It seems like every great Yankee member is retiring. Last year Mariano Rivera hung up his cleats, and Derek Jeter has already released his announcement. And Pettitte loved retiring so much, he did it twice. Hiroki Kuroda was pondering his retirement. Rumor has it Brett Favre wants to play for the Yankees, only to call it quits in the middle of the season. But one person who definitely isn’t retiring is Ichiro Suzuki.
A mainstay atop the Major League leaderboards in performance and popularity, the Japanese native has lost a step at forty years of age. No longer will Ichiro hit .320, or steal 30 bases, but he insists he can still play at a high caliber. Last year, the future Hall of Famer set career lows in many major categories, including his batting average (.262) and on-base percentage (.297). Billy Beane (or at least Brad Pitt) would not be happy. Still, Ichiro went on decent streaks last season, and played in 150 games. If he’s healthy, why should he stop playing baseball?
However, Ichiro might be resigned to the bench for the majority of next season. With the acquisitions of Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, along with Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano, Suzuki does not fit in comfortably as a fifth outfielder. Apparently, the Yankees tried to dump his 6 million dollar salary, but were unable to trade the living legend. Even if one of the first four batters played designated hitter, only a significant injury would give Ichiro significant playing time.
What I think though, is that Ichiro does not want to steal Jeter’s thunder. He was around for all of Mo’s farewell speeches and moments, and knows Jeter will receive the same treatment. Every casual fan understands each player’s commitment to and advancement for baseball. If Ichiro was leaving baseball at the same time as the Captain, then there would be a conflict, plus the general feeling that the 1990’s-early 2000’s glory days are behind the Yankees.
Finally, Ichiro has never played in a World Series. With the team the Yankees have assembled for this season, there is a remote possibility they could win it all. Unless Ichiro feels the desire to stop playing in July, he wants to finish his career Michael Strahan-esque; with a championship in his final season. Either way, Ichiro will enter Cooperstown as the best Asian player to date (with the most unique swing, too), and generations hereafter will always think of excellence whenever future fans say “Ichiro.”