Ichiro Suzuki retires — for this year, at least

Ichiro Suzuki, who took the major leagues by storm as the most valuable player on the team that set the American League record for victories, is taking off his uniform immediately and moving into the front office of the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners were careful not to use the word "retire" in announcing that Suzuki would become a special assistant to the chairman.


"Ichiro's new role will preclude him from returning to the active roster in 2018," the Mariners said in their statement.

John Boggs, the agent for Suzuki, told USA Today that Suzuki does not wish to play for another team but was not retiring. The Mariners open the 2019 season with a series in Japan, so it is possible Suzuki could retire there, either as an active player or on a one-day contract.

For the rest of this year, the Mariners said Suzuki would work as a mentor, front-office advisor and a batting, baserunning and outfield defense instructor.

"While this agreement only covers the 2018 season, it is our goal that Ichiro be a member of the Seattle organization long-term," Seattle General Manager Jerry Dipoto said. "As his role evolves over the 2018 season, it will inform the team and Ichiro on his best fit with us in 2019 and beyond."

Suzuki's celebrated return to Seattle this season had been less than triumphant. Suzuki, 44, batted .205 in 44 at-bats, with no extra-base hits, and some of the fans that had virtually sainted him a decade ago now grumbled about how he was taking up roster space.

But the electric start to his career will long overshadow any memories of this season. In 2001, after a stellar career in Japan, Suzuki joined the Mariners and batted .350 with 56 stolen bases. The Mariners set an AL record with 116 victories, and he was honored as the league's rookie of the year and most valuable player.

"It took us four innings to go, wow, this guy is talented," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He has unbelievable range in right field. Just an unbelievable throwing arm. The way he was so fundamentally sound. You could see he was going to hit. He could fly. There were so many things he could do. He was a force in the major leagues for a long time."

Indeed, his career was so long and distinguished that, in his first game in Anaheim, the Angels' first baseman was Wally Joyner.

Suzuki was an All-Star in each of his first 10 years in Seattle, winning a Gold Glove each season and drawing MVP votes in all but one of those years. In 2004, he set a major league record with 262 hits.

And, perhaps most impressively, he joined the 3,000-hit club despite not getting his first major league hit until age 27.

"We want to make sure we capture all of the value that Ichiro brings to this team off the field," Dipoto said. "This new role is a way to accomplish that. While it will evolve over time, the key is that Ichiro's presence in our clubhouse and with our players and staff improves our opportunity to win games. That is our number-one priority and Ichiro's number-one priority."

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin