Ichiro No More
Photo: Jon Wells
May 3, 2018
Well, it's happened. Sort of.
As rumored earlier this week, Ichiro Suzuki has hung up his spikes, at least for the remainder of this year. He is not officially retired, according to his agent, but for all practical purposes, the future Hall of Famer's Major League career ended last night, when he played all nine innings in left field for the Mariners in their loss to the Oakland A's.
The Mariners are reporting the Ichiro will "transition" to a front office role currently defined as Special Assistant to the Chairman. He will continue to be a presence with the Mariners, both at home and on the road, and while not technically a coach, according to GM Jerry Dipoto "will assist, based on his experience, with outfield play, baserunning and hitting. And he will provide mentorship to both players and staff."
Ichiro has not accepted the idea of actual retirement from playing yet, leaving the door open for an attempt to play next year, but it would seem likely that the only way that could happen is if he returned to Japan. Several other Major Leaguers who started in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball have returned to NPB after their Major League careers ended, most recently former Mariner Norichika Aoki, who is now back with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. "It's hard to imagine not playing," Ichiro said following the transition announcement.
The Mariners want to keep Ichiro in the organization beyond 2018 in some capacity, but that will depend on his decision regarding continuing as a player. “While this agreement only covers the 2018 season," Dipoto said, "it is our goal that Ichiro be a member of the Seattle organization long-term. As his role evolves over the 2018 season, it will inform the team and Ichiro on his best fit with us in 2019 and beyond.”
If this is indeed the end of the line for Ichiro, he will have completed an outstanding Major League career. Since arriving on the scene with the Mariners in 2001, he has accumulated 3,089 hits, good for a career average of .311. The only Major Leaguer to ever have ten consecutive 200-hit seasons, Ichiro has been American League Rookie of the Year, MVP, batting champion (twice), an All-Star (ten times), a Gold Glover (ten times), and among the most beloved sports figures the Pacific Northwest has ever known.
In is nine-year NPB career (all with the Orix BlueWave, then based in Kobe), Ichiro had 1,278 hits, giving him a combined total of 4,367 between MLB and Japan. One of only 31 players to collect 3,000+ hits in the Majors, Ichiro is one of just seven players to have 3,000 hits and 500 stolen bases in the Major Leagues, along with Lou Brock, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, and Honus Wagner.
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