Ichiro Suzuki: “He knows his death as a baseball player is getting closer”

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Those are the words of a former teammate of Ichiro’s from the Orix Blue Wave. They come in a must-read article by Wright Thompson in ESPN the Magazine about the 44-year-old future Hall of Famer’s drive to keep playing.

That drive paid off in the form of a major league deal offered by the Seattle Mariners which Ichiro accepted last week. Most people are viewing it as a nostalgia trip for the Mariners and the only way Ichiro can keep playing in America. That may or may not be true, but the desire — which teeters on the edge of desperation — is chronicled in detail by Thompson, who was granted access to Ichiro that no one in this country has ever had.

It’s a fascinating story giving us a glimpse at an Ichiro who, for as major a figure he has been in major league baseball over the past 17 years, is someone we know relatively little about. And even if we knew a lot about him, it chronicles a chapter of his career — perhaps his last offseason before his whole life becomes an offseason — for which perhaps the most prepared baseball player in the past several decades seems shockingly unprepared.

If you read nothing else today, read this.

Aaron Judge out of Yankees starting lineup for finale after No. 62

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Yankees slugger Aaron Judge wasn’t in the starting lineup for New York’s regular-season finale, a day after his 62nd home run that broke Roger Maris’ 61-year-old American League single-season record.

When Judge homered in the first inning Tuesday night, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers, it was his 55th consecutive game. He has played in 157 games overall for the AL East champions.

With the first-round bye in the playoffs, the Yankees won’t open postseason play until the AL Division Series starts next Tuesday.

Even though Judge had indicated that he hoped to play Wednesday, manager Aaron Boone said after Tuesday night’s game that they would have a conversation and see what made the most sense.

“Short conversation,” Boone said before Wednesday’s game, adding that he was “pretty set on probably giving him the day today.”

Asked if there was a scenario in which Judge would pinch hit, Boone responded, “I hope not.”

Judge went into the final day of the regular season batting .311, trailing American League batting average leader Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315. Judge was a wide leader in the other Triple Crown categories, with his 62 homers and 131 RBIs.

Boone said that “probably the one temptation” to play Judge had been the long shot chance the slugger had to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.