End of an Era: Ichiro Officially Retires

End of an Era: Ichiro Officially Retires

by March 21, 2019 0 comments

Hard to believe it’s almost been two decades since Ichiro Suzuki made the trip from Japan to America to play for the Seattle Mariners. It’s almost just as unfathomable to imagine his career has officially come to an end, with his retirement becoming official as part of the Mariners’ 5-4 win over the Oakland A’s in Japan.

As much as Ichiro’s presence on the field diminished over the last six years or so, he’s remained a staple in the game. Because Ichiro has always been what’s great about the game of baseball. He was the perfect blend of flash and consistency that’s not always seen in the game. It’s what made him an all-time player and a sure-fire first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

In fact, Ichiro remaining relevant in the game is an anomaly by today’s standards, if you think about it.

He played in small markets for 15 and a half years of his 18-year career. Even when he was in New York, he wasn’t a major piece for the Yankees. But he still commanded respect and drew attention because he’s Ichiro.

It’s ironic that only a few hours separated his retirement and Mike Trout inking his 12-year $430 million payday. Ichiro may have been part of a marketing campaign or two, but he wasn’t famous for showmanship on the field or antics off it. There was some flair, but he was known for playing the right way. He only had one gear.

Ichiro wasn’t even a home run hitter — something Major League Baseball always feels it needs in order to drive fans to the park. But you can bet any money people across the country who grew up watching him play imitated his running swing at some point or another, much like Gary Sheffield’s and Ken Griffey Jr.’s.

And he made playing right field cool. Growing up, it was the place you stuck the worst fielders in Little League. Once he burst on the scene, everyone who played outfield wanted to have a cannon like Ichiro or Vlad Guerrero. (Never mind Ichiro robbing home runs like it was nothing, too.)

There’s no question baseball has some flaws to it. Pretty much everything in life does. Looking back on Ichiro’s career begs the question: why not focus on maximizing on the strengths of players like Ichiro instead of trying to make the game and it’s players something they’re not?

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