The announcement didn’t come as a surprise, but it is still worth celebrating—Ichiro Suzuki will stay with the Miami Marlins in 2017. Both sides also agreed to tack on a 2018 team option to the end of his contract.
Suzuki’s pursuit of 3,000 MLB hits generated plenty of attention last season. Putting that aside, however, he was a legitimately important member of the club (.291/.354/.375, 99 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR). That’s why the Marlins brought him back.
The future Hall of Famer isn’t particularly close to any other sexy round numbers, so there won’t be nearly as much marketing/media noise surrounding him. But assuming that Suzuki’s next two years of performance resemble his previous two, he’ll continue making history of local, league-wide and international significance.
It starts with one-upping the man in this picture:
That’s the great Tim Raines. In a Florida Marlins uniform. On the field. During a regular season game. Yes, it’s real. There’s even video of him.
Raines took the last gasps of his MLB career with the 2002 Fish, playing for the final time on Sept. 29 of that season. At 43 years and 13 days of age, he became the oldest position player in franchise history, and still owns that distinction. Suzuki will snatch the record from him the next time he appears in a game; by Opening Day, he’ll be several months past his 43rd b-day.
If Suzuki steps up the plate in that game, he can knock off two record-holders in one swing. His 760 RBI are tied with Hideki Matsui for the most by any Asian-born major leaguer, according to Baseball-Reference. Driving in runs has never been a strength of his, and batting primarily from the leadoff spot throughout his career only made it more difficult to pad that total. Catching Matsui is a testament to his amazing durability.
Even while declining from superstar to reserve, Suzuki has been totally immune to the injury bug. He leads the Marlins with 296 games played over the past two summers, and he has racked up 439 games since turning 40. That’s pretty unique—only 12 others in the sport’s history are ahead of him. And the No. 1 spot, held by Pete Rose (728 games), is within Suzuki’s reach between now and 2018.
Along the way to claiming those old guy bragging rights, Suzuki will keep climbing up the all-time hits list, too. Here are some names: Rod Carew, Rickey Henderson, Craig Biggio, Dave Winfield, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount, Paul Waner, George Brett and Cal Ripken Jr. With as many hits in 2017-18 as he had in 2015-16, Suzuki would surpass them all.
One of Suzuki’s record pursuits is largely out of his control, and that’s unfortunately most games played without a World Series appearance. He’s far and away the active leader and currently sixth all time (since 1903 when the WS began).
It’s going to require an aggressive off-season from the Marlins to build the kind of supporting cast capable of ending that frustrating drought.