Despite being a part-time starter for the Miami Marlins, outfielder Ichiro Suzuki was having one of the best seasons of his career in 2016. He chased and toppled the 3,000-hit mark and also took over the record for the most hits by a professional baseball player, surpassing the record set by Pete Rose. While the hits were less than normal and the playing time was not what it used to be, the popular player and sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer was enjoying a kid’s game like he was 27 all over again.
This year is a different story. The Miami Marlins as a team may be swinging bats, belting home runs and scoring more than the team did in 2016, but the man known as Ichiro is having a tough time at the plate.
As Clark Spencer said in his story in the Miami Herald, “He’s 43. His hair is gray. His batting average is .198. It’s a hard pill to swallow for someone who told the media last year he hoped to play baseball until he was 50 years old.
“Every day has been a battle for me,” Ichiro said through his translator. “I’ve been so limited on opportunities. It’s hard to get a feel for the game. I’m just trying the best I can to get in there. But, obviously, that’s just how it’s been.”
With the recent injury to outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, which was a scare for the team and one of the most feared sluggers in the game, Ichiro’s importance to the Miami Marlins was further accentuated. While Stanton is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday, Ichiro can be called to action at a moment’s notice.
“I knew that he was OK and thank goodness that everything was OK,” Suzuki said of Stanton. “So I didn’t know that I was in the lineup today. I came to the ballpark and saw my name in the lineup. That’s kind of how it started. I didn’t really have time to prepare.”
At least Suzuki gave his best Stanton rendition when he came through with his second home run. It’s the most he’s hit since 2013.
All he can do is sit and wait and work on hitting. This is the toughest time of his career, coming at the tail end of his playing days. While he has one of the best swings in the game, knowing when those hits will come is just a matter of time. The Miami Marlins and Ichiro are waiting for him to break out of this slump and start swing the bat again.