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Friday, July 11, 2003

SPORTS SCOPE

It's time for Mac to get his act together


Hopefully, Mac Suzuki has turned over a new leaf.

News photo
Orix's Mac Suzuki is trying to resurrect his career in Japan after five poor seasons in the major leagues. His arrest for drunk driving last month didn't help his cause.

Wednesday night the right-hander pitched eight innings of one-run ball for the Orix BlueWave and was credited with the win in a 4-2 victory over the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks. It may be the first sign that Mac has finally gotten serious about his career.

When I learned last month that he was arrested for drunk driving in Kobe, I almost blew a fuse.

This "star" player -- who boasted a lifetime record of 16-31 with a 5.72 ERA in the major leagues -- just didn't get it I thought.

Here he was, with a chance to try to redeem himself after five forgettable seasons in the majors, and what is he doing? Out getting plastered with his buddy.

But let's be realistic, Mac has never come even close to living up to the overbilling he has received since his vaunted tryout back in 1993.

You know the one where his agent Don "The Con" Nomura (see Hideki Irabu, Katsuhiro Maeda, Masato Yoshii, Takahito Nomura) invited several MLB teams to come and look at the next "phenom."

Armed with their speed guns and clipboards the "experts" were blown away by Mac and his 154-kph fastball. The Seattle Mariners took the bait and offered the most -- a contract which included a $750,000 bonus -- and Mac was on his way.

Now all he had to do was back up the hype with his play, which -- to put it very bluntly -- he never has.

It was bad enough that Mac -- a high school dropout -- couldn't produce on the field, but then he started having problems off it. In 1999, Mac was also arrested for drunk driving after an accident in Seattle.

This just proves that this incident recently in Kobe wasn't an isolated case. The guy has been busted twice now for drunk driving -- a serious offense in this day and age. It makes me wonder how many other times he was driving while intoxicated but didn't get caught?

The BlueWave fined Mac 500,000 yen for the latest incident and made him collect trash on the beach as part of his punishment. Let's hope the message gets through this time and he doesn't quickly forget it.

It never ceases to amaze me how Mac has walked between the raindrops for all of these years.

It was obvious to me that the kid thought he was hot stuff, but what did he have to back it up?

He never played at Koshien. Never played pro ball here before being signed by the Mariners.

Even now, I ask, what has he ever done?

Oh sure, you can say: "Well, he pitched in the major leagues, didn't he?"

Yes he did. But factor this in to your thinking. So have approximately 7,500 other men over the past 100 years. Not exactly a small fraternity.

Basically, Mac was a figment of the media's imagination. But a fraud is almost always exposed and in Mac's case it didn't take long for major league hitters to figure him out. Yet he still kept getting chance after chance.

After the Mariners, it was Kansas City, then Milwaukee, Colorado and back to Kansas City again.

Suffice it to say that his luck finally ran out in North America and that is why he headed back to Japan. Hoping, somehow, he would be magically transformed into a winning pitcher just by flying across the Pacific.

Well, Mac, it just isn't that easy.

At 191 cm and 93 kg the Kobe native had all the tools necessary to succeed in the majors, including what the scouts call a "live" arm. However, the intangible, the one trait the kid is obviously missing, is heart.

It takes more than a good body to succeed as an athlete. Just ask Anna Kournikova. Mac is another in the long line of players that have been tabbed as having "potential" yet never fulfill it.

It is clear to me that he just doesn't have any confidence in himself. How else to explain his continuing streak of failures?

He even started this season on the BlueWave's minor league team. Unbelievable.

This year with the BlueWave's first team, Mac is 2-4 with a 5.36 ERA. Not very promising numbers.

I get the feeling that Mac always felt he could get by just with natural ability. That hard work in the offseason was something others did.

Hopefully, at 28, Mac has finally taken a serious look in the mirror. If he has, he would have seen his problem right there in front of him.



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