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Putting Ichiro’s career into historical perspective

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Earlier today, the Mariners announced that outfielder Ichiro Suzuki would be ending his season to take a new job in the club’s front office. While the announcement did not use the word “retire” or “retirement,” it’s reasonable to say that the 44-year-old may be done as a player in Major League Baseball. So now is as good a time as any to put his Hall of Fame career into perspective.

Ichiro debuted in 2001 as a 27-year-old, coming to the Mariners from Japan. He led all of baseball with 242 hits and 56 stolen bases while leading the American League with a .350 average. He won the AL Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year Awards. The only other player to win both awards in the same season is Fred Lynn (Red Sox, 1975).

Ichiro set the single-season hits record in 2004 with 262 hits, surpassing George Sisler who had 257 knocks in 1920.

Ichiro led the league in hits seven times. Only one player did it more often — Ty Cobb. Tony Gwynn and Pete Rose also led the league in hits seven times.

Ichiro has 3,089 career hits, 22nd-most in MLB history. There are only 31 members of the 3,000 hit club currently. (Albert Pujols should soon join the club as he’s at 2,998.)

Ichiro is one of only 17 players to rack up 300 or more hits in his 40’s.

Ichiro hit .291 in 365 plate appearances as a 42-year-old in 2016 with the Marlins. The only hitters to put up a higher batting average in 300-plus PA at the age of 42 or older are Julio Franco (.309, 45 years old in 2004) and Luke Appling (.301, 42 years old in 1949).

Ichiro led the league with a .372 batting average in 2004. It is the seventh-highest batting average among qualified hitters since 1945. The others: Tony Gwynn (.394, 1994), George Brett (.390, 1980), Rod Carew (.388, 1977), Ted Williams (.388, 1957), Larry Walker (.379, 1999), and Stan Musial (.376, 1948).

Ichiro has a career .311 batting average across 18 seasons and 10,728 plate appearances. Only five hitters have a higher career batting average with at least 10,000 PA since 1945: Tony Gwynn (.338), Wade Boggs (.328), Rod Crew (.328), Stan Musial (.328), and Roberto Clemente (.317). Just 16 hitters have a career .300 average with 10,000-plus PA.

Ichiro stole 509 bases in his career. There are only 39 total members of the 500 steals club.

Ichiro is one of only seven players to have both 3,000-plus hits and 500-plus stolen bases in his career. The others: Rickey Henderson (3,055; 1,406), Paul Molitor (3,319; 504), Lou Brock (3,023; 938), Eddie Collins (3,315; 741), Ty Cobb (4,189; 897), and Honus Wagner (3,420; 723).

Many thanks, of course, to the indispensable Baseball Reference Play Index. They found some other great nuggets:

Red Sox employees “livid” over team pay cut plan

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Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.

Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.

Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.

As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.