NARITA, CHIBA PREF. – If Miami Marlins president David Samson gets his wish, Ichiro Suzuki and the Marlins would open the 2018 season in Japan en route to a World Series championship.
Speaking Saturday, Samson said the National League club has Ichiro on the roster not because of his name, but because of his value as a player.
“We don’t have Ichiro on our team because he’s the best Japanese player of all time and one of the best players ever. We have him on our team because we think he helps us win more games today,” said Samson, who was on hand for the start of Little League Baseball’s inaugural MLB Cup.
“Right now, he has a year contract and a team option. So we’ll talk again after the season. As long as he wants to play and keep being as good as he is, I hope he’s a Marlin.”
The 42-year-old Ichiro, signed as a fourth outfielder, ended up with regular playing time due to a rash of injuries last season in Miami. In 153 games, he batted .229 with a .282 on-base percentage and a .279 slugging percentage — all career lows.
Samson said the Marlins want to follow Ichiro’s lead when it comes to celebrating his 3,000th big league hit.
“We’re going to talk to Ichiro and we’re going to be respectful of what he wants,” Samson said. “We will celebrate it with him, but we will celebrate it in a way that he is comfortable with.”
Ichiro is 65 hits shy of reaching 3,000 in the majors. He also had 1,278 in the Pacific League in 951 games. A three-time PL MVP and a seven-time batting champion, Ichiro was with the Seattle Mariners when they opened their 2012 season at Tokyo Dome, and Samson would like to see Ichiro come back as a Marlin.
“We would love to have the Marlins come play in Tokyo to open a season. So next year’s the World Baseball Classic, so we’ll see in 2018.”
Samson demurred when asked if the Marlins might consider retiring Ichiro’s number.
“He wants to play till he’s 50, so we promised we wouldn’t talk about any of those things until after he was 50,” Samson said. “He’s done so much in his career, but we each want to get one of these (a World Series championship ring).”