This is the 12th in a series on influential figures in the Heisei Era, which began in 1989 and will end when Emperor Akihito abdicates on April 30. In Heisei, Japan was roiled by economic excess and stagnation, as well as a struggle for political and social reform. This series explores those who left their imprint along the way.

Seattle Mariners manager Lou Piniella had seen enough.

His new outfielder Ichiro Suzuki hadn't been putting up great numbers during the spring of 2001, at least not commensurate with the combined $27 million it took to sign him out of Japan over the winter of 2000.