Ichiro Suzuki, a hit short of tying Pete Rose’s all-time record of 4,256 hits if one includes his statistics from Nippon Professional Baseball, prompted “Charlie Hustle” to remark “It sounds like, in Japan, they’re trying to make me the Hit Queen.”
The Miami Marlins veteran outfielder enters Tuesday night’s game with 2,977 MLB hits and 1,278 in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. Although baseball fans in Japan are making a big deal about breaking the historic record, there’s been nothing but crickets stateside.
Rose, in particular, doesn’t think the hits Ichiro got in the Land of the Rising Sun count when considering the record for all time most hits. “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 commented.
“I don’t think you’re going to find anybody with credibility say that Japanese baseball is equivalent to Major League Baseball. There are too many guys that fail here and then become household names there, like Tuffy Rhodes. How can he not do anything here, and hit (a record-tying) 55 home runs (in 2001) over there?
“It has something to do with the caliber of personnel,’’ Rose asserts.
Arizona Diamondbacks assistant hitting coach Mark Grace, who owns 2,445 career MLB hits, insists that MLB should be paying more attention to Ichiro’s achievement. “Shame on us for not making a bigger deal out of it. You’re talking about breaking Pete Rose’s record. I couldn’t care less if he got some of those hits in Japan or in Antarctica. You’re getting hits at high professional levels. That’s huge. I’m in awe of the guy.’’
Nevertheless, Rose contends that the situation parallels Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh’s 868 home runs for the Yomiuri Giants. In his mind when you talk about the all-time home run record of 762, “It’s Barry Bonds, no matter how he got there.’’
Suzuki, a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, continues to shine behind the plate, batting .350 in 53 games this year at the ripe old age of 42. In pre-game batting practice, he launches ten pitches over the wall on a regular basis, demonstrating that if he wasn’t one of the greatest contact hitters ever, he may have been a solid clean-up hitter as well.
“I would be happy if people covered it or wrote about it,’’ he told USA Today, “but I really would not care if it wasn’t a big deal. To be quite honest, I’m just going out and doing what I do.
“What I care about is my teammates and people close to me celebrating it together, that’s what’s most important to me.’’
Though Rose’s all-time MLB hits records remains safe from Ichiro, who stands just 23 hits away from 3,000 but more than 1,200 hits away from Rose’s 4,256, Ichiro holds the single-season mark at 262. Rose collected 200 hits in a season nine times. Ichiro eclipsed that mark by one. They both led their leagues in hits seven times.
Sports writer Buster Olney for ESPN opines that “it’s impossible to compare” Charlie Hustle and the Man from Japan “The simple fact is that baseball in Japan is regarded as a lesser caliber than that played in MLB. If you tried to equate Ichiro’s combined hit total with that for Rose, you’d also have to consider the 427 hits Rose collected playing in the minor leagues.”
Olney concludes “Let’s just leave it at this: Ichiro is one of the best hitters in baseball history.”