At the risk of setting off an endless debate, I must inform you that Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki tied Pete Rose with his 4,256th career professional baseball hit, as MLB.com’s A.J. Cassavell notes. It was a swinging bunt, one of likely hundreds — I haven’t counted — throughout his 25-year career, including nine in Japan and 16 in the United States.
As far as his MLB-only hit total goes, today’s was number 2,978 in his career, leaving him 22 shy of joining the 3,000 hit club. He’ll soon be the 30th member of the 3,000-hit club and he could realistically pass Lou Brock (3,023) for 25th all-time. Alex Rodriguez is the current active leader with 3,098.
Ichiro is 42 years old and is putting up a remarkable season thus far. He entered Wednesday’s action batting .347/.410/.388. According to Baseball Reference, no one age 41 or older has ever had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title and finished the season with a batting average above .340. Sam Rice (.349, 1930) and Ty Cobb (.357, 1927) are the only ones to do it at the age of 40.
If we can’t agree on combining his hits in Japan with his U.S. hits, we can at least agree that he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer and that he’s doing amazing things this season.
Pete Rose made a bunch of friends among Ichiro fans with his comments yesterday, so he’s decided to move on to Cubs fans. Here’s the Hit King on Fox Sports Radio talking about the Cubs’ great start and their World Series chances:
The Cubs right now no question have the best team, but I can’t root for a team that hasn’t won since 1907. The Cubs will find a way to screw it up I think. They’ve got a good ball club, probably the best ball club in the league right now. They’re playing like it, but again, they can be pitched to, their pitchers can be hit. It’s just a matter of who’s going to give them a fight at the end of the season, in the playoffs.
The Cubs, are they going to play good all year like last year when they won 97 games and then got swept in the playoffs? We’ll have to wait and see, because in the playoffs, you’re a different animal.
I like to pile on Pete Rose as much as the next guy, but let’s not pretend that’s not a pretty decent take. No, not the “because they haven’t won since 1907” part (it was 1908, but who’s counting?). I think he and a lot of other people put way too much emphasis on history as a predictor of the future when it doesn’t really work like that most of the time. That’s just superstition. No, I mean the “playoffs are a different animal” thing and the idea that even the best teams have flaws.
As we see each year, teams with great offenses can be “pitched to” in the playoffs. Bullpens and defense have become extraordinarily important in the postseason. The Cubs are still messing around with rando bullpen options, because they realize that could be a problem as the season wears on and the weather gets colder. They’re winning a lot now, but they’re not perfect. No team is. Ask the 2001 Mariners.
Rose may be pretty fixated on the Cubs’ century plus of failure, but he’s not wrong about there being no sure things. Also, let’s be honest: half of Cubs fans are probably secretly worrying that they will, in fact, screw this up somehow. That’s part of the essence of being a Cubs fan. If the Cubs win the World Series this year, the club erasing all of those doubts in its fan base will be a huge part of the beauty of the season. Maybe even more so than the triumph would be for its own sake.
In the recaps this morning I mentioned that Ichiro Suzuki is one hit away from catching Pete Rose in career hits. Now, to be fair, he will not be officially recognized as the all-time hit leader by Major League Baseball because 1,278 of his hits came in Japan, with 2,977 coming in the United States. Still, reaching 4,256 career hits — Rose’s number — is pretty impressive all the same.
As Bob Nightengale reports in USA Today, Ichiro matching Rose is a big, big deal in Japan. Reporters are following the chase and Marlins games are being broadcast in Japan as his fans from his home country watch his every swing. Nightengale likewise talks to some major leaguers like Mark Grace who are rightly impressed with Ichiro’s feat, official record or not. As I said in the recaps today, it is impressive, so yeah.
But one guy isn’t impressed. Charlie Hustle:
It sounds like in Japan,’’ Rose told USA TODAY Sports, “they’re trying to make me the Hit Queen. I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro, he’s had a Hall of Fame career, but the next thing you know, they’ll be counting his high-school hits.
Rose goes on to say that the caliber of play and players in NPB is not as good as the bigs. Which, overall, is true. Still, you never heard Hank Aaron throwing shade at Sadaharu Oh, did you? Variations in overall level of play aside — and the variations aren’t as big as some think — it’s worth marveling at Ichiro’s career all the same, is it not?
Eh, it’s Pete Rose. He’s not the best person to go to if you’re looking for a perspective that isn’t filtered through “Everything Pete Rose says and does is right” glasses.