Ichiro About to Become All-Time Hits Leader…Sort of
Ichiro Suzuki is nearing 3,000 hits mark in his Major League career. And, for some, even more importantly, is he now has 4,255 hits as a professional ballplayer.
That's one shy of what Pete Rose did as a major leaguer.
And, now the debate begins. Should we recognize Ichiro on the same level we recognize Rose?
Rose certainly doesn't think so.
While acknowledging Ichiro's Hall of Fame credentials, Rose brings up the names of some marginal major league players who put up big numbers in Japan, using it as evidence the first 1,278 hits Ichiro accumulated are tainted.
Others would suggest the pitching in Japan is Major League caliber and therefore the case can be made for Ichiro.
Rose, as you might expect, takes the argument to the absurd. ("the next thing you know, they'll be counting his high school hits.") But Rose does have a point.
We can speculate. Ichiro's hits in Japan happened over nine seasons. (He was a regular in seven of those seasons.) Can one make the argument he could have gotten just as many in the American game over that time? Surely. After he got to America, Ichiro had 200+ hit seasons ten straight times. He never had 200 hits in a season in Japan (the regular season is 18 games shorter in that country.)
Rose talks about the number of home runs hit by players who leave MLB to play in Japan as part of his argument. But Japanese ballparks are smaller; in fact, many would not conform to the Major League minimum. So, yeah, homers are going to be up.
Had Ichiro played his entire career in America, would he have 4,256? That's simply a matter of opinion and there's no way to use Japanese records and try to include them in American records. Personally, I think there's a very good chance Ichiro would have passed 4,256 by now had he played here his whole career.
But there's the reality. He didn't.
In the future, some writers might refer to Rose as Major League Baseball's All-Time Hits Leader, adding the words Major League to his title. I don't think that disparages Rose in any way.
We need to recognize Ichiro for who he is. A great player who belongs in the Hall of Fame.
But until someone gets 4,257 in what we all know as the Major Leagues, Pete is the King of the Hit Parade.