Ichiro Suzuki has been a hitting machine since coming to the United States from Japan at the age of 27 and was already a major baseball God in Japan. He has more hits than any baseball player at the pro level in history and people have been calling him Baseball’s Hits King, even though Pete Rose still holds the MLB record for career pokes.
Rose isn’t having it either and he has been saying since June that while he admires Ichiro’s hitting prowess, he says those hits in Japan should not even come into play.
“It sounds like in Japan, they're trying to make me the Hit Queen,” Rose told USA Today back in June when Ichiro’s hit total surpassed his. “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.”
The Reds legend insists that Japanese baseball is inferior to the talent in the MLB and can't be held in the same regard.
“I don't think you're going to find anybody with credibility saying that Japanese baseball is equivalent to Major League Baseball,” said Rose, who was banned for life from baseball in 1989 following a gambling scandal. “There are too many guys that fail here and then become household names there ... It has something to do with the caliber of personnel."
Rose cited Tuffy Rhodes who never hit more than eight homers in an MLB season, but transformed into Babe Ruth once he hit Japanese soil, slamming 55, 46, 51 and 45 home runs in Japan from 2001 to 2004.
Once leaving Japan, Ichiro was an immediate beast at the MLB level and 16 years later he became the 30th player to reach the coveted 3000-hit milestone with his seventh-inning triple off of Chris Rusin in Colorado on Sunday.
Ichiro is the second second player (Paul Molitor) to accomplish the feat with a triple. There’s no debate that he’s the finest contact hitter of our generation in the mold of a Tony Gwynn and Rod Carew. There’s no doubt he would have gotten 4,000 hits if he didn’t have to spend a significant portion of his prime years toiling in Japan, his immense talent hidden from MLB eyes.
And let's not diminish his impact as a baller by calling him just a hitter. While Ichiro has few equals as a batsman with more hits (924) from 2001 to 2004 than anyone in history over any four-year period, his rifle arm and outfield highlights made him the complete package.
A far as baseball’s all-time global hits leader goes, Ichiro has that on lock with 3,000 MLB hits and another 1,278 in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league, giving him 4,278 hits -- 22 more than Rose, Major League Baseball’s infamous hits boss (4,256).
From 2001-2010, Ichiro made 10 straight All-Star teams and won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, a Rookie of the Year award and an American League MVP award with the Seattle Mariners. As a valuable fourth outfielder for a Marlins team that is finally playoff chasing, the 42-year-old marvel entered Sunday hitting .318 for the season. .
Longevity, skill and discipline have been the driving forces behind Ichiro’s unprecedented career, which will surely result in him becoming the first Japanese player inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
(Photo Credit: angelfire.com)
His manager Don Mattingly knows a thing or two about hitting and when speaking on the two-time batting champion who holds the MLB record for hits in a season with 262, Donnie Baseball said:
"I haven't seen anyone else get 3,000. I'm sure there have been some no-hitters and things like that, but this guy has been amazing for the game. What he's been able to accomplish, coming over when he was 27, what he's been able to do is pretty amazing."
Ichiro's first big league hit came on April 2, 2001, a double, off T.J. Mathews of the A's. His 1,000th hit was a single off Jon Lieber of the Phillies on June 14, 2005, and No. 2,000 was a double against then Oakland A's hurler Gio Gonzalez on Sept. 9, 2009.
"When I got my first hit as a big leaguer, I felt good for myself," Ichiro told reporters. "Today when I got my 3,000th hit, I was happy, but I was happy for the people around me, for the people that have supported me and have cheered me on. I really felt that today."
So Ichiro is good with himself even if haters like Pete Rose won't give him his propers.