OK, so in order for the Yankees’ two-year commitment to Ichiro Suzuki to make sense, we have to know what clicked for him last September, right? How he went from a seriously fading icon to a resurgent, ultra-popular superstar in the final 16 regular-season games, with a solid postseason to boot.

They don’t expect Ichiro to take that .394 batting average, .405 on-base percentage and .563 slugging percent from those 16 games and carry it over 162 games. It’s more a matter of, “OK, he must have really found something, because otherwise, you gave him one year per great week and ignored his first 51 games as a Yankee, not to mention his final year-and-a-half with Seattle.”

So, are you ready? The secret to Ichiro’s revival is …

“Baseball is a tough sport to really pinpoint what [the] reasons are that [someone] goes well or goes bad,” he said, through interpreter Allen Turner. “It’s not like track and field, where you’re timed and you can base it off of other times. Because baseball is a sport where [it’s not just you playing].”

“As far as mechanically, or something there, I would agree with him that there was nothing really special,” hitting coach Kevin Long said.


So if you want an explanation behind Ichiro’s transformation from short-time Yankee to one of only a handful of players signed beyond this year, you must look to an intersection of factors: He had the passionate support of ownership because of his Q rating, and the baseball operations folks didn’t object too strenuously because they didn’t love any of the alternatives.

Put it together, and you get a guy who, if nothing else, is very, very happy to be here and seemingly has a fan base in agreement. Which is no small thing when it comes to these 2013 Yankees.

“I got to New York and the fans were very welcoming to me and warm,” Ichiro said, “and obviously, that turned into me having energy towards the game. Obviously, that helps. But I feel like the Yankees’ fans are very sophisticated fans, where I think they look at a guy in the way they play the game. They’re not too into the outer appearance, how they act. They’re really into just how they play the game.”

For sure, there is the “too many home runs!” lobby in Yankees Universe that welcomed the arrival of Ichiro and his small-ball essence. Of course, you can play small ball only when you get on base, and Ichiro’s season-ending surge drove his 2012 OBP up to .307, which ranked him 71st out of the 82 players with 600-plus plate appearances last year (thanks, Baseball-Reference.com).

The Yankees surveyed this past winter’s free-agent class and hated it. They identified 12 outfielders they regarded as good enough to play for them every day — an appallingly low count, when you think of all the teams looking for outfield help. Their desire to get their 2014 payroll under $189 million eliminated most of those options.