Along with Ichiro Suzuki’s recent remarks about Cleveland and ugly bowlers, Slate’s Sasha Issenberg considers the Mariners outfielder consulting his dog, Ikky, for contract advice. Such bold public statements, muses Issenberg, are in stark contrast to Ichiro’s early interactions with the American press, which the author describes as “a Rumsfeldian mix of impatience and amateur epistemology.”
Ichiro’s decision not only to name his dog, but divulge their shared deliberations”an evolution, roughly, from Peter Singer to David Berkowitz”may have less to do with his changing views on the agency of domesticated animals than on how he responds to the uncommon burdens placed upon American athletes. In Japan, where Ichiro excelled for the Orix Blue Wave of Kobe, clubhouses are closed to the media. In the United States, dressing players”perhaps more than any other public figures in American society”are obliged to be sources of perpetual self-reflection. (No congressman is asked on a daily basis, “What were you thinking as you lost that procedural vote on your appropriations rider? How did it feel?”)
Some around Ichiro suggest his more florid statements of late indicate that he has finally come to feel more at ease with the American media. “When I heard these quotes, I laughed so hard because I know these are the real Ichiro talking to someone he is comfortable with,” Ted Heid, a Mariners scout who serves as director of the team’s Pacific Rim operations and translated for Ichiro in the player’s first season, writes by e-mail from Shanghai. David Shields, author of “Baseball Is Just Baseball : The Understated Ichiro” agrees. “He has allowed what was slightly subterranean to emerge, but the wit and the subversion have absolutely always been there,” he says.