Here’s To Hoping Ichiro Can Play Into His 50’s
In a recent interview, Miami Marlins outfielder and consummate pro Ichiro Suzuki said that he would like to play until he is 50 years old. If he did this, he would join a very short list of players who have reached the half-century mark during their playing days. There are only three other players to ever record a game in their 50-year-old season, and those players are Minnie Minoso, Satchel Paige, and Jack Quinn.
Having notched 16 seasons in the MLB and 9 years of professional baseball in Japan, Ichiro has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest hitters of all time. Ichiro logged over 200 hits in his first 10 MLB seasons, a feat never accomplished before by a Major League Baseball player. He also dropped jaws with his speed and his rocket arm.
I remember hearing about Ichiro as a young kid. I remember asking my dad why he doesn’t have a last name. I remember the impression he made on the MLB when he recorded 242 hits in his first season. Who the hell was this guy?
Now, 16 years the wiser, I realize that I have been watching a legend compete and dominate at the highest level possible. Ichiro has outperformed any of the hyped up Japanese baseball players who have entered the MLB.
When the Boston Red Sox signed Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, he became a mythical creature. A pitcher from Japan who could throw a ball towards third base and it would cross the plate. The master of the Gyroball. When the Texas Rangers signed Yu Darvish, expectations were through the roof. A pitcher of the highest caliber who would baffle American hitters. Both pitchers signed deals of above $50 million. In 2001, Ichiro signed a 3-year, $14 million dollar deal. Far below those of Matsuzaka and Darvish. Quietly, Ichiro has been the greatest player to ever come to the MLB from Japan.
Unlike many prized prospects, Ichiro has never posted impressive power numbers. He has never hit more than 15 home runs in a season (2005), and his slugging percentage has never eclipsed .465. He did not draw attention by hitting the ball into the third deck, nd never flipped his bat… My apologies, Ichiro did throw his bat once, but immediately after the game, he wrote a letter to the man who made the bat, apologizing for his actions. Aside from this moment, Ichiro always places the bat on the ground out of respect for the person who created it.
In his tenure, Ichiro has gone about his business, never the showman. He displays the utmost respect for the game and the game has rewarded him for it. In his age 43 season, he batted .291 and gathered 95 hits in limited plate appearances. Of course, Ichiro’s production is slowing. Far removed from 10 consecutive 200+ hit seasons, Ichiro is getting older. However, while his numbers are not what they once were, no one is expecting them to be.
The only thing Ichiro has left to prove is that he does indeed age like the rest of us. Throughout my entire life as a baseball fan, Ichiro has been slapping balls into the outfield, legging out infield singles, and hosing opposing baserunners from right field. If Ichiro wants to play until he is 50, please let him. He is the physical embodiment of professional, and he has given so much to the game of baseball. Seeing 7 more years of him would be a treat for baseball fans everywhere. The one-named man is not going anywhere, and for that, I am grateful.
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