The past couple seasons has seen a very distinguished group of future Hall of Famers hang up their cleats for good. Since 2010 Trevor Hoffman, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Ivan Rodriguez, Roy Halladay, and Mariano Rivera among others have called it a career and each of them are headed for Cooperstown.
Earlier this year Derek Jeter announced that 2014 will be the last season in his legendary career that is certainly going to put in the Hall of Fame. Jeter was quoted as saying “I couldn’t be more certain” when asked about his decision. But another all-time great who’s currently wearing pinstripes is no less certain that he’ll be around a little while longer. Ichiro Suzuki says that he has no plans to retire stating ““Retirement from baseball is something I haven’t even thought about”.
The 40 year old Ichiro has complied over 4,000 hits total between the U.S. and Japan. He’s played 13 years in the Major Leagues and he’s been a Yankee for the past season and a half after being traded from the Seattle Mariners. Even if Ichiro isn’t ready to retire his days in the Bronx are likely numbered.
The Yankees bolstered their outfield by signing Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran and extending Brett Gardner for the next few years. Throw in Alfonso Soriano’s return for another year and Ichiro becomes the team’s fifth outfielder. Rumors about the Yankees trading Ichiro have been floating around for a while now and if a deal can’t be made the Yankees will more than likely let him walk.
When asked about how he will use Ichiro during the season, manager Joe Girardi said,
“We signed a number of outfielders as free agents, and things have a way of working themselves out in spring training. “Exactly how he fits in right now I can’t tell you, but my job is to keep everyone fresh, healthy and contributing, and I’ll have to figure that out.”
In other words Girardi doesn’t have the slightest idea on how to use the former Mariners superstar and that maybe because he really has no place on the Yankees this year. As the starting right fielder for the injury ridden Yankees in 2013 Ichiro put up his worst year statistically. He batted only .262 with a .297 on base percentage and a .342 slugging percentage.
Now that he’s on the last year of his two-year deal many speculate that he may be ready to retire. He has made it clear that that’s not the case. “For me, I feel there’s no reason for me to retire right now,” Ichiro said after exclaiming that he will play for many more years.
If the Yankees can’t strike a deal to trade him he’ll have to adjust to an unfamiliar role as a bench player. Ichiro, who’ll make $6.5 million dollars this year, may find it hard to no longer be an everyday player after being nothing short of a star for most of his career in Japan and Seattle,
“There’s no reason for me not to play every day,” said Ichiro.
The future of one of the decade’s best hitters is very uncertain but he has to find his niche on a team and that team is not the New York Yankees. Ichiro is in the twilight of his career and his rapid decline may make it hard for him to find his way on to a big league roster. If push comes to shove he could always return to Japan and finish out his great career where it began. Wherever Ichiro ends up he’ll eventually find a home in Cooperstown.