The most significant game in the majors Thursday had no bearing on the top of the standings: In Toronto's victory over the Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki collected his 200th hit, Jose Bautista mashed his 50th homer and Cy Young candidate Felix Hernandez dominated -- and lost.
About Ichiro: He's a lock to be voted into the Hall of Fame five years after he retires, and he's been so good you wonder if he'll have a shot at challenging the highest standards for voting percentage. Incredibly, he has a shot at 3,000 hits for his career -- he's at 2,230 and counting -- and he has been a dominant, shutdown defender who has won the Gold Glove in every year of his career. He's been one of the sport's best baserunners in every year of his career.
It's hard to fathom a reason why any voter wouldn't "X" the box next to Ichiro's name on the Hall of Fame ballot.
About Bautista: He made an adjustment in his swing in 2009, starting his swing earlier, and he believes this has helped him to get to fastballs he wasn't getting to earlier in his career. But welcome to baseball in 2010. Production like Bautista's will never be taken fully at face value, because of what baseball experienced during the steroid era.
And the facts both help minimize and perpetuate suspicion.
Fact 1: Bautista has never been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, and there has been no indication that he has ever used performance-enhancing drugs.
Fact 2: You can cheat and not get caught under the current system, because there is no testing for human growth hormone (and perhaps other drugs we haven't even heard of). Only a player -- whether it's Mariano Rivera or Tim Lincecum or Derek Jeter or Bautista -- knows for sure whether he's actually cheating.