Getty Images

Ichiro retires. Next stop: Hall of Fame

54 Comments

After 19 years in the Major Leagues and nine seasons in Japan, the great Ichiro Suzuki is retiring. His next stop will be Cooperstown and a sure-thing induction to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Ichiro stopped playing in May of last season, taking a job with the Mariners’ front office. While career retrospectives followed that announcement, Ichiro made a point to say that he was not yet retiring. It was clear why he kept his options open: he wanted to end his career in a Mariners uniform in front of fans in Tokyo for the 2019 Japan Series. He didn’t have any success at the plate in his final two games — he went hitless in five at bats with a walk before being removed after taking the field in the bottom of the eighth inning — but allowing him to say goodbye to both Mariners fans and fans in Japan in one fell swoop made for a fitting finish for him all the same.

Ichiro ends his big league career with a line of .311/.355/.402, with 3,089 hits and 509 stolen bases. He was the MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, took home 10 Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger Awards and made the All-Star team ten times. He set the all-time record for hits in a season in 2004 with 262 safeties. He topped 200 hits ten times and led the league in hits seven times, including four years running between 2006 and 2010.

That was just part of it, obviously, as Ichiro was a megastar in Japan before coming to the United States, leading the Orix Blue Wave for nine seasons. His 1,278 hits there, combined with his 3,089 here, give him a career total of 4,367, which are more than any man to ever play the game. Pete Rose may still be the MLB hit king, but Ichiro is certainly the global hit king.

Other statistical highlights:

  • Only one player led the league in hits more often than Ichiro: Ty Cobb. Tony Gwynn and Pete Rose also led the league in hits seven times;
  • Ichiro’s 3,089 career hits, are the 23rd-most in MLB history. There are only 32 members of the 3,000 hit club currently;
  • Ichiro is one of only 17 players to rack up 300 or more hits in his 40’s;
  • Ichiro hit .291 in 365 plate appearances as a 42-year-old in 2016 with the Marlins. The only hitters to put up a higher batting average in 300-plus PA at the age of 42 or older are Julio Franco (.309, 45 years old in 2004) and Luke Appling (.301, 42 years old in 1949);
  • Ichiro led the league with a .372 batting average in 2004. It is the seventh-highest batting average among qualified hitters since 1945. The others: Tony Gwynn (.394, 1994), George Brett (.390, 1980), Rod Carew (.388, 1977), Ted Williams (.388, 1957), Larry Walker (.379, 1999), and Stan Musial (.376, 1948);
  • Ichiro has a career .311 batting average across 18 seasons and 10,728 plate appearances. Only five hitters have a higher career batting average with at least 10,000 PA since 1945: Tony Gwynn (.338), Wade Boggs (.328), Rod Crew (.328), Stan Musial (.328), and Roberto Clemente (.317). Just 16 hitters have a career .300 average with 10,000-plus PA;
  • Ichiro stole 509 bases in his career. There are only 39 total members of the 500 steals club.;
  • Ichiro is one of only seven players to have both 3,000-plus hits and 500-plus stolen bases in his career. The others: Rickey Henderson (3,055; 1,406), Paul Molitor (3,319; 504), Lou Brock (3,023; 938), Eddie Collins (3,315; 741), Ty Cobb (4,189; 897), and Honus Wagner (3,420; 723).

Ichiro will, quite obviously, be called to Cooperstown in 2025, his first year of eligibility. Not that he will need that to ensure his immortality. He is one of the greatest and one of the most memorable players of all time. Both his fame and his accomplishments stand unique.

Farewell, Ichiro.

Straight-away center field will be 385 feet at London Stadium

Getty Images
6 Comments

Marley Rivera of ESPN has a story about some of the on-field and in-game entertainment, as well as some aspects of the field conditions, for this weekend’s London Series.

The fun stuff: a mascot race, not unlike the Sausage Race at Miller Park or the President’s race at Nationals Park. The mascots for London: Winston Churchill, Freddie Mercury, Henry VIII and the Loch Ness Monster. I suppose that’s OK but, frankly, I’d go with Roger Bannister, Shakespeare, Charles Darwin and Guy Fawkes. Of course no one asks me these things.

There will also be a “Beat the Streak”-style race which had better use the theme to “Chariots of Fire” or else what the heck are we even doing here.

They’ve also taught ushers and various volunteers who will be on-site to sing “Take me out to the ballgame,” which is a pretty good idea given how important that is to baseball. As a cultural exchange, I think some major league team should start using “Vindaloo” by Fat Les during the seventh inning stretch here. It’s a banger. It also seems to capture England a bit more accurately than, say, “Downton Abbey” or “The Crown.”

That’s all good fun I suppose. But here’s some stuff that actually affects the game:

The end result will have some interesting dimensions. The field will be 330 feet down each foul line, and it will have a distance of 385 feet to center field, which will feature a 16-foot wall. Cook also said it would have an expanded, “Oakland-like” foul territory, referencing the Athletics’ Oakland Coliseum expanse.

Those dimensions are unavoidable given that the square peg that is a baseball field is being shoved into the round hole that is a soccer stadium. As Murray Cook, MLB’s senior field coordinator tells Rivera, that sort of thing, while perhaps less than ideal, is at least in keeping with baseball’s strong tradition of irregular field conditions. It will, however, be one of the shortest dead center distances in baseball history.

Oh, and then there’s this:

Protective netting was also an important issue addressed when building the ballpark, with Cook stressing that his team has implemented netting that “is the largest you’ll ever see in any major league ballpark.”

[Craig makes a mental note to bookmark this for the next time MLB says it won’t mandate extended netting in the U.S. because doing so is too difficult]