Today we look back at a player that thought to be the first great thing to come out of Japan. When he was first brought into the Mariners farm system, everyone thought he was a sure fire hit that would blow away the majors. Unfortunately, Makoto Suzuki never lived up to the hype.
Mac started in 1993 with the A San Bernadino Spirit. For 1994, he was ranked as the #2 prospect in the Mariners system behind only Alex Rodriguez. It was believed that he was a sure fire MLB star waiting to happen because he had a 95 MPH fastball at 18 years old. While with the AA Jacksonville Suns in 1994, he spent more time injured than healthy and slipped to #5 on the prospect list. 1995 saw him stay at #5 , but saw him injured again and spending time with the rookie league Arizona Mariners, and the A Riverside Pilots. He got healthy again for 1996, and progressed through the AA Port City Roosters, AAA Tacoma Rainiers, and finally appeared with the Mariners in 1996. He didn't fare well on July 7, 1996 at the ballpark in Arlington against the Rangers. In 1 1/3 inning, he gave up 2 hits, 3 runs, all earned, 2 walks, and 1 strikeout. After that disaster it was back to Tacoma for the rest of the year and all of 1997.
In 1998, his struggles continued at the major league level. While spending time between both Tacoma and Seattle, he was getting hit hard in the big leagues. He was part of history on May 7, 1999 in Yankee Stadium when he faced off against Hideki Irabu in what is believed to be the first game with two Japanese starters facing each other. As usual, he didn't fare well, while Irabu looked like Cy Young. About a month later, he was traded to the Mets, but was waived before pitching for the Mets. He was signed by the Kansas City Royals, and finished the season with them. After spending all of 2000 with the Royals, he split time in 2001 with the Royals, Colorado Rockies, and Milwaukee Brewers. For 2002, he went back to the Royals system, and saw time in AA Wichita, AAA Omaha, and back with the Royals. His numbers with the Mariners show that he really didn't have the goods to be a good major league pitcher. In parts of 3 seasons, he compiled a record of 1-4 in 23 games, starting nine of those games. Mac had a 8.78 ERA in 69 2/3 innings while giving up 83 hits, for 73 runs, 68 of those being earned. His walk to strikeout ratio wasn't great either with 51 walks and 52 strikeouts. For his MLB career, he ended up at 16-31 in 117 games, starting 67. He did get 1 shutout, but ended with a 5.72 ERA in 465 2/3 innings. In that time he gave up 501 hits, 326 runs, 296 of those being earned, 265 walks and only 327 strikeouts.
After 2002, Mac made his debut in Japan spending 2003 and 2004 with the Orix Blue Wave. Because of his struggles in the Nippon Pro League, he was sent to Orix's minor league team in 2005, the Surpass Kobe. He was hit hard in minors in Japan also. In the 2005 off-season, he signed a minor league deal with the Oakland A's for the 2006 season. Mac was released at the end of spring training. 2006 saw Mac become a more international player. He spent time with the Tijuana Colts of the Mexican League. From there he was signed by the Chicago cubs, and spent time with AAA Iowa. In the fall of 2006, he pitched for the Mexicali Aguilas. In 2007, he went even more international, spending the season with the Tabasco Olmecas in Mexico, and the La New Bears in Taiwan. While starting the 2008 season with the Bears in Taiwan, he split the season between the Chihuahua Dorados in Mexico, and the Calgary Vipers in the Golden Baseball League. In the fall of 2008, Mac pitched for the Culiacan Tomateros in the Mexican Pacific League.
2009 saw Mac spend time again in minor league games trying to keep the dream alive. While starting the year with the Vipers in Calgary, he finished the year with the South Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League. In the winter of this year, he took a position as the Pitching Instructor in the California Winter League based in Palm Springs, CA. While doing mostly teaching(?), he did pitch for the Palm Springs Chill and the Coachella Valley SnowBirds.
Mac has just signed recently to return to the Chihuahua Dorados of the Mexican League for the 2010 season. Here's to hoping he can keep the dream alive, but that's all it will be. I don't see him getting anywhere with any major league team on any level.