Credit Mariners for opening Ichiro's next chapter in a dignified way


With the sudden announcement that Ichiro Suzuki, a.k.a. Ichiro, a.k.a. the best Japanese player ever in major league history, has been promoted by the Seattle Mariners from player to front office figurehead, with a chance at being promoted again to actual front office figure if he likes the gig, the matter of who else in baseball deserves such treatment naturally arises.
But we know one thing for sure: it beats the hell out of the old “retiring as a (fill in team here)” scam.
Only, though, if this isn’t just a glorified acknowledgement that the fastball has finally won its decades-long battle with Ichiro’s hitting skills.
The honored-player retirement thing has become a cliché, after all. Unless there is a full-fledged number retirement (and there have been 250 of them in this century, not including owners, broadcasters, coaches, trainers, fans and itinerant vagrants), the dodge has always been for a team to sign someone to a one-day contract so he can retire as a member of that organization. It’s a cheap but harmless theatric that marketing people love because all it costs is a printed contract.
But Ichiro went straight from locker to executive lounge, and even if all it is is a gesture, it’s a far more fitting one than a quick “stand here and let us get a few photographs.” It even beats “Come to spring training as an instructor and stand around for a few days.” And it isn’t a belated honorific years later – it’s a dignified way to end a career that has completed its course, as opposed to a pink slip.
After all, few retirements in sports actually matter. Most of them are releases or trades or “chose not to renew the contract” or in the worst cases for management, a buy-out.
So credit to the Seattle Mariners for doing the inevitable the right way. Ichiro cannot be paid dollar for dollar in exchange for what he gave to the organization (well, he could, but nobody’s forking over a nine-figure check for snicks and giggles), but this will do for the time being.
As for any other team that feels like making a similar do for a player . . . oh, that’s an argument for another time and another team. But if it helps, no, it isn't Jimmy Garoppolo. Again, not yet.

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