Ichiro Suzuki is about to become the all-time hits leader. Or is he? Pete Rose doesn’t think so.
Ichiro has 2,977 MLB hits to go along with his 1,278 hits in nine seasons in Japan. Add them up and the Miami Marlins outfielder is one hit shy of tying Rose’s major league record of 4,256 hits.
“It sounds like in Japan, they’re trying to make me the Hit Queen,” Rose said, according to USA Today. “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.
“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.”
While there has been public focus on Ichiro’s pursuit of the 3,000-hit MLB milestone in the U.S., there really hasn’t been much talk of him passing the overall record. That doesn’t sit well with some in the game.
“I cannot believe it’s not a bigger deal in Major League Baseball. Shame on us for not making a bigger deal out of it,” said Arizona Diamondbacks assistant hitting coach Mark Grace, according to the newspaper. “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.”
Ichiro, who is now 42, burst on the American scene in 2001 at the age of 27. He captured the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards after winning a batting title and leading the league with 242 hits. Over his first 10 seasons, Ichiro had over 200 hits every season, made 10 All-Star Games, won 10 Gold Gloves and two batting titles. Could he have gotten over 1,200 more MLB hits had he come to America earlier? It seems possible, but we’ll never know, and some aren’t sure it matters.
“It’s hard to compare, but it’s a lot of hits no matter how you slice it,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said, according to USA Today. “We’ve had a number of Japanese players come over and be really successful. To say it’s minor league and major league numbers, that’s not quite fair. The fact is that he’s going to have 3,000 hits here, and to have all of those hits in Japan, too, tells you how special he is. The hits over there are hits against good quality pitching, basically major league-caliber players, so they’re legitimate for sure.”