Ichiro, an Indelible Mark on Mariners History
“This is my home.” – Ichiro Suzuki
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 could possibly be the final game played by Ichiro Suzuki at SafeCo Field. The Seattle Mariners played a three-game set with the Miami Marlins this week, going 2-1, and gradually put the first week of the season behind them. Good pitching and hitting secured a second series win, and ot them wins in five of the last six games; however, the real story of this series was the return of Ichiro.
Ichiro Suzuki back in Seattle, One Last Time
Ichiro Suzuki came into professional baseball in 1992 at the age of 18. He was a member of the Orix BlueWave, and spent nine years there. In 2000, when the BlueWave were no longer a top team in NPB, they decided to allow him to explore the option of playing in MLB. Seattle won the posting rights at $13 million, and signed him in November of 2000 to a three-year, $14 million contract.
Thus began the wonderful career of one of the first Japanese position players to begin playing in Major League Baseball. Ichiro came into the league as a rookie at 27 years old. In his first year, 2001, he took the city by storm. He hit .350, had 242 hits, and stole 56 bases. He laid the foundations of his truly impressive hardware case with AL Rookie of the Year honors, a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove, and the AL MVP. He was the leadoff hitter for a 2001 Mariners team that tied the single-season record of 116 wins. They joined the 1906 Chicago Cubs as the only teams to accomplish the feat.
Ichiro spent the next ten years doing what he does best: hitting the baseball. He amassed over 200 per year, and was able to stay above .300 at the same time. In 2004, he broke the single-season hits record that had stood for 84 years, set by George Sisler. He got his 258th hit of the year on October 2, 2004. He did it in front of a standing crowd in his home ballpark.
Over 11 seasons, Ichiro anchored the right field position and the leadoff spot. He had a cannon for an arm, and his speed allowed him to get to balls with lightning-like speed. In his first 10 years in the majors, he never earned a WAR below 3.7. Nothing exemplified his ability better than throwing this laser beam to nab a speedy Terrence Long on his way to third base.
In 2012, after years of the Mariners toiling in subpar performance, the decision was made to attempt to rebuild. The organization wanted to keep a group of veterans around to build a core. However, toward the middle of the season, no contract talks had been made to extend Ichiro. This led him to approach the Mariners for a trade. Ichiro wanted to make sure that the young players were given the opportunity to play and mature.
He was traded to the New York Yankees at midseason of 2012. He made his second postseason appearance that year, but the team lost in the ALCS to the Detroit Tigers in four games. The Yankees signed him to a two-year deal. Ichiro spent 2seasons in New York, before signing with the Marlins in 2015. He collected his 3,000th hit on August 7th, 2016. Hitting a triple to get the hit could have been the culmination of a wonderful career, but Ichiro wants to play until he’s 50.
Regardless of when he retires, the legend of Ichiro and the Seattle Mariners will be one for the books around Seattle sports. In years to come, the question will be who will get a statue next: Ichiro or Randy Johnson.