Although Ichiro didn’t call it a retirement today, let’s face some facts. Mr. Suzuki (who?) is 44 years old, and he was batting .205 in 44 ABs so far this season for the Seattle Mariners.
Father Time has caught up to Ichiro.
But let’s not call it a retirement, not for the most complete player of our generation, although I’d caveat that with this. I’ll take Ichiro and Derek Jeter, and you can have everybody else who’s played baseball since the turn of the century.
They’re it. The very best, and neither is tainted by steroids. Not that I know of.
Ichiro announced that he’s headed to the front office, at least for the rest of 2018 and probably from here forward. Here’s to hoping Ichiro spends the rest of 2018 on a goodbye tour across the country. I think he’ll find a nation of baseball fans, genuine baseball fans, who adore the guy.
He’s a badass.
He won both the Rookie of the Year and the American League MVP honors in 2001, only the second player to do that. Fred Lynn was the first in 1975 with the Boston Red Sox.
He has amassed 3,089 hits, a .311 batting average and 16 Gold Gloves in 17-plus seasons stateside, not even considering his nine seasons with the Orix Blue Wave of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan.
He plays with supreme hustle.
His fundamentals are flawless.
The man can bunt, hit opposite field, kill any shift and beat out routine throws on the regular.
He doesn’t talk trash, doesn’t run over catchers at home plate and, best we know, doesn’t have a gambling problem.
Ichiro is essentially Pete Rose minus all the negatives.
As a Texas Rangers fan, Ichiro was maddening over the years. He was practically always good for a base hit in the clutch, and there was a time in the mid-2000s when we could never beat Seattle, often because of him and otherwise because of King Felix.
Ichiro is also one of the most physically recognizable athletes in sports. Sure, part of that is his heritage, but he also always wore his uniform a certain way, tucked deep with high-waisted pants a la Ed Grimley. His batting stance was unmistakeable: he’d hold his bat high with his right hand, touching his right shoulder with his left.
Maybe we should celebrate Clayton Kershaw or Bryce Harper or Mike Trout. Probably Mike Trout.
But for the rest of 2018, wherever the Mariners play, there needs to be a moment in the first game of that road series or, heck, maybe every game where the road fans get to pay their baseball respects to the greatest all-around player of our generation.