The Seattle Mariners announced Thursday morning that Ichiro would be stepping into a new role with the Mariners, one where he will move into the front office as the “Special Assistant to the Chairman.”
Basically what his new role will be is to help mentor the young guys, develop hitters, and teach outfielders (Dee Gordon) how to read fly balls and take proper routes. He is a developmental coach without the title.
Why not? Things worked out well for the offense when Edgar stepped into a coaching role,now Ichiro looks to help boost the team into a playoff caliber team. Edgar took the team from an offense that ranked in dead last in the MLB in 2015 to sixth in the MLB last season in runs scored per game.
It is not necessarily the end of Ichiro’s playing days, as he was obligated to this role for the remainder of the 2018 season. He is free to sign wherever he would like to in 2019.
For now, Ichiro’s last at-bat came in the bottom of the ninth, trailing 3-2 to Oakland, and striking out swinging on the fourth pitch he saw with runners on first and second, and giving the M’s their second out of the inning.
It could have been a fairytale ending in Seattle if Ichiro were to get a base knock and a walk-off win in his last at-bat of the 2018 season.
The organization knew this moment was on the way, Ichiro was a roster fill for Ben Gamel until he came back from injury according to Seattle Times Columnist Larry Stone. Gamel came back earlier than expected, and Ichiro hit just above .200.
But what the Mariners didn’t see coming is the impact he has on the clubhouse. The way he mentored the young guys, showed them the ropes, and the moral he has brought into the clubhouse has been something worth keeping around.
You see legends on every team, and they help clubs be successful by just being present. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Paul Molitor are only a few examples. Now the Mariners have two legends in Ichiro and Edgar, two of the best hitters that Major League Baseball has seen. Ichiro is currently at 3,089 hits. Edgar finished with an On-Base Percentage of .418, better than Stan Musial.
I believe that Ichiro works closely with the contact hitters; Guillermo Heredia, Jean Segura, and Dee Gordon, and their batting averages increase. I also think he will work heavily with Gordon in the outfield, and Gordon becomes an above average outfielder. At the end of the 2018 season, the Mariners re-sign Ichiro to a short-term contract, where he plays the Mariners opening series in the Tokyo Dome, finishes his MLB career in Japan.
Ichiro told the Miami Herald that he wants to play to a minimum of 50 years old, which would be another five years after this season. His only opportunity for that may be in Japan. His old team the Orix Buffaloes want him back according to ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson. He could begin and end his career in the same place. We have probably seen the last of Ichiro in Major League Baseball.
If that is the case, farewell to one of the most talented hitters that fans have ever seen, as well as one of the best defensive players that have ever touched the outfield grass. Ichiro is a once-in-a-lifetime player. From 2001-2011, he put together 200-plus hit seasons and Gold Gloves every single season.
A batting stance routine that is imitated even today on Little League fields around the world, and a laser beam for a right arm that base runners feared.
It’s not every day you get to watch greatness, and we have been lucky enough to do so for the last 17 years.
Thank you Ichiro.
Photo Credits: Google, Labeled for Reuse