Ichiro, Kuo Among MLB All-Stars

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny one thing: Ichiro Suzuki is one of the game’s very best.  On Tuesday night at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, the Mariners outfielder played in his tenth MLB All-Star Game in as many seasons, making his AL-record ninth start as leadoff hitter.  Suzuki, however, was held hitless in two at-bats, as the National League All-Stars beat their American League counterparts 3-1 for their first win in the Midsummer Classic since 1996.

Nevertheless, Ichiro is on pace this year for his tenth straight 200-hit season, which would tie Pete Rose’s Major League record for the most such seasons in a career.  The nine-time Gold Glove winner also flashed some leather on Tuesday night, robbing Albert Pujols of extra bases in the first inning.

Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo pitched two-thirds of an inning—the first time a Taiwanese-born player has ever appeared in an All-Star Game.  The 28-year-old southpaw, a last-minute injury replacement, allowed the lone AL run on a Robinson Cano sacrifice fly in the fifth inning.

Still, Kuo is quietly enjoying a splendid regular season after struggling with elbow problems during recent years.  Working as a setup man for Dodgers closer and fellow All-Star Jonathan Broxton, Kuo has posted an anemic 1.03 ERA to go along with a healthy 3-1 record, and he has yet to surrender a hit to a left-handed batter (opposing lefties are 0-30 against him).

Meanwhile, Ichiro is having a typical Ichiro year—he’s batting 0.326 with 118 hits, including 17 doubles.  In June, he scored his 1,000th run, becoming only the third Mariner to accomplish that feat.

For many Korean-American fans, however, Ichiro remains a staunch villain.  He first drew the ire of Koreans everywhere before the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, when he allegedly stated that he wanted “to beat South Korea so badly, that the South Koreans won’t want to play Japan for another 30 years.”  (Although, in fairness, he was reportedly misquoted; apparently, the actual quote was: “I want to win in a way that the opponent would think, ‘we cannot catch up with Japan for the coming 30 years.’”)  Fair or not, Ichiro did nothing to ingratiate himself to Korean fans after he reacted poorly in the dugout after a 2-1 loss to Korea during that tournament.  He played the bad guy once again during the 2009 WBC, when he had the game-winning-hit for Japan against Korea in the tournament final.  In that game, the Korean fans at Dodgers Stadium, including yours truly, booed him lustily before every at-bat.  Despite the crowd’s hostility, Ichiro calmly delivered a two-run walk-off single in the tenth inning to lift Japan to its second WBC title.

So as much as you may hate the guy, deep down, you gotta be honest with yourself.  Just admit it: Dude is good.


Photo Credit: Matt Slocum/Associated Press