The Miami Marlins have a player headed for the Hall of Fame on their roster. Has the time for one of the games most prolific hitters to hang it up?
I want to go on record as saying that it pains me to write this. I’ve been mulling it over for several days, as even the thought has made me feel antsy and uncomfortable. It feels almost sacrilegious. As a Miami Marlins fan, as a baseball fan, I’ve lost sleep over it. But we can’t stick our heads in the sand anymore.
Ichiro Suzuki is taking up a roster spot. Whew. *Whips brows, swallows hard*. One of my boyhood heroes, I was giddy as anyone else when he joined the team. Even as a shell of the player he was when he joined the league in 2001, it was Ichiro. One of the greatest of all-time. But the time comes, even for an all-timer.
We don’t need to go on and on about the way he changed the landscape of American Baseball. Chances are if you’re reading this, you are aware that Ichiro transcends the title of “generational player”. Have no doubt, he is among the ranks of Cobb, Mantle, and Maris. We will never see another player like him.
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But this year, Ichiro has struggled in a way that he never has in the Major Leagues. He appears unable to get around on the average Major League fastball, and has looked overmatched at the plate this season. He has a look of a player who knows what to do, but can no longer do it.
At 43 years old, Ichiro has already beaten the odds. He has far exceeded the average lifespan of a professional athlete. In the past, he’s indicated he wants to play until he is 50 years old. That appears unlikely at this juncture.
Ichiro showing his age
In the past, Ichiro was a plus bat off the bench, and as good as anyone as a spot starter. There was little drop off when the world hit leader was asked to fill-in. That hasn’t been the case this season. In mostly pinch-hit opportunities, Ichiro is hitting a woeful .157 this season.
It isn’t just that, the superstar clearly isn’t what he used to be. That isn’t a slight on him, nobody expects him to be able to run at 43 the way he was able to in 2001. His infield hit numbers are basically non-existent though, and with that aspect taken out of his game, his effectiveness nosedives.
In years past, Ichiro was able to wreak havoc on the base paths. A quarter way through this season, he is yet to steal a base.
As painful as it is to say it, Ichiro is taking up a roster spot on the Miami Marlins pro team. His performance this season doesn’t warrant continued stay at the highest level. Will the Marlins send him down? Of course not. That would be blaspheme, even for the Marlins.
But he is keeping younger players from getting a chance to begin their Major League careers. Again, this pains me as much as anybody, but it might be time for Ichiro to move on to the next phase of his career; his post-playing days.
At any rate, it’s likely time for the Marlins to move on from having him on the team. I’d be surprised if he returned to the Fish next season. There is currently an option in his contract for the 2018 season, but barring a stark turnaround in his performance, that would be ill-advised.
Ichiro’s health will likely enable him to play as long as he wants. He has been able to stay mostly injury free throughout his career; a remarkable accomplishment for a 17 year career. However, his production would need to improve. At 43 years old, that seems unlikely.
No longer a young team in need of a veteran presence, the first-ballot Hall of Fame outfielder isn’t providing much value to the Marlins any longer. The “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” aspect of sports is perhaps the most unsavory of any. But even Ichiro is not immune to the business aspect of major American sports.
With a heavy heart, it is time to move on from Ichiro Suzuki. Whether he plays somewhere else isn’t a concern of the Miami Marlins. When he is inevitably enshrined in Cooperstown, all will rejoice. But for now, cut-throat business must take precedent.