True to the blue: the “Sultan of Slap” returns to Seattle

Ichiro - japan-forward.com.jpg

Amanda Chappell, Section editor

 

The 2018 baseball season is approaching quickly, and several clubs are finalizing their roster before spring training comes to a close. With trades such as Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees, and Yu Darvish to the Chicago Cubs, the MLB hot stove tracker has been on fire. However, there is one trade that outshines them all: Ichiro Suzuki’s, lovingly referred to by Ichiro, return home to Seattle.

Ichiro, now 44 years old, was elected a free agent after his 2017 season with the Miami Marlins. As soon as the idea of him returning to Seattle became a slight possibility, Mariners fans across the world ached for this to happen. As of March 7, that dream is officially a reality. The Mariners announced that Ichiro signed a one-year contract for $750,000, with possible bonuses, depending on plate performances, according to The New York Times.

In the 2017 season with the Marlins, Ichiro batted a .255 average from 50 hits, 20 RBIs, and three home runs, all in a total of 196 at bats. For the then-43-year-old, that is quite the season. According to ESPN, “Ichiro ranks 22nd with 3,080 career hits… He set a big-league mark with 109 plate appearances as a pinch hitter, and had a franchise record 27 pinch-hits.”

Ichiro first joined the Mariners in 2001, where he led the team with a record 116 wins. The Mariners have yet to reach the postseason since that miraculous rookie year for Ichiro, so fans are anticipating an exciting 2018 season. In that astonishing first year, Ichiro batted a .350 average in 692 at bats, including 242 hits, 8 home runs, 56 stolen bases, and 69 RBIs. Besides leading the Mariners to the postseason, in that year, Ichiro was awarded the American League Rookie of the Year, American League Silver Slugger, and Rawlings American League Gold Glove.

The Japanese star has had quite the career since his debut. After his 2001 season, Ichiro continued to run the bases with the Mariners for another eleven years, until he was traded to the New York Yankees in mid-2012. In the three years with the Yankees, Ichiro had a batting average of .281, with 1106 at bats. After three years in New York, the Miami Marlins picked up the aging outfielder.

In 2015, Ichiro signed a two million dollar contract with the Miami Marlins, his third team in the MLB. He played in the orange and black colors for three seasons, averaging .256 with 921 at bats. Once he became a free agent, it was up to any club to claim the famed player.

Since the announcement, many have speculated the true reason as to why the Mariners had signed their once-MVP. Did they do it for sentimental reasons, to increase ticket sales? Or, did they really see potential left in him?

With left fielder Ben Gamel out with a strained oblique muscle, right fielder Mitch Haniger struggling with a minor hand injury, and left fielder Guillermo Heredia recovering from shoulder surgery, the Mariner’s outfield was looking quite desperate. “The addition of Ichiro gives our team another versatile and athletic outfielder,” Jerry Dipoto, Mariners general manager, said in a statement. “His incredible work ethic, preparation and focus will enhance our environment in many ways.”

This season will mark Ichiro’s 18th season with the MLB, and he has no intention of stopping anytime soon. “I think everybody has heard I want to play till I’m 50,” he said through his translator, “but I always say I want to play at least until I’m 50. Make sure everybody understands that.”

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