was injured at the end of May and when he struggled to produce consistently upon returning. Ichiro stepped in and thrived.

If Ichiro is in the starting lineup more than a few times a week, it means something is wrong with Stanton, Marcell Ozuna or Christian Yelich, who together form what the Marlins believe to be the best outfield in baseball.

When the Marlins hired Mattingly, there was an internal power shift. No longer would front office members tell the manager how to manage the team. And under Mattingly, each player on the 25-man roster has a specialized role.

Chris Johnson is a productive pinch hitter against left-handed relievers and a solid defensive first baseman. Miguel Rojas can be used as a pinch runner and defensive substitution. Derek Dietrich is a power option off the bench. Jeff Mathis is one of the game’s more established backup catchers.

Ichiro is a big name, but his role on this team is to serve as the fourth outfielder and pinch hit late in games. It doesn’t extend far beyond that.

Ichiro received several opportunities to reach 3,000 hits but was unable to do so. Perhaps Mattingly could have given Ichiro an at-bat, for instance, in Saturday’s 11-0 win over the Cardinals. But maybe that was a complete off-day for the 42-year old outfielder.

If the Marlins made in-game decisions with the goal of helping Suzuki reach 3,000 hits, they wouldn’t be doing everything possible to win games. And right now, the Marlins have positioned themselves to routinely win games.

So if Suzuki reaches 3,000 hits over the next five road games, let it be. He has a role on this team and will be celebrated in Miami regardless.