It’s a fitting farewell, an oddity in a sport that loves the statistical glitch, a quirk in a region — the Northwest — that embraces quirkiness.
Ichiro Suzuki will finish a three-game series at Safeco Field tonight playing not for the Seattle Mariners, the franchise that made him its face, but for the New York Yankees, the team that kept Seattle — and Suzuki — from reaching the World Series in 2001.
Seattle traded its famed outfielder on Monday, per his request, and like that, he moved from a team now in last place to a team in first.
How can we not be pleased?
After all, the Mariners are rebuilding. They need fresh blood — young, cheap players. Shedding big-dollar contracts — trading away Suzuki, 38, who is showing signs of decline and literally requested the trade — makes sense.
How can we not be happy about this?
The Mariners got fresh arms in the trade — two 25-year-old pitchers. Suzuki gets another shot at reaching the World Series. Seattle fans can even root for the Yankees, knowing he’ll take the field.
So how come we are not jumping for joy?
We aren’t happy — can’t be. Yes, trades happen all the time, but trades like this one are rare, because Suzuki was rare.
His stats tell one story: a 10-time All Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, the only player ever to get 200 or more hits in 10 consecutive seasons. But like any true great, he is more than numbers imply.
Arriving from Japan in 2001, Suzuki filled a hole in Seattle roughly the size and shape of Ken Griffey, Jr., who had left the prior year. Suzuki was an immediate hit — Rookie of the Year, American League MVP — helping lead Seattle to its best season ever.
Over the next decade, he became the rare athlete who managed to be both an icon and an everyman.
He dressed with a superstar’s flair, donning turtlenecks and tailored suits. But he was 5-foot-11-inches — basically average. And he kept using an interpreter — he couldn’t master everything, after all. Batting average aside, he was a mere mortal.
For that reason, he let anyone dream they too could make a mark on history. If him, then why not us too?
Put another way, he inspired.
At the end of the day, that is what we will miss — the inspiration, the hope, the thrill he provided.
We know that, ultimately, Suzuki is a multimillionaire who chose to leave, but we still wish him all the luck in the world — or at least whatever little bit he has yet to claim for his own.