Ichiro Suzuki, the collector of 4,367 professional hits, is expected to retire after this morning’s Seattle Mariners-Oakland A’s game in Tokyo. The news was first reported by Kyodo and confirmed by ESPN.
At 45, Suzuki’s production and ceiling have dropped considerably. But make no mistake: for decades he was one of the finest pure hitters in baseball. He’ll be a surefire Hall of Famer, and a unanimous one if this is a just world.
No one has ever been as good at making contact as Ichiro while standing still. Suzuki, somehow, perfected the art of putting the ball in play while running to first base.
It’s difficult to appreciate just how impressive this unique skill is after all these years. It’s very rare for a player to come along that does something truly different. Ichiro’s forward-momentum hack was like nothing we’d seen before. It’s no gimmick either. The stats speak for themselves.
He’s a baseball unicorn.
There’s also plenty of evidence to suggest that he could have done something completely different but equally devastating. Throughout his career he was a table-setter, providing value by reaching base and putting pressure on the defense. But anyone who has seen him take batting practice has seen him hit home runs at will. Many have suggested he could hit 30-plus homers in a year if he tried. He himself said he’d blast 40 at the expense of a .220 average.
Ichiro’s speed was always devastating. He’s racked up over 700 professional steals. His home-to-first time in his younger days was an almost impossible 3.6 seconds. Then there’s his rocket arm.
Major League Baseball will never see another Ichiro, one of the most exciting and unconventional players to step onto the field.