The greatest baseball prodigy ever to hail from Asia, Ichiro Suzuki has been one of the most exciting and fascinating players in the history of the game. His remarkably fluid, unconventional, scurry-swing (one of his many marketable traits) has brought more than a few head scratches over the year. As a 27 year old rookie in 2001, he sizzled his way to Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors with 242 hits and a .350 batting average while leading his to a otherworldly 116-46 record.
Sadly, all humans age, and Ichiro has started the process. He’s still a good player, but his 200 hit-40 steal seasons are gone. At this point in his career, Ichiro is more of a platoon player who doesn’t have the same ability he had five years ago. He may have one or two productive seasons left (and hopefully he will), but its starting to look like even 3000 hits might be a stretch (he has 2742 safeties). Topps didn’t even give him a baseball card this year! What a travesty!
It also seems that Ichiro is tiring. While he does look much better in a Yankees uniform than a Seattle Mariners jersey, the fact that he even came to New York is a little surprising. According to reports, before Suzuki was traded, scouts thought he looked “bored” playing for a perennial cellar dweller.
While New York is a magical city, with magical uniforms, it can’t reverse the effects of aging. He did indeed look like a different player during the second half of 2011, and is definitely one of the more popular players in the Bronx. However, it all depends if Ichiro is popular with Mr. Cashman.
Even though he is older, he still is a must-have for the Yankees. Throughout his entire career, he has played and acted like a veteran. There has never been any Suzuki-related stories involving run-ins with the law, or other players. He has always commanded immediate respect by his teammates, even if he doesn’t speak much English or Spanish. And he understands that he is one of the leaders in Derek Jeter‘s city; he didn’t try to take the spotlight away during Mariano Rivera‘s goodbye year or from Andy Pettitte and his race to the Yankees’ leaderboard.
He is the epitome of a perfect player: sterling play, sterling reputation. He is undoubtedly one of the legends of today, and of all time. Everybody, not just Yankees fans, should cherish his playing days because a player like Ichiro comes around only once in a generation. Years from now, Ichiro will be spoken in the same breath as Stan Musial, Honus Wagner, and George Sisler. Thank you, Ichiro, for your service to baseball.