Jaffe: Ichiro and the Hall of Famers who returned home

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at FanGraphs on March 8, 2018:

The Mariners made the Ichiro Suzuki signing official on Wednesday, returning the 44-year-old outfielder to the team for whom he starred from 2001 until mid-2012, when he was traded to the Yankees. Aside from a genuinely useful 2016 season in a part-time role — highlighted by his 3,000th major league hit — he hasn’t been a very productive player over the past five years, totaling 2.5 WAR over the span, and he may not have much to offer the Mariners beyond wisdom, leadership, warm fuzzies, and other soft factors. Still, there are worse ways to end a storied career, as Rian Watt pointed out when the news of Ichiro’s westward return first broke.

The history of such homecomings among Hall of Fame-bound players isn’t filled with many resounding successes, and in Seattle’s case, the most immediate example that comes to mind represents a worst-case scenario in this realm: an old, underperforming player outright embarrassing himself in some way, as Ken Griffey Jr. did in 2010. Junior hit just .184/.250/.204 without a homer before being released on June 2, shortly after he allegedly fell asleep in the clubhouse and missed a pinch-hitting opportunity. That’s no way to go, whether or not you’re a member of the 600 home-run club.

Via a quick skim through annals of the game, I counted 13 other stints in which a Hall of Famer wrapped up his career with a return to his original team, plus one that deserves an asterisk. That count doesn’t include players who finished with the team for whom they became stars after previously breaking in elsewhere, as was the case with Early Wynn coming back to the Indians, Dennis Eckersley to the Red Sox, or Fergie Jenkins and the Cubs. Nor does it include players who moved on again after their second stint with their original team, such as Greg Maddux with the Cubs, Tim Raines with the Expos, or Ivan Rodriguez with the Rangers. Listed chronologically, these are the most noteworthy.

Read the full article here: https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/ichiro-and-the-hall-of-famers-who-returned-home/

Originally published: March 8, 2018. Last Updated: March 8, 2018.