Ichiro Suzuki is truly a once in a generation type of player. He is the best lead off hitter since Rickey Henderson, the best hitter since Pete Rose and the best international star since Roberto Clemente. As the 45 year old right fielder plays for the Mariners in the 2019 opening Series in his home country of Japan, a lot of people are speculating this it for him. In his 19th season, the 10 time All-Star and 10 time Gold Glove winner will not spend the rest of the season on a rebuilding Mariners team.
What he leaves behind is a resurgence in Japanese baseball and the desire for Japanese players to come over and play the American style game, but those who followed him here in North America. He has paved the way for Japanese stars such as Shohei Ohtani and Yusei Kikuchi to be competitive in the majors for many years to come. He made the game global and was one of the likely reasons we saw the birth of the World Baseball Classic.
Unfortunately Ichiro like Ken Griffey Jr will likely go down as one of the greatest to never win a World Series, but the two World Baseball Classic Championships he won as a member of Team Japan will cement his legacy as a baseball star beyond the American market. Ever since he came over in 2001, he was a star in this game, he was someone to look up to and played baseball the right way. I had the chance to watch him live in his prime in Toronto and it is something I will never forget.
As he was taken out of the Mariners roster part way through the 2018 season, Ichiro began his transition into his future in the front office. With Major League Baseball deciding that the Mariners and Athletics were going to make the season debut in Japan, Suzuki jumped at the chance to come out of retirement and play in his home country. There is a high likelihood that he will be elected in the first ballot for the Hall of Fame joining the class of 2025. The next phase of his life will be growing the game that he loves. There’s a possibility for him to be a scout in Japan, or assuming a role to work in player operations to help with struggling players. I do not think I could possibly think of someone who is truly more beloved than Ichiro Suzuki and he will truly be missed.