Ichiro Suzuki has had quite the professional baseball career. After establishing himself as arguably the greatest player in the history of Japanese professional baseball in the 1990s, Suzuki took his talents to the Majors as a 27-year-old rookie for the Seattle Mariners in 2001. Winning both Rookie of the Year and MVP in the American League, Suzuki set forth what has been a magical, Hall of Fame-worthy career ever since.
Despite Ichiro recently passing Pete Rose in terms of all-time professional hits, many, including Rose himself, felt that the accomplishment was not all that significant, as the ability to accrue hits in the Japanese leagues is viewed not nearly as difficult as doing so in the Major Leagues. Therefore, perhaps that is Ichiro’s driving motivation for continuing to play baseball at the ripe age of 43.
Recently telling a reporter that he hopes to play until he’s 50, Suzuki could feel compelled to attempt to drive that MLB hit total up more in order to garner more respect in terms of being considered one of the all-time great on-base hitters. However, Suzuki might not have the opportunity to accrue too many more hits. He’s well over the hill, and his reign as a premier player ended late in his Mariners tenure, which came to a close in 2012. Thereafter, an uneventful two-and-a-half-season stint with the New York Yankees revealed that Ichiro was on his last legs.
But, unwilling to give up playing the game that he loves, Ichiro refused to retire after a 2014 season that saw him as nothing more than a better-than-average pinch hitter. Choosing to sign with the rebuilding Miami Marlins, Ichiro rejuvenated his career early on in the 2015 slate but fell off thereafter. Now merely viewed as veteran commodity to have in the locker room for the Marlins, Ichiro is done being a top-tier player and obviously so, which makes it interesting that he is looking to be the Tom Brady of baseball by playing at a freakishly old age.
Unlike Ichiro, Tom Brady is still among the best in the business at his craft, so it makes sense that he has told those close to him that he plans to play into his mid-40s. As for Ichiro, he might find that the job market is completely dried up for him once he becomes a free agent following the 2018 season. Of course, he could always return to finish out his career in Japan, but as for the MLB, he probably should have walked away from that that a while ago.
Kudos to Ichiro for hanging on, though. The Marlins certainly are a team on the rise in the National League and should be expected to compete for the NL East title this season. Maybe Ichiro’s leadership will make the ultimate difference in getting Miami to the playoffs. The only thing missing from Ichiro’s lengthy list of MLB accomplishments is legitimate playoff success, and he definitely deserves to experience some before he goes off into the sunset.