It's hard to believe that No. 51 has been patrolling the outfield and leading off at the plate at Safeco Field for a total of 11 seasons now. How much longer will he continue to do it?
Ichiro has slowed down a bit in recent years, especially this past season. He didn't top 200 hits for the first time in his MLB career in 2011 and batted below .300 for the first time as a Mariner, hitting just .272. He also committed four errors for the fourth year in a row (which is a lot of errors for him, anyway), and was down to a career-low 263 putouts.
Coupled with the fact that the Mariners haven't been anything close to a winning team in the last several seasons, is it conceivable that Ichiro, 38, might look to finish out his career somewhere other than Seattle?
He already had nine seasons of wear-and-tear on him playing at home in Japan before he made his MLB debut in 2001. He might just decide to hang up his 10-time Gold Glove when his current contract expires and wait for his likely Hall of Fame induction.
"We're at a place where all our hard work is blossoming," said Ichiro of Seattle at ESPN.com back in 2007, when he signed a five-year, $90 million extension.
Does he still feel the same almost five years later, considering the Mariners' post-All-Star Game collapse this year and the futility that seems to be ongoing at Safeco?
The 2012 campaign might very well be his last in the Pacific Northwest, but that remains to be seen.
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