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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #13: Ichiro Becomes the All-Time Hit King

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Yes, I phrased that headline in a provocative manner. In my defense, annoying Pete Rose and Pete Rose fanboys is kind of fun, and a good 60-65% of the enjoyment from this story was derived by Pete Rose and Pete Rose being annoyed.

To be sure: no one claims that Ichiro holds the record for most career hits. But he notched 1,278 in nine NPB seasons with the Orix Blue Wave and entering play against the Padres on June 15, he had 2,978 hits in the United States. That made the double he smacked down the right field line in the ninth inning of that game his 4,257th career professional hit, which put him past Pete Rose if you combined both U.S and Japanese safeties.

That such a thing is worthy of note should not be controversial, but it was to some all the same. A lot of people felt it necessary to correct those of us who called Ichiro the “Hit King,” as if we didn’t know that Rose was still the MLB record holder and as if we weren’t simply congratulating Ichiro for a great accomplishment. Even Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” to Ichiro’s “King,” which Rose took to be disrespect.

For his part, Ichiro was amused at it all and drew a pretty decent insight from it. Here’s what he said to ESPN The Magazine:

I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.

Yup.

The hits kept coming for Ichiro in 2016. Less than two months after the hit which put him past Rose, he notched his 3,000th career hit in Major League Baseball with a triple in Coors Field. He finished the season with 3,030 in his big league career. His 2016 line: .291/.354/.376 in 365 plate appearances. Not bad for a guy a mere three months younger than the old man writing this story.

And good enough for the Marlins to exercise his 2018 option. Which means the hits will keep on coming.

A 30-year-old rookie won his major league debut

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The Dodgers beat the Twins last night thanks to a Cody Bellinger three-run homer. But Bellinger was not the only Dodgers rookie who had a notable game. A far more unconventional one is worth mentioning as well.

That rookie is reliever Edward Paredes, who made his big league debut last night. What makes him unconventional: he’s 30. Turns 31 in September, actually. Paredes pitched professionally for 12 years before making it to The Show. Most of that time was in the affiliated minors in the Mariners, Indians, Angels and Dodgers organizations. He spent time in the independent Atlantic League in 2013-15 as well.

Paredes did not do anything heroic last night. It was more of a right place/right time kind of appearance, retiring the side in order with a fly out, line out and a ground out and remaining the pitcher of record while Bellinger hit that three-run homer. That’s enough for a W, though. A W that Paredes waited a lot longer for than most pitchers who notch one in the bigs.

The Nationals could pursue Sonny Gray

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Jon Morosi of MLB Network says that the Nationals could pursue Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray if Stephen Strasburg‘s forearm issue lingers. Strasburg left Sunday’s start early due to forearm tightness, saying he was unable to get loose. Sometimes that’s a sign of a major injury. Sometimes it’s just a thing that happens and then goes away.

The Nationals will have to make a determination as to how big a deal this all is pretty soon, though, as a lot of other teams, including the Yankees, Brewers and Astros have all been linked to Gray. It seems inevitable at this point that the A’s will move their ace before Monday’s trade deadline.

Gray is set to start tonight. It may very well be his last in an A’s uniform.