SEATTLE -- They say records were made to be broken, but some just fall by the wayside.
That was the case this year for Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro, who saw his record-setting string of 10 straight MLB seasons with at least 200 hits come to an end when he maxed out at 184 -- still an impressive feat for most mere mortals.
"I feel a bit relieved because I don't have the pressure of having to continue chasing that record," Ichiro said after the Mariners' final game of the 2011 season, against the Oakland Athletics.
His relieved mood provided a stark contrast to the pained expression he often wore during the season. Ichiro is the only player in MLB history to reach the 200-hit plateau in 10 straight seasons. Pete Rose also accomplished the feat 10 times in his career, but not in consecutive seasons.
This season -- his 11th year in Major League Baseball -- has been a rough one for Ichiro. In May, he posted a monthly batting average of .210, his lowest ever.
"It was long," Ichiro said, referring to May and June when he failed to register a hit in 19 games. "It was tough when that continued for two months."
Another of Ichiro's personal records came to an end this season. For the first time in 18 years (combining his NPB and MLB careers), he failed to hit .300 or higher, finishing with a .272 batting average this season.
Base hits have been Ichiro's calling card. Now that both streaks have come to an end, how does the man feel?
"This year, I was able to do a lot of things, because I made it to the double-digit mark of 10 consecutive years (of 200 hits per season) last year," he said, adding that he had sought further self-improvement this year and took on new challenges.
His stats, however, beg to differ. For the first time in his MLB career, Ichiro grounded into more than 10 double plays in a season this year. Also, he had 47 hitless games this year, compared with just 18 two years ago. Is this because of age or just a slump in a year in which he was searching for new techniques?